We woke early again today by now, we're used to it. We drove over to the airport Cusco is actually pretty nice early in the morning before all of the traffic and the street vendors. The flight from Cusco to Lima was uneventful. At the Lima airport, while waiting for our bags, we may have seen the worst behaved kids we have ever seen. They were touching and pushing everyone's luggage as it came out of the carousel, they were sitting on the carousel and riding it until they would smack into someone waiting for their luggage, and there were no parents anywhere in sight. After we finally got our bags, we were greeted by Rosa one last time (we think).
The security at the Lima airport leaves a lot to be desired. We were taking an international flight to Quito but we already had our tickets. All we needed to do was check our bags. There was a line for this specific purpose, but they would not let us in the line until our bags were screened. There was a baggage screener right next to us, but they wouldn't let us use that because "it was for domestic flights only." So we walked down a ways to have our bags screened at the international screener, then walked all the way back and got in line. The screeners don't actually mark or tag or otherwise identify that a bag has been screened, however, so for all the lady at the baggage check window knew, we never actually walked down to get our bags screened.
One more thing that got us wondering was our destination, Quito . We were walking through security when we heard there was a plane boarding for Guayaquil , the place we would be heading from Quito the next day. We had assumed that there were no flights from Lima to Guayaquil, and that was why we were spending roughly 18 hours in Quito. But since there are flights from Lima to Guayaquil, we wondered why we were going through the hassle and the extra flights of going to Quito no offense to Quito, of course. It was at this point that we decided that to the extent possible, we should take care of our flight arrangements next year. Last year we had few if any "wasted" days days where we were sitting around waiting for a flight in some place we didn't really want to visit. On this trip we had the day in Lima and the day in Quito that were probably both unnecessary.
We went into the Duty Free Store to see if we could pick up some Pisco and some Chilean Wine to bring home. The Pisco was easy to find the only hard part was choosing among the numerous brands. Chilean Wine, however, was not to be found. Apparently the Peruvians are still bummed about losing the war to the Chileans, and so they stock only Peruvian wine which we were told should not be drunk under any circumstances. We had lukewarm sandwiches at the café, then sat down at the gate.
As we were waiting at the gate, the airline employees tending the gate started to go around and check boarding passes. For some (unknown) reason, they skipped us, so Crystal kept watching to see if they were going to come back. One of the airline employees asked to see the boarding passes of a white couple. The couple showed them their boarding passes, but the man wouldn't let the airline employee leave until the employee fist tapped him (the man waiting for the flight held out his fist, and wouldn't let the employee leave until the employee also made a fist and touched his fist to the customer's fist). The employee continued to check boarding passes, and then went to talk to another airline employee. Both employees came back to the couple and told them that they would need to gate-check their carry on luggage. This got us worried, because our carry-on luggage was the same size as the couple's, and ours was quite heave because it contained all of the souvenirs we had purchased while we were waiting in the airport. However, they didn't really look at anyone else's luggage, and when we got on the plane there was a lot of overhead compartment space available. The only reason that we could think of that they were singled out was because of the fist tapping.
We boarded the plane, and Crystal put the laptop bag under the seat in front of her as usual. Then she went to put her purse under the seat only to find that she didn't have it. She fought her way to the front of the plane (other people were still getting on the plane, so she was trying to go against the flow) and convinced one of the flight attendants to let her get off the plane. As she stepped onto the jet way, she saw one of the LAN employees coming towards her with her purse. Apparently they had checked inside the purse and found a boarding pass stub from one of our earlier flights. They had been coming to give us the purse. Crystal was very relieved. Justin was also happy because now he could make fun of Crystal he would not have been able to poke fun had she actually lost it.
When we arrived in Quito , the immigration line was very short, but it still took a long time because they did not appear to have the barcode readers that scan in all of the Passport information. So instead they had to type everything in, which took forever. After clearing customs and picking up our bags, we were greeted by Fatima . She asked if we were ready to go on our day tour, we said yes, so we started without stopping by the hotel first.
Our day tour basically consisted of the Old Town area in the southern part of town. We started at the Basilic church, which dwarfed everything around it. The church was not completed, because a certain amount of money was allocated for it from the government, and once that money was spent, that was it. The church was still very impressive, however. It was also interesting that instead of adorning the outside of the church with statues of gargoyles or angels, the statues were of animals from the Galapagos Islands. We drove into the center of old town, and then got out and walked. In the very center was Independence Plaza, which has a large center monument that pays homage to Ecuador 's independence from the Spanish. On all sides of the Plaza are government buildings, including the Presidential Palace. We walked there next and looked around. While we couldn't go inside, we could go right up to gates that led into the central courtyard, and we could actually take pictures. Crystal commented that both here and in Chile, we could walk right up to the President's dwelling, but in the United States you can barely see the White House from where people are allowed (at least when Crystal was there).
Fatima told us that there are no Inca ruins in Quito because the Incas destroyed them themselves. Apparently the Incas had a very good messenger service. When the Spanish started fighting with the Incas in Peru , and the Incas saw that the Spanish were destroying the places they had built, they sent a message to the Incas in Quito, explaining what was going on. The Incas in Quito decided to destroy their city themselves, rather than allowing the Spanish to destroy it. By the time the Spanish reached Quito, the Incas were gone and there weren't even two stacked stones from an Inca structure that were still standing.
Fatima took us down a street called Street of the Seven Crosses, which is a reference to the seven churