We've made it to Quito, and everything is electric.
The city is sprawling and energetic, colorful and eclectic. Nestled somewhat between, and somewhat on the surrounding mountains, the city is filled with steep, crowded small streets, and wide crowded boulevards.
Yesterday, we slept late after our long day of travel, and did some logistics planning and work at Natalia's parents' home just outside of Quito. We had contacted the Quito offices of World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International, as well as their counterparts in the Galapagos, so our plan was to stop by their offices and introduce ourselves, despite never hearing back from either.
After fighting the traffic for almost 2 hours, amid music and street vendors with fruit and water, we finally arrived at the WWF offices, only to be told by the receptionist that the office was closed on Fridays. So, we hopped on the bus to try our luck at Conservation International. Sadly, they too were closed on Friday. We were a little disappointed, but there's so much to do in Quito, we kept ourselves busy the rest of the day, walking the city, and going to the artisinal markets and local art galleries.
In the evening we met up with Natalia's sister and friends from growing up here in Quito, and went to the top of the city of Quito, the Monumento Virgen de El Panecillo. As the name implies, the mountain is topped with a giant statue of the Virgin, overlooking the entire city, much like Christ the Redeemer in Rio. Our trip there was eventful; we figured it would be kind of a chill evening with nice nigh-time views of the city. But somehow it took us nearly an hour to get to the top of the mountain because of the crazy traffic! We hadn't realized that the whole mountain becomes a sort of Christmas festival around the holiday, and when we finally reached the top around 11pm, the area was filled with throngs of people, families, food stands, drinks, music, sparklers and all other manner of festive accoutrements.
We got some empanadas, corn with queso, and canelazo. Natalia ordered the warm canelazo and handed it to me; I was pretty stoked because it was fairly cold outside, so I took a big sip, only to realize too late that it is a warm sugar-cane alcohol. Suffice to say the canelazo warmed us up quickly.
We played with some sparklers, and swayed to the music, and eventually made our way back down to the central city, and after a few diversions, back to Natalia's parents home.
Today and Tomorrow we are our "off days" here in Ecuador, in that we don't have any meetings for the weekend, but we are working on some presentations for when we arrive in Guayaquil and Galapagos. And in between preparing, we have plans to do some exploring around Quito and the mountains too.
That's all for now,