Rumiloma Hacienda (May 21-22)
Our driver from the Hacienda met us at the Quito airport with a sign “Thomas Barker.” It was an hour-long drive all the way through Quito and then over a dirt road to the Hacienda entrance. Rumiloma is perched on the mountainside and our room (Montana) is up three flights of steps. We were winded when we got to the door. The architecture is magnificent. Stone walls with post and beam accented with multiple levels joined by rustic stairs made of split logs. Amber deFreire, the owner, has scoured the world for antique and unique artifacts that surround us. Our bedroom is huge with a skylight over the far end from which we can see the mountains that surround us. There are peacocks and llamas roaming the grounds.
We had a delicious meal the first night and settled in exhausted from the activities on the river boat. During the night there were flashes of lightning and an unusual shadow (or so we thought) on the skylight. As morning dawned we recognized the “shadow” as the peacock who had rested all night in the warmth of the roof. Our wood stove and the portable electric heaters kept us snuggy. Breakfast was wonderful with granola and eggs. However Anne’s appetite seemed to be waning and her ability to breathe was impaired by the altitude of 10,500 feet. The staff were wonderful and immediately “prescribed” coca tea (as in the leaves from which cocaine is made!) which they packed into a thermos and sent us up to our room to rest. Our lunch that day was made up from the steak that Tom could not finish from last night and Anne’s salmon was made into a salad. Again, the staff was so accommodating to our needs and understanding of our problems with the altitude. They stoked up our fire by bringing in a pan of hot blazing logs and deposited them in the wood stove!
After our second night we decided that the altitude was just too much to endure and we came up with a “plan B” to see if we could go down to the relatively lower elevation (8,500 ft) of Quito at the Swissotel where we had a reservation for Saturday already. We had already set up a mini tour of Quito and would be down there around 10AM, so this seemed a good way to “kill two birds with one stone.” Our plan worked and Anne was given a shot of oxygen (breathing from a tank with a mask) after breakfast while the staff again paid perfect attention to our needs. They arranged the reservation, got our guide for the tour to take us to the hotel first, see that we were checked in and then off to look at “old town” and the magnificent churches.
Tour of Quito (May 23)
Our guide, Allejo, drove us down to Quito and helped us register at the Swissotel and we were able to check into our room before heading out to the old town part of the city. The buildings are painted in bright colors and the streets are very busy with vendors carrying flowers and of all things, ice-cream! After parking in a tiny space in an underground garage, where Anne used a mask to get through the polluted air down there, we headed up to the street where we took a cab to the first site of our tour - the Basilica. The Basilica is an imposing structure on the top of a hill. Just as we entered, there was a stunning brass instrument fanfare announcing the noon mass. Be sure to watch and listen to the video. Since it was downhill, we walked for a bit before taking another cab to the Jesuit church which is gilded in ornate gold. Tom managed to sneak a few pictures inside. Our guide went back for the car and while we waited in front of the church, Anne bought some scarfs from an Otavalan street vendor. We bid goodbye to our guide at the Swiss Hotel and settled in with a bit better breathing at this lower (8,500 ft.) altitude. Tom got a hamburger and a local Pilsner while Anne relaxed in the room.