We met up with Susan again and the 3 of us hopped on the trolley ($.25)and headed for old town. An older man was watching us trying to figure out how many stops to where we wanted to go and pointed "aqui" as in "we're here" and helped us count out trolley stops to our destination. When I thanked him he gave me a toothless grin and said "welcome to my country". I hope Canadians are as kind to tourists as the Ecuadorians have been to us.
There was a crowd at the grand plaza so we decided to stay and figure out what was going on. There were official looking people, horses all decked out and a band playing. Everyone was looking up so we followed and there was the president on the balcony of the Palace. I recognized him right away as he was the only one not wearing a tie (Giovanny told us many times that he wears traditional, embroidered shirts and never a tie) There was singing and clapping and everyone seemed happy. Later we found out that this happens most Mondays, something about changing of the guard. It's obvious that Ecuadorians are very happy with their current president.
Next we found the church of Jesus the Companion which is absolutely beautiful and full of gold. We wandered the streets for several hours, had lunch at a diner for $2 each then headed back to the hostel. On the way we stopped for an iced tea and then the market. By the time we got back to our room we were exhausted. An hour or so later we met Susan and walked about looking for a place to eat dinner. We settled on Fried Bananas. Why not? We know the food is good and it sure was. We even got dessert :)
Tuesday, March. 5
Our tour started with picking up Deedee, a New Yorker and we headed to Mindo. The scenery changed from city to mountain to cloud forest and the drizzle indicated we were in one. First stop was the butterfly and hummingbird park. Gorgeous and fascinating. Next we drove a "green road" for about 20 minutes where we hopped on a cable car across a gorge. While walking down, down, down, I noted to Susan "uh oh, we're going to have to walk back up". After spotting a few birds, a snake and lots of lush vegetation we got to the waterfall. Then the walk back up and wow, was it humid! Back in the cable car, the dirt road and on the highway again.
Next stop was Mundo, the middle of the world. The museum was very interesting and we learned lots of facts about being on the equator like how water flows down a drain, balancing an egg, having no resistance, sun dials and equinoxes.
Back at the hostel and time to prepare for going home. We said good bye to Susan for the last time. She's continuing to Cuenca. I asked the fellow at the front desk to make sure we have a taxi for the morning. I'm not convinced he's going to do it. Oh well.
Wonder of wonders there were TWO taxis waiting for us and one tried to give us bagels. I figured someone else must have ordered that. I thanked him and pointed to the other driver as he was the guy we'd asked to come back a few days ago, and told him someone else would be coming for him. I hope so!
We had a ridiculous amount of time at the airport. It's brand new and replaces the most dangerous airport in the world. We were told to allow at least an hour to get there. It took 45 minutes. We were told 3 hours for an international flight and we ended up with 2.5 hours to hang around. There are only 6 gates so it was pretty boring.
Waiting time in Miami is ridiculous. 2 hours for passport control. I felt sorry for people with small children. The customs dude blamed it on the fact that the US is broke and cutting costs every where. The more I travel, the more I realize how blessed I am to be Canadian and possess a Canadian passport. No fingerprinting, millions of questions, photo taken....borders are a breeze for us. Not so for everyone else.
After another relatively uneventful flight (maybe flying's not so bad after all) we landed in Toronto on time. With the new automated passport control we had picked up our bags and our car and were on the 401 in 45 minutes. It's a new record!!
I love traveling and more and more it makes me realize how blessed we are to live in Canada. It's not perfect, but it's home and definitely worth fighting for!