One Day in Quito
Dutchie and I arrive at midnight in Quito (Ecuador), thankfully, the immigration process goes quickly. Ecuador is one of the friendly countries for Indonesian passport holders; we don’t need a visa to enter the country. The Mariscal Sucre International Airport is located at around 40 km from the city, and it takes 45 minutes to reach our hotel. Our hotel is located on the hills overlooking the valley of Guápulo where the Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco de Orellana traveled when they invaded the Amazon. We find out later the valley is usually covered by mist in the morning and as well in the evening.
The temperature at the evening drops to 14°C (52 °F). Quito is located in the Andean foothills at an altitude of 2,850 meters (9,350 ft) above the sea level. It is the highest capital city in the world after La Paz (Bolivia) thus, it is common for the visitors to experience altitude sickness. I do feel the effect of high altitudes; such as difficulty in breathing and having a headache. A well-known (fast) remedy to combat the altitude sickness is the coca leaves. We can chew the leaves or drink the boiled coca leaves as tea. The taste of coca tea is similar to herbal tea meanwhile the leaves taste is bitter (I do not like the taste of the leaves when chewing them). They are available in “naturista” shops in Quito that have a special permit to sell the coca leaves. If you can not find the coca leaves, the following steps as advised by the Ecuadorian’s tourism message board are excellent to follow as well. On the first day, I took aspirin and drank hot chocolate milk, plus take it easy with any movement and speaking.
On the following day, we have breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant with an amazing view of the beautiful misty valley. It feels dreamy to see the mist covering the valley like a blanket. Later in the afternoon, we explore Quito. The city is fascinating and charming. Our first destination is TeleferiQo, then having lunch and coffee in the Old Town. Soon after nice coffee at a charming small coffee shop, we continue walking to the Basilica del Voto National then going up again to El Panecillo, to end our exploration in Quito.
It is a cable car station at the foothill of the Rucu Pichincha Volcano that brings people to reach the top of Cruz Loma at the height of 4,100 meters (13,451 ft) above the sea level. The volcano is still active and popular among the hikers who wish to reach its summit at 4,698 meters (15,413 ft). Usually, the hikers start from the top of Cruz Loma using the cable car then continue hiking to reach the summit. The mountain is susceptible to fog and cold temperature especially in the early morning and rainy days.
Plaza Grande is the heart of the historic center in the Old Town of Quito. We have lunch at a restaurant inside a beautiful building called Palacio Arzobispal (Archbishop’s Palace) then continue having coffee at a charming small coffee shop, Isveglio cafe near to Plaza Grande. The plaza is busy with the locals and as well visitors. It is surrounded by La Catedral Metropolitana, the Presidential Residence, Archbishop’s Palace and the City Hall. There are several beautiful plazas near to the Plaza Grande. The Old Town of Quito is beautiful with the colonial buildings scattered around the area connected through labyrinth hilly roads.
Basilica del Voto National
The Basilica is one amazing neo-gothic church, a rare architecture to be found in Latin America. It is also considered as the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas. The construction began in 1892 and it has not fully completed. Some believe that once it is fully completed, the world will come to an end. Situated at San Juan Hill, the Basilica can be seen from anywhere in Quito. Interestingly, as we climb the Basilica, we can see the 45-meter-tall stone monument of a Madonna on the top of Panecillo Hill right in front of us.
El Panecillo is the hill of volcanic-origin that house the Quito’s Madonna statue since 1976. The hill is walking distance from the Old Town, however, climbing its stairs and public roads to reach the hill could be challenging due to high altitude. From the hill, as you can see at below picture, the statue is facing the Basilica del Voto Nacional. It is a nice detail of the two famous landmarks in Quito.
Transportation in Quito is affordable and safe. There are app-based taxis like Uber and the local version (unfortunately I forgot its name, but you can see the offers when using the Google Maps). Besides of that, the regular taxis (yellow colored taxi) are using meters, so you don’t have to worry about bargaining. We explore Quito using the regular taxis, and Uber. The taxi meter starts at 0.50 cent US Dollar.
Busses are available as well, and perhaps it is more challenging to use if you have more time/days to explore the city. Other option, if you have a very limited time, you can also take the city tour bus that stops at all interesting points in Quito.
I found Quito as a safe city just like any other cities I have visited. Police were everywhere, especially in the Old Town area. It was reported that the neighborhood of El Panecillo was not a friendly neighborhood to tourists even during the daylight. But we walked in the neighborhood during the daylight and no one was bothering us. Just be modest, don’t show off your camera gears nor smartphone too often. Additionally, it’s very handy when knowing some local language words to communicate even in the basic conversation.
Flying to San Cristobal, Galapagos!