The day started with a rousing call from the leader of ‘wake up’. Luckily none of us had attempted to get up 30 seconds later as someone called out ‘It’s only 2:15 am’. I think a certain someone had forgotten to adjust their clock! We all went back to sleep grumbling about being woken up. When the morning actually came, we had a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and pineapple juice to set us up for the day.
After brekkie we were picked up by Miguel and taken to a shopping centre to buy some black ‘rubbers’ or wellies as us English folk call them. The wellies were the vast sum of $7.54. We all bought some food to snack on as well. Lunch back at the in-country office was a BBQ where I had my first taste of guacamole and I must say I quite liked it. We then had a Spanish lesson given by a guy called Wilson. He made it very fun and interactive and all but two of us and a teacher passed with flying colours. Luckily Spanish GCSE came in handy. We then headed to the Old Town area of Quito. Firstly we went to El Panecillo, a hill with a 45 metre tall statue of the Virgin of Quito on top (Figure 1). The bus was really struggling to get to the top of El Panecillo so we all let out a cheer when it eventually got to the top.
Figure 1. El Panecillo.
The view from El Panecillo was astounding (Figure 2). The whole city was laid out on the valley below. The city itself is quite long due to the mountains on either side restricting its expansion sideways. The cloud was already settling on the sides of the mountains. Several people were flying their kites from the top and one had been let go and was just a small black spot in the sky.
Figure 2. View from El Panecillo.
We then descended into Old Town properly, which Miguel and two other guides were to show us around. All these little children tried to sell us things, and we were told to wear our bags on our fronts in case there were pickpockets about. Some of the kids offered to shoe-shine our trainers which we laughed at. We passed a wedding and then entered La Plaza de la Independencia (Independence Plaza). This area was very busy and we did not stay there long, but walked on to San Francisco Plaza. Plaza de San Francisco (San Francisco Plaza) was very open compared to Plaza de la Independencia, with its statue and flower beds. Here Miguel said we would be visiting a small chapel. Now their idea of a small chapel and ours is clearly very different, as San Francisco Church is certainly not small. I can honestly say I have never seen a more lavishly decorated church in my life before. Almost every surface seemed to be gold (or at least gold coloured/ painted), especially the altar (Figure 3).
Figure 3. San Francisco Church, Quito
Once we had looked around the church we headed to a juice bar, where you could choose any fruit and have it either mixed with water or milk. There were fruit on the board we had never heard of so we were shown them. There was a fruit called taxo that some had, which has insides that look like a passion fruit, but is in the shape of a banana (Figure 4). I had tree tomato with water, but after we had tasted each other’s, I decided I preferred it served with milk. The drinks were really cheap, with the fruit with milk only costing 50 or 75 cents. We all had a sip from the alfalfa and raw quails egg one, which tasted as disgusting as it sounds. Nevertheless it was an experience not to be missed, as I doubt I will ever be offered such a drink again.
Figure 4. Taxo
Whilst in the juice bar it had become dark outside and the cloud had descended into the city. We returned to the office for dinner, and then to the hostel. Some of the girls did aerobics and the boys decided to create a dance routine. They were decked out in yellow strappy tops and pink shorts they bought from Primark. Not sure if they genuinely thought they were good colours or got them for a laugh….
Next time: An in depth look at the New Town part of Quito