During my visits to Ecuador, I stayed in Quito for three days. Quito is at 2,800 m (9,190 ft) elevation. Many people have significant problems with the altitude. You need to take this into account when you visit there. I had a little bit of a headache on the first day, and I didn't sleep to well. Otherwise I had no problems.
On the first day I took a city tour and a short excursion to a monument on the equator that is supposedly at the center of the world. On the second day I had a tour to the Mindo Cloud Forest, and on the third day I visited Cotopaxi, the 5,911 m (19,393 ft) high volcano south of Quito. A year later I visited Quito again. On one day I took a trip to Otavalo to the indigenous market, past the other large volcano, Cotacachi (4,944 m (16,220 ft) high).
Quito is a fairly old city. It dates from pre-Columbian and pre-Inca times. The Inca conquered it in the late 15th century. When the Spanish arrived, the Inca emperor Atahualpa had the city razed. The Spanish then founded the current capital on the ruins left by the Inca. Many buildings from the colonial period survive in the Old Town.
I visited the oldest church of Ecuador in the Old Town, the Monastery of San Francisco. Construction of this church started immediately after the founding of Quito in 1534. Another interesting building was the Monastery of San Agustín, a 17th century building with interesting murals. It was the site of the signing of Ecuador's declaration of independence in 1809.
While I visited the Old Town, they were making a film about the fight for independence of Ecuador. They had put sand over one of the streets and were filming the soldiers in their old uniforms next to the Plaza Grande.
Near Quito is the monument for the "Middle of the Earth". They claim that it is the center of the earth. As far as north-south is concerned, they are right. However, as far as east-west is concerned, nobody can really claim that. It is located in the central valley north of Quito, between the two Andes mountain ranges east and west of Quito. It was very dry in that area at the time of my visit, the area had a prolonged drought. It was two months into the rainy season, but they had had no rain so far.
Around Quito, the indigenous market in Otavalo is quite famous. You can find lots of hand woven carpets and other handmade articles. Nearby Cotacachi village is famous for its leather work. It is well worth visiting.
In March 2005, I visited the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador. I flew into Coca via Quito. The official name of that city is Puerto Francisco de Orellana. Coca is an oil town. It is not interesting by itself, just as a starting point for jungle excursions.
The church of the Monastery of San Agustín. (744k) A procession to the church of San Agustín. (773k) The interior courtyard of the Monastery of San Agustín. (918k) Wood carvings in the Monastery of San Agustín. (926k) Murals in the Monastery of San Agustín. (763k) The Plaza Grande. (608k) Filming of a movie about the independence war of Ecuador. (772k) One of the soldiers in the film. (448k) Crowds in the film, waiting for their part of the show. (674k) One of the typical buildings in the old town, with shop areas on the ground floor, and balconies on the second floor. (797k) A statue on the hill overlooking the old town. It is "La Virgen del Panecillo", a replica of one of the statues in the church of San Francisco. (546k) The church of the Jesuit monastery. (609k) The church of San Francisco, the oldest church in Quito. (738k) The interior of the church of San Francisco. (1128k) The interior of the church of San Francisco. (1183k) A street vendor selling lottery tickets. (663k) An old native Indian woman. (917k) Two old native Indian woman having a snack and a chat. (792k) An old native Indian woman. (776k) The monument at the "Middle of the Earth", called "La Mitad del Mundo". (585k) View of the indigenous market in Otavalo. (1071k) A Native Indian woman in the indigenous market in Otavalo. (850k) Scenes from the indigenous market in Otavalo. (797k) Scenes from the indigenous market in Otavalo. (812k) Scenes from the indigenous market in Otavalo. (787k) Scenes from the indigenous market in Otavalo. (739k) A view of the central valley north of Quito. (709k) Farming in the central Andes valley south of Quito. (472k) South of Quito. (591k) Snow capped peaks in the western Andes range, south of Quito. (403k) Central Andes valley, south of Quito. (562k) Local village near the Cotopaxi National Park with the traditional grass covered huts. (881k) Farming in the low plains near Guayaquil. (541k) An Inca building that is used today on a farm south of Cotopaxi. (909k) An Inca building that is used today on a farm south of Cotopaxi. Notice the very well built bottom part, which is Inca, and the much less well built top part, which is recent. (1062k) Inca burial mound south of Cotopaxi. (537k)
Coca and the Amazon area
Street scene in Coca. (740k) He was cooking snails on the sidewalk. (862k) Local meat stores in Coca. (844k) A furniture street vendor! He was carrying his furniture store around Coca. (756k) A small freight boat on the Rio Napo. (807k) A local passenger boat. (550k) An oil company speed boat. (633k) Because of a lack of roads, even the trucks go on boats for considerable distances. (615k) A tug boat for the large ferries. (1157k) There is quite a bit of debris in the river, mostly trees that fall of eroded river banks during the seasonal floods. (574k) Local transport is by paddle canoes. (1082k) A local house. The houses are on stilts because of frequent floods and to keep unwelcome critters away from people. The sides are open, there are no windows (the weather is warm all year long). (1211k) Closeup of a local house. The sleeping room is on the upper floor. (1002k) The ground floor usually has the cooking area and storage places. (872k) A couple of local children. They were really cute and quite happy to get some chocolates from us. (732k) This is a local bridge. Whenever there is a swamp or such, this is how it gets bridged. (1460k) We had to negotiate these bridges as well. (1086k) A blow gun. It was over 2 m (7 ft) long. The wood quiver carried the darts. The darts are about 30 cm (12") long. The sphere contains cotton that is wrapped around the darts to seal them in the blow tube. (638k) Close-up of the quiver and cotton holder. (724k) View of the La Selva lodge. Each hut is shared by two people. Each has a shower and toilet. (1150k) Paddle canoes arriving at the lodge. (810k) The "supply ship" with soda and beer. (698k) Our canoe on one of the excursions. The guide and one paddler are in front, another paddler is in the back of the canoe. (1210k) The Manatee. I stayed in one of the cabins on the top deck. (968k) The canopy tower near the La Selva Lodge. I had a bit of a problem to get up there because my fear of heights. But I didn't want to miss it, so I forced myself up there. It certainly was worth it. (1162k)
Fishermen in Puerto Ayora handling their catch. There are lots of sea birds around that area, waiting to get the discards from these fish. (784k) Harbor scene in Floreana. Notice the sea lions sleeping on the boat. (652k) Evening scene near Floreana. (630k) That looks like it could be fun, even though I prefer a solid bed at night. (630k) A stone carved head on Floreana. It was reportedly carved by pirates who used these islands in the 18th and 19th century. (1351k)