Monday, May 21, 2007
Today, I went out to see some sites in the Old and New Town that I haven't seen yet for the past days. So, for starters, I went to see La Virgen de Quito, the big metal statue of Mary, with wings, and stepping on a chained serpent. This huge statue is located on a hill called El Panecillo. If you have watched the Amazing Race All-Stars, then probably you've seen this a few times.
My guidebook tells me never to walk the stairs up on foot leading up the statue, so after eating breakfast in the hotel, I took a cab. Fifteen minutes later, I find myself gazing up to this.
Pretty huge, eh? Apparently, one can climb inside the statue and look at the enormous view of the city. However, I did not do it for a few reasons. First of all, the statue's entrance was closed. Although I could wait till it opened, there wasn't a sign telling me when it would open. Also, I have seen plenty of views already, and surveying the view from the bottom of the statue, I have other views that are better than the one offered by this one. Probably this is due to the clouds that sort of hide the city at the moment.
So, I went around the statue, and took other pictures from other angles. Like this one.
As I said, the city looked hazy at that time. Look at this one.
If you are a fan of the Amazing Race, you may remember that when the teams went to Ecuador, they were instructed to go to Pim's Restaurant. This was apparently a restaurant at the foot of this statue. So when I went there, the restaurant was there! And they had amazing views of the city, but then again, like I said, it was hazy at the moment.
So ok, after 20 minutes in the vicinity of the statue, I had enough of it. I wanted to go to the Basilica de Voto Nacional, which, if you would look closely at the hazy picture, you can see it, where there seems to be two blurry towers near the middle.
So, the guidebook again tells me that I could flag a taxi at the top of the statue. But alas, no taxi! No tourist was coming around that time (perhaps it was too early, it was about 9:30 AM) and the other tourists had their own buses. So I waited there and waited, waited and waited, but nobody came.
After an hour, I had an idea to hitch-hike. I noticed that there were souvenir shops at the top of the hill, near the statue. The vendors who were indigenous people have their vehicles, usually pick-up trucks, where they carry their wares up the top, and go down to the city with an empty vehicle.
So, I flagged down a pick-up truck, driven by an indigenous guy. He later told me his name was Francisco. And yes, he was going downtown again, and so I asked him if he could drop me to the Basilica. Which he did. So, after a few minutes driving with a total stranger, conversing in broken Spanish, I found myself standing in front of this.
The Basilica de Voto Nacional. It is rather new, given the fact that it was just constructed at the beginning of the 20th century. Instead of gargoyles, it has turtles, iguanas, and alligators protruding from its sides.
The front door is immaculately carved, and one can also see the statue of John Paul II in between the two front doors.
Notice the creatures that are protruding from the sides. Apparently, they used animals that are native to Ecuador. Thus, one never sees gargoyles in the walls.
This was also the day when I got trapped inside the elevator for one hour. I wanted to climb the basilica to the clock tower and there were two methods, the elevator or the stairs. I decided to do the elevator going up, and the stairs going down. So I pressed the button, and the elevator opened. I stepped inside, pressed the top floor button, and the elevator closed. But it never went up. I ended up sitting there for one hour, sometimes in the darkness due to the fact that they sometimes turned the electricity off, until the doors opened one hour later.
This is the interior. The woman at the picture was murmuring some unintelligible chant while I was there.
Another interior shot. Notice the political flags that are displayed at the sides.
So, I decided to climb to the top, and since I became afraid of riding the elevator, I took the stairs instead. This church is very dangerous, no wonder the guidebook calls the view that one can see from the top the Most Dangerous View. Look at the wooden rickety plank that I needed to cross in order to reach the tower.
Near the middle of the climb, there is an interior lookout, where one can see the whole church from the inside.
Finally, the views, again. I guess this is what one sees when one does the dangerous climb.
So, that was my Day 5. The rest of my afternoon was spent walking along the walking tour of the guidebook, and I also went to the flea market in the new town to buy some stuff for myself. After that, for supper, I went to a restaurant in a cellar, serving Ecuadorian and Spanish fare. No corn this time.
So, watch out for Day 6. In the meantime, enjoy my Old Fort Niagara Series. This is a lookout where one can see across Lake Ontario and to Canada. Enjoy.