Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ecuador trip - Part 1 (Quito and Otavalo)

I thought I should write about our Ecuador trip before I forget. So here it goes.

We visited Ecuador for 10 days from late August to early September. Our first stop was the capital, Quito. We reached Quito on Friday night and took a cab to our hotel: Hotel Boutique Portal de Cantuna. This isn't really a standard hotel. It's a 120 year old house of the owner converted into a hotel.

The owners were very friendly with us and gave us the kind of personalized service you would never get from a standard hotel. The con was that the rooms were a bit noisy, it being a wooden construction and all. But all in all a great experience.

I was surprised at first with the size of Quito. I expected the city to be like Cuzco (in Peru), but it was more like Mumbai than Cuzco. The city is narrow (2-3 miles at its widest), but very long (25 miles), which gives you the impression that the city never ends. A city this big, nestled on the slopes of the Andes, at 9500 ft above sea-level is quite a sight. The traffic and the driving patterns in Quito are somewhere in between US & Mumbai (low lane discipline, moderate honking etc.).

The next morning we headed to Otavalo which is around 2 hours north of Quito. We took a bus there. I guess the buses are run by the government, which meant the fare was really cheap, around $2.5 per person.

Otavalo is famous for it's Saturday market where local artisans sell their handicraft. It's very colorful and vibrant and Maitreyee had a lot of fun here.

We spent the night at Hacienda Cusin, which is a 17th century estate near Otavalo. The hacienda was peaceful and quiet, and pretty artsy as well.

The next morning, we visited the Condor Park which is located on a hill near overlooking Otavalo. The park has a lot of big birds: different hawks, owls & eagles and a huge condor. Twice a day they have a bird show where the trainers make the birds do their bidding. It was OK, not unlike anything you would find at other places.

We took the bus back to Quito that evening and tried to check out the "New town" of Quito. But it was Sunday and everything was closed. There were quite a few people in the parks, but everything else was pretty much dead.

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