Saturday, February 15, 2014

Bulletins From BA #23

Bulletins From BA #23
15 febrero 2014

¡Hola! there… Rodger French here.


Excursión a Ecuador (continuación)

Día Seis - My taxista Raoul picked me up at the crack of 10:00 and we set out on a turístico trifecta. First stop: El Panecillo, a “hill” (3016 m, 9895 ft) on the south side of Quito. The vistas, as you might expect, are sweeping and stunning. Even better, there is a giant (45m, 148 ft) aluminum statue of “The Woman of the Apocalypse,” a Madonna variation from the hallucinatory Book of Revelation. The statue is on a commodious pedestal that you may enter to obtain an even more stunning/sweeping view.

Next up: La Plaza de San Francisco, a major public square in Old Town. The plaza faces La Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco, a complex that dates to the 16th century. Since I had some commerce to attend to, I was not long exploring; although I did note that the church, while suitably grand, looked somewhat worn and in need of attention. The place was packed for Mass, so out of respect (and a nearly total ignorance of Catholic rituals), I ambled while the congregation sat, and stood in silence when they rose. No one seemed to notice.

Final destination: La Basílica de Voto Nacional, the largest neo-Gothic church in the Americans. It is an imposing edifice, as befits its architectural heritage. Construction began in 1887, but since actual completion is rumored to herald the end of the world, no one seems in a hurry to technically “finish” the project.

The church has the requisite vaulted ceilings, flying buttresses, and stained glass, and the gargoyles adorning the exterior are fashioned to represent indigenous animals, e.g., armadillos, turtles, and pumas. But the coolest feature of La Basílica is that you can climb all the way to the tiptop of the main tower for yet another stunning view of la ciudad. The ascent is steep and not for the acrophobic. Fortunately, my years of scrambling on shipboard ladders (in the Navy, there are no “stairs”) paid off. It was a terrific way to end my tour of Quito.

Día Siete - For our final day in Ecuador, A.J. and I elected to join a smallish bus tour for an excursion to the sabado (Saturday) market in Otavalo, reputedly the largest textile market in South America. Naturally, there were a few roadside attractions:

Calderon - A town famous for artistic items made from a (decidedly inedible) flour-based marzipan.

Guayllabamba - A roadside stop to sample the cherimoya fruit, a (decidedly edible) pre-Incan favourite.

Cayambe - Specifically, Mira Lago Parador Touristico, located on Lago San Pablo at the base of Imbabura volcano. Muy picturesque. Here we took onboard a young woman who sang songs beautifully in Kichwa, a widely spoken local dialect.

[Horticultural Sidebar - One of the major industries in Cayambe is the cultivation of roses, gazillions of them, primarily for export.]

Otavalo - The textile market, situated in the Plaza de Los Ponchos, is moderately overwhelming. The vendors are constantly hustling the gringos, though not to excess, and we purchased a few very nice pieces at precios (prices) muy razonables.

Cotacachi - Lunch & Leather. Great Ecuadorian food and fairly high-end leather shops. A charming pequeño pueblo.

Cayambe - Specifically, “La Mitad Del Mundo” (“The Middle of the World”). Or, less prosaically, the Equator. Naturally, many goofy tourist photos were taken. (Incidentally, the story of the French Geodesic Mission and the search for the Equator is altogether fascinating.)

Día Ocho - Up at 03:00 for the return flight to Buenos Aires. The plane was packed, including families returning from vacaciones with their screaming children. But after navigating the customary confusions of Ezeiza International Airport, we and our tourist memorabilia made it home in good order. Nuestro viaje a Ecuador fue un gran éxito. (Our trip to Ecuador was a great success.)

Gracias por su indulgencia. ¡Adelante!


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