Friday, March 19, 2010

Return From the Jungle

Thursday morning I woke up at 5am and caught a canoe at 5:30, which took me back to the Rio Napo where a motorized canoe made the 2.5 hour journey back to the port of Coca. The air was cool and thick with wet fog. Once there we caught a pickup truck back to the airport. It was pretty squishy in the cab, so i volunteered to ride in the back with the luggage as we wound our way through the lively and dirty streets of Coca.
Arriving back in Quito, i returned to my hotel where i had a much-needed hot shower. Soon i was back out on the street.
What a change from the Quito of Sunday! The whole city is alive and bustling. Where there had been only closed doors before were now hold in the wall bodegas and boutiques, restaurants and bars. Women on the streets walked around selling everything from pencils and toothbrushes to baskets of fresh fruit and cups of hot soup. I am totally enjoying Quito. It is so lively.
I spent about an hour and a half looking for a store that sold disposable cameras and then i visited the Iglesia de la CompaƱia de Jesus, Ecuador´s most Ornate Church. It is very lovely.
After the church I had a delicious lunch at a restaurant located underneath the San Francisco monastery. It was so cozy with low, arched ceiling carved fro stone and local art on the walls. I had lunch and then a coca tea and a cigar on the square.
Outside the San Francisco Monastery
After lunch i tackled the Basilica de Voto National, an enormous church which looks like an old gothic creation, but was actually built in the 20thC. The cool things about this church is that you can climb right up the bell tower - on the outside. Fist you go up many stairs to the top of the interiors, then you cross a rickety wooded bridge through the church´s attic. At the other end, you climb a tall ladder (virtually in the dark) which takes you up and outside. From there there are 3 metal ladders up to the top. I am not afraid of heights, but i must admit that i thought twice before making the climb. The ladders looked flimsy and even though they had handrails, a fall would mean certain death. To make matters worse, it was raining, so they were slippery. Casting caution aside, i made the climb and was rewarded with spectacular views over the city.
clock towers
I then walked to the Plaza del Teatro and had a glass of wine and a cigar with two lovely women from Arizona.
After that pleasant interlude, i walked down to the street La Ronda. On Sunday it had been a ghost town, but now it was lined with stores selling crafts and cafes selling alcohol, coffee and hot chocolate. I selected one of the many restaurants and had a delicious bowl of potato-corn-avocado soup, served with tortilla chips.
After dinner, i was walking back to my hotel when i hear wonderful Spanish music coming from an alleyway.  I followed the music and found that in what was a space between two buildings, a stage had been set up and there was a performance of traditional Ecuadorian dances. I sat and watched for about a half an hour. The music, dances and costumes were incredible. And it was free; just there for the enjoyment of the public.
Back at my hotel, i slept soundly; a perfect end to a great day.

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