Friday, 25 September 2015

Quito 2


02/08 - 03/08


It was the first Sunday of the month which meant that the Jesuit Church in the Old Quarter was free to enter. We were excited to explore the inside of this church which had been said to be covered in gold and which was claimed to be the most beautiful church in the country.  So after a relaxing morning Skyping our families and loved ones back home, we jumped on the trole and headed back to the Old Quarter. As it was the weekend, the park was filled with families and friends enjoying the sunshine of this beautiful Sunday. 

As with most ancient churches and cathedrals, it is prohibited to take any pictures inside. But perhaps we can paint you a picture in words to try and describe the incredible interior of this magnificent building. 

As we walked in we were covered in a yellow glow as the light reflected off the gold walls. We wandered around for a little bit before enquiring if we could be given on be of the free guided tour. A very energetic young girl was directed to us and took us around. She explained the history of the church and the techniques that were used to embellish the walls and statues. It is rather impossible to put into words the beauty and the feeling of the church itself.

The church's construction began in 1605 and took 160 years to complete!  It was built in perfect symmetry, even to the point that the builders constructed and painted a fake staircase staircase in the back of the church to balance out the real one.  The church had also survived a fire and a part of it had to be reconstructed.  But to mark the event the people restoring the damaged area left one of the angels' faces painted on the ceiling marred by soot and fire as a remembrance for all.

Our guide was only 16 years old but so passionate about history and tourism. She loved this building so much that she volunteered as a tour guide here every weekend. She also took us into some of the side buildings where we were allowed to take a few pics.

Joy standing at the gate which led to the crypt below the church floors.

Roxy and our guide standing in the outside courtyard

We were told a legend about a little girl who died inside the church while it was being constructed and now her ghost apparently still haunts this courtyard

The big bells that used to hang in the church tower.

Joy taking the opportunity to ring the bell.

We went into one of the side rooms where we were not actually permitted to take photographs but our guide allowed us to take a few sneaky ones, as she believed that we were respectful and interested enough in the history of the church to deserve this privilege.

This was a very interesting combination box. Specific drawers would stay locked unless you opened others in a special combination.

For example: To open 38, you would first have to open 1 and 8. Very cool!

As Roxy was taking this picture of the grandfather clock, our guide's superior walked in...whoops! Quickly hide the camera.  Luckily she didn't seem to notice and we were happy that we hadn't gotten her into any trouble.  

The ceiling was very interesting - each little face within the circles had its own unique expression.

As we made our way to the exit we were faced with one last piece of artwork in the church. It was a huge mural on the wall depicting the seven deadly sins and the eternal punishment that would befall anyone who was disobedient with regard to each one.  It was a rather scary picture to behold. Our guide explained that all parents bring their young children to look at this image with the warning that if they do not behave that this is where they would end up. But if they were good they would go to heaven, the image of which was painted on the opposite wall of the church entrance. Quite a direct way to manipulate children to do what you want!

We said goodbye to the magical church and our enthusiastic tour guide and went for a little walk around the neighbourhood. We found a building housing a few stalls and we ambled in to check out some of the local produce.

Huge snails!!!! Apparently they have all sorts of healing properties. We were not quite convinced about this but were definitely impressed by their size (we used Roxy's hand to look at them according to scale). 

Arequipe... caramel, fudgy sweet deliciousness!!

The festive square where Joy received a white rose from a friendly stranger.

There seemed to be a large group protesting or gathering for a common cause. We weren't quite sure what was going on and unfortunately we were unable to ask anyone. We really need to find ourselves a Spanish mouthpiece!

We had decided to leave for Banos the next morning but still needed to get a police statement written up for the stolen camera. When we got back to Daniel's house, we went to the closest police station. Unfortunately, we had to go to the tourist police station which were not open at that time. It would just have to wait for the morning and it would be our last night spent with Daniel and to show our appreciation for all his hospitality,  we offered to cook a wholesome meal for him and his girlfriend.  We bought the ingredients from the local supermarket and we all four pitched in to make the cottage pie with roast veggies and even flan for dessert.  It was such a wonderful night with great food and even better company.  We were certainly going to miss our new found friends.  


