Our first day in Ecuador was spent seeing the sights in Quito and getting acclimated to the increased altitude of the city. In an effort to curb vehicle congestion and pollution Quito only allows a certain number of vehicles on the road before 9:30am and after 4pm each day. They control this by corresponding license plate numbers to certain days of the week. Our first day in Quito happened to fall on the same day that the Howard’s van was restricted to travel between 9:30am and 4pm, but we managed to see a few key spots!
First we picked up Kristen, a good friend who moved to Quito when she got married in December. It was wonderful to see her again and we chatted eagerly with her as the van weaved through busy streets to the Virgin of El Panecillo. The Virgin overlooks Quito, which stretches roughly 40km in length while it is only about 5 kms wide due to its location in the Guayllabamba River valley.
From El Panecillo we went to the Basilica. This beautiful structure is sort of an “explore at your own risk” area and we climbed up two towers on opposite ends of the building. The first tower was only accessible by walking on a narrow wooden sidewalk with makeshift railings built within the roof above the beautiful arched ceiling found in the sanctuary of the church. From there we went to the outside of the tower and climbed up rebar-like stairs. We shouted encouragement to one another over the wind as each one made it to the top. From the top of this one tower we could clearly see the Virgin of El Panecillo and the clock towers at the opposite end of the Basilica. We climbed up the clock tower showing approximately 8:20 in this photo. Despite being enclosed during our second ascent, this trek was a bit tougher for members of the group with a fear of heights. Kerri-Lynn encouraged Zak and Jada-Lynn to face their fears, not wanting them to miss out on the spectacular view of the city and the experience. “Just go up one more set of stairs and I’ll never ask anymore of you,” she said each time the two would make it up yet another flight of stairs.
A quick picnic lunch in the Basilica courtyard gave us the energy we needed for bartering at the Green Wall Market. The market was much less hectic than I expected. I was able to relax and browse as I looked for gifts for friends and family. Kristen was a great resource for letting us know what common items like scarves were really worth and Jonathan and I were able to practice a bit of Spanish as we bartered for better prices. Of all the markets I’ve been to Green Wall is, so far, my favourite.
Being back at the District Ministry Center before 4pm left us with some time before supper. Some of the team played games while others packed up for the early start to Riobamba the next morning.