Day 47: Quito–Modern City

Sat. 29th September 2012

El Monte Eco-lodgeWe enjoyed our time in the El Monte eco-lodge (www.ecuadorcloudforest.com). Very simple wooden cabins in cleared forest sat by the river Mindo; eating food that had been grown organically in the gardens on site; and taking walks in the woods up the (steep) hills.  A real sense of being ‘back-to-nature’.

I think, however that the ‘but’ is twofold. Firstly, I couldn’t half do with a few more creature comforts – like regular hot-water and electricity. My other reservation that this is cloud-forest and not Amazon jungle. It means that we are going to travel through South America without any sight of the Amazon. If we had more time, we would possibly have gone to Sani Lodge (www.sanilodge.com)  instead. At the risk of doing more flip-flops than Mitt Romney, El Monte is a 2 hour drive from Quito, whereas the Amazon would mean another flight. It is all just trade-offs and as we have said before (and no doubt will say again) – we could do with more time in the countries we visit.

Quito's Boris Bikes!On our drive back to Quito, we couldn’t help but be impressed by the steep-sided saw tooth mountains as we zig-zagged our way along the sides of the valleys. Near Mindo everywhere was green and the trees were tall and densely packed. Nearer Quito where it is much drier and the colours are more yellows and browns. When you crest the mountains surrounding Quito you can see the city laid out below you, a really impressive sight

We were welcomed back to Casa Aliso like old friends which was very touching (but reminded me a little of the McCausland hotel back in Classroom 2000 days!). After a week on Cachalote and then being green in an eco-lodge, our priority was to get some laundry sorted!

Anyone for a pedallo in the park?That done, we took a taxi to Parque La Carolina as that had both a shopping mall and the Botanical Gardens nearby. As it was lunch time, it was the shopping mall first and on entering we were struck by how modern and like a UK shopping mall it looked. Indeed it reminded us of those happy times passing through Westfield Centre in Stratford on our way to sign in for Games Maker duty.

Yes, it is a bit sad to get excited about a shopping mall, but it is the first we have been in since leaving the UK. It also meant that I was able to buy new button-cell batteries for the light for my Kindle as well as such essentials as more razor blades & toothpaste. Ah, the glamour of travel!

Seeing the racks of ‘Boris bikes’ was also the clinching argument that Quito is a modern city and the first real city that we have visited (you have to discount Havana because that is locked in a time-warp and is unlike any other city). Whilst we had seen parts of the old-town in our earlier trips out, it was good to see the modern side of Quito.

Condom plants?Feeling refreshed and refuelled after lunch we went into the park (no takers for the pedallos – too tame after our zip line experience!) and then on to the Botanical Gardens.  These would not usually be my cup of tea, but it was genuinely interesting to wander round for a while. There were exhibits of plants from all over Ecuador including giant ferns, cactuses and a whole greenhouse full of carnivorous plants.

Stunning orchids in all shapes, sizes & coloursThe highlight though were the orchids – firstly on a growing wall, and then in a large greenhouse that you could wander round after having first taken note of the sign warning of dire consequences if you try to pick the flowers or take cuttings. There was an incredible variety of orchids – colours, shapes, sizes.

After that it was a slow walk back through the park watching Ecuadorians do pretty much the same set of things that we’d see at home – jogging paths, football and volleyball, cheerleaders practising, and what seemed to be an Ecuadorian version of Punch & Judy.

Whilst it was nearly a fortnight ago when we had our guided tour of Quito old town, we were pleased to have had the chance to see both sides of Quito.

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