We woke up early and Daniel took us to the tourist police station. It was such an efficient system and in no time we had our official statement and we were all sorted. We had a rather interesting experience on the way back to the house.  Daniel had left us to go and exchange money for Colombia and he had gone home to complete some deadlines before lunch. The buses were all extremely busy that day (being the first day of school holidays) and as we hopped on our bus,  we realised that the driver was a very competitive driver. He was speeding in front of other buses, suddenly slamming on brakes at the stops and just generally being quite reckless. He even tried to overtake another bus and came extremely close to causing a collision - there was just a centimetre separating the two vehicles. Luckily the police were close by and saw the event unfolding. They immediately pulled him over and discovered that his licence had expired. We were thus all told to exit the bus as he was hauled off into the police vehicle. But what we're we meant to do? The locals were quite vocal and we're refusing to purchase another bus ticket. We joined in on this appeal and we were assured by the traffic officer that we could get onto the next bus without paying provided that we still had our tickets. We strode off the bus,  tickets in hand and searched for the next one to come our way. But, because all the buses were so busy it was almost impossible to squeeze onto the next bus as it was full to even over capacity. This didn't seem to deter the Ecuadorian locals though as they pushed their way into every available gap. The last man to get on the bus was basically pushed in by the doors as they shut closed.
We waited for the next bus which had space but that ticket lady insisted that we must pay. We tried to explain what had happened but she refused to hear us. Eventually we were forced to call the policeman over to us who made her understand the situation although she was still unhappy about it. Wow! What drama! 

Un conductor de bus manejaba con cero puntos en su licencia profesional

Este contenido ha sido publicado originalmente por Diario EL COMERCIO en la siguiente dirección: Si está pensando en hacer uso del mismo, por favor, cite la fuente y haga un enlace hacia la nota original de donde usted ha tomado este contenido.

Daniel later sent us this link - Apparently this was big news and our photograph actually made the front page of the local newspaper - Celebrities!

After this incident we had to pack up and say our final goodbyes to Daniel and Puszek. We had had the most amazing time with them both and were so grateful for the experience! 

We at first thought he was lying on our bags because he was sad to see us go and was trying in his own little way to prevent us from leaving...

But as we gazed deeper into his enormous, glaring eyeballs - we soon realised that he just could not wait to see us go and have his couch back, all to himself. 

The Trole ride to the Bus station down town was suppose to only take about 45mins but because all the public transport was so crowded we had to stand with our big bags on our backs for over an hour. As we arrived at the bus station we were rushed off to catch the next bus to Banos which left in 5mins. We just made it and enjoyed a little nap on the 3hr drive to our next destination. 

Banos is a small town so even though we only arrived in the early evening, we were able to find a good hostel without much effort. We still had some left over pasta so we enjoyed a simple dinner and then headed to bed for some rest, before we dared explore the exciting adrenalin-inducing activities that this little town had to offer!

Thursday, 24 September 2015





We woke up and were ready to go to the biggest traditional market in South America, The Otovalo Market. Joy was still feeling a little fragile but could now at least sit up for more than 5mins and stomach some apple. Roxy had also given her a cocktail of pills to combat everything that was still plaguing her. We arranged to meet James at the Ofelia bus station where we would catch the bus to Otavalo.

We got to the bus station around 09:30 and realised that we definitely should have left earlier. The queue to buy the bus tickets was an endless row of people that looked like a line of ants following one another. There were bus station security guards standing along the long line to keep order and make sure no one cut in. We reluctantly went all the way to the back of the queue to wait for an unknown amount of time. The people waiting to go to the market were not only tourists but mostly locals. This gave us reassurance that the market would be authentic and worth visiting. One of our mottos during travelling is "Do as the locals do"- this refers to restaurants, buses and attractions. Locals will always know the best and cheapest spots.

We stood in the line,  which seemed to be moving at the same speed of tectonic plates, but eventually we reached the front and got our bus tickets. It was then a 2 hour drive to the little town of Otavalo. The landscape along the way was very beautiful, the mountains and volcanoes framing us in the valley as we drove. The town of Otavalo itself was bigger than we had expected and had much more charm than we could have anticipated. 

We walked a few blocks from the bus stop and found the first stalls of the crafts market -  known as the Plaza de Ponchos. Otavalo also boasts a Saturday animal market but that had already closed at 1pm and we only arrived in Otavalo at about 1.30pm. Besides we have seen many pigs, goats and chickens being sold at markets in Africa.  So no real loss there. 

As we walked through the streets and passed all the tents that had been constructed and decorated for the day, we were blown away by the sheer expanse of the stalls and the wide variety of products available. You could literally get anything you wanted here. 

Adorable 'little' person clothes - perhaps we should buy some pink dungarees for Ashley (Joy's niece)

An arrangement of spices and grains

Little hummingbird painted onto feathers

SA girls wielding some weapons - Joy with a rather ancient stone artifact but Rox found a more modern and effective metal blade in an artistic leather case

Bright Tigua paintings - we should have brought our original pieces of art to sell here. We could have made enough money to go to Galapogas, or at least buy a cheap choccie.

