At Altitude

Well, Mike and I have set foot in South America — a first time on this continent and south of the equator for both of us. We had a long, kind of tiring journey from Phoenix to L.A. to Panama City to Quito, but we’re here! Of course, once we got here it took us a couple of hours to reassemble our bikes, make some repairs (I finally got new tubes for my perpetually flat tires), and bike 8 kilometers across town. Quito is a busy, busy city with 1.4 million residents. When we were flying in it looked like it went on forever, spreading out between the mountains.

The mountains certainly deserve an aside, too. Quito is located at about 9200 feet (way higher than Denver, the “mile high city”). We’ve been warned and warned about altitude sickness, but neither of us has had any trouble other than a slight headache so far. Sure, biking up some of the small hills in town left us more breathless than they normally would, but it’s not as bad as I expected it to be. Soon our bodies will be used to a lack of oxygen and we will seem like super humans when we return to a normal altitude. Anyway, the mountains are gorgeous and I can’t wait to see more of them once we leave the big city.

We had a wonderful welcome to Quito from our Global Freeloaders hostess, Paola. She’s letting us crash in a room of her very nice apartment for a few days. We biked to it from the airport, and we met Paola shortly after. She has excellent taste in decor, and her apartment is very cute. She is also very hospitable. We all went out to dinner at a great bohemian bar/restaurant that Mike and I never would have found on our own. We got to meet several of her friends there as well, and they all spoke better English than we do Spanish. The food was awesome too. Much to my pleasure, I learned that the staple foods in the Ecuadorian highlands are corn and potatoes. I had a cheesy potato soup with avocado (called “Locro de papas”) for dinner and Mike had another potato dish with fried eggs (called “Llapingachas”). We also sampled various kinds of empanadas for an appetizer (filled with bananas or meat or covered with sugar). The restaurant even brought us a snacky side before anything else came (kind of like the peanuts at steakhouses). It consisted of small, soft, white beans and kernels of some kind of corn. They make a really great combo because the beans were kind of mushy and tangy and the corn was crunchy and salty. I really like it, but I can’t remember what it’s called. I’ll try to look it up somewhere.

Yesterday Mike and I slept in, read our guidebook, and tried to decide what to do over the next few days. We decided to go to the Historic Centre of Quito today, which is precisely what we did.

The Centro Historico, otherwise known as Old Town, features loads of churches and museums. We walked around, took pictures, and visited a few churches. We also caught a few street performances and a bizarre sort of parade. The people in the parade were wearing masks and dancing around. One guy was taking swigs from a canteen and hoisting a frightened guinea pig in the air, alternately. Another two guys would run a few feet in front of the procession, plop a large jug of fuel on the ground and set off little rocket-thingys inches from the crowd.

We visited one really neat church, called the Basilica del Voto Nacional, which is featured in my new poll to the left. We spent a good deal of time exploring its dangerous clock/bell towers. The place is HUGE! We had to go up several flights of stairs to reach the balcony that overlooks the church and that showcases an enormous stained glass window. Then we had to go up several more flights to get to a balcony that went outside of the church and looked out over the city. Then we climbed a few more flights of regular stairs, three flights of spiral stairs, and three ladders to reach the tippy-top of the bell tower. It was quite a bit higher than it looked from the ground. Luckily, all that stair-climbing offered us an amazing view of the city. I’ll be posting pictures soon.

Since we don’t have any pictures of Ecuador yet, though, I’ll post a few pictures from the Tour de Fat that we went to in Tempe, AZ. It was a fun and funky bike festival. There were some crazy bikes and crazy people.

This is a crazy bike that you have to ride while leaning sideways on a small support. It is very difficult to pedal.

This bike wasn’t too hard to ride, but it sure looked cool.

Here’s Mike unicycling. He misses his unicycle, which is in storage for now. Notice that he looks less like a lion, since he cut his hair and beard for Kristen’s wedding.

We thought this was a pretty sweet ride. The monkey driving is great, but I think the guy’s hat really tops everything off.

People were in costume (much like RAGBRAI), and I kind of wished I had hot pink hair. I’m going to miss Halloween this year!!

Sea foam green is nice too. I like this guy’s earring!

Okay, that’s it for now, but we’ll have pics of Ecuador soon. We haven’t really planned what we’re doing next, but I think we’ll be heading out of Quito soon. Time to get back on those bikes! Don’t forget to participate in the new poll/trivia question, and continue to keep us posted on what you’re up to as well!

3 Responses to “At Altitude”
  1. Karen Brady says:

    Yay! The blogging resumes! I know you’ve been anxious to get on your 2 wheels again. Can’t wait to see what adventures and amazing sights you encounter in Ecuador! Glad to hear you found such a fun hostess. Travel Safe!Love,Ma

  2. Courtney says:

    I saw that sea foam hair guy in the library today! It was less bright and most of the hair was back to white, but I remember thinking it was weird for an old guy to have green streaks in his hair.

  3. Deb says:

    Glad to hear you are having as much fun as we are with mom and dad!!!! No 19 bar of soap hotels yet, but one loud stinky overnight train 🙂

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