Some beads resembling those sold at Mazeppa Bay (in South Africa). And look there at the back - It is Roxy's fat, fluffy lama that she painted!

We had read about this amazing pie shop that we had to visit, Shenandoah Pie Shop. Daniel had confirmed that it was the best and suggested that we have a piece of Mora pie. We took his advice and ordered what we hoped would be a little piece of heaven.

James and Joy ready to get in there!

It was delicious - the pastry had the perfect crumble consistency and the filling was fruity, tart and warm. We bought a piece for Daniel, but were so tempted to dig into it the whole day...don't worry we didn't.  

Customised Chess set - Indigenous vs. Spanish

This big pot may look scary but it actually made part of the next food to be sampled. James sampling the roll filled with stewed figs and cheese. 

Musical instruments made from natural materials

The streets lined with stalls

Shrunken head keyring - hmm...what an interesting souvenir.

James blending in with the balaclava type headdress

These are examples of the hair accessories that the women braid into their hair.

Blue-footed Boobie figurine

One thing we did notice was that all the women were dressed in traditional clothing. These beautiful cotton hand-embroided tops, high-waisted skirts and oversized belts all made up part of this traditional outfit.


Joy ready to dig into Daniel's piece of Mora pie

A 'traditional' Indian headdress... We had obviously come down the citchy tourist Street. 

Roxy and James amongst the crowd

Beads for Africa... Very similar to those found in the Transkei 

Bob Marly has really made his mark across the world. Where there are hippy types, one shall find Marly merchandise

This little girl was so cute - she was just smiling at us the whole time

Some silver and wooden pendants. Turtles, hummingbirds and other animals all featured on pendants, earrings and other pieces of jewellery. 

Traditional musical instruments - pan pipes, flutes and cow hooves that are worn around the ankles

A normal lunch - fried guinea pigs. We were keen to try it but as Joy was still feeling a little sensitive, we decided to delay the devouring of this hopefully delicious delicacy. 

Exquisite embroidered place mats and attractively decorated face masks. 

After strolling down the many streets of the market, we went in search of some lunch. 

James ordered a recommended local dish which came with a rather interesting topping... Dried sheep's blood! 

Good luck... 

Well his face says it all... He described it as 'meat soil'. Sounds scrumptious! 

Roxy bravely decided to take a taste... We do not have photographic evidence of Roxy's meat soil face but it definitely was not as smiley as this 'before' pic. 

After this adventurous lunch, we were back on the streets to continue browsing. 

Joy displaying this frigate bird intricately painted on a seed pod

Joy could not hold back any longer and fell into the South American Traveller's Trap and ended up buying an Alpaca jersey. Although she likes to think it is something the locals would wear, it is not... It is basically a huge sign that screams 'I am not from here'. But it bothers her not - it is warm, has cute llamas on it and is Her colour! 

It is just so fluffy!!!! 

Roxy sporting a rather attractive beanie,  but since it was too big for her she didn't end up taking it, even though the stall owner offered to give it to her for less than half the price.  It just shows how overpriced these goods are initially set at for tourists before the bargaining game begins... 

We had spent a good few hours around the market and had had our fill of traditional trinkets, so we headed back to the bus station to get a bus back to Quito.

Quick peak at some of the traditional outfits through the bus window - the skirt always matches the embroidery on the cotton tops. 

Stunning views on the bus ride back to Quito

The bus ride back seemed to be an uneventful trip although one strange occurrence did happen along the way. James had wanted to sit in the seat behind us as we were boarding but was directed to sit in front of us by the bus attendant,  even though nobody had assigned seats.  He politely obliged and two youths snuck into the seats behind us. About 30mins into the trip Roxy felt a stern tug on her bag which was wrapped around her leg on the floor at her feet. She felt it may have just been the movement of the bus around corners causing her bag to sway. She quickly urged Joy to check her bag but Joy was certain that her bag was locked,  as we always do. Shortly after this event, the bus stopped and the two youngens skulked off the bus. It was only once we arrived back at Daniel's house that Joy checked her bag and realised that she had forgotten to lock the main pouch and her camera was gone! Oh no! She went white as she continued to unpack all of the contents of her bags but alas she could not find it anywhere! Those sneaky little cretins had stealthfully stolen the camera right from under her feet! Luckily for us Roxy had uploaded and saved all the photos on Joy's camera onto the cloud the night before and all the photos of our Otavalo trip had also luckily been taken on Roxy's camera, so we didn't lose any pics. After going to a local police station and being referred to the tourist police station, Daniel assured us that he would take us to this correct police station the next day and help us to make a statement. Grr... Unfortunately where there is opportunity, there will always be opportunists. What a sour way to end such a fun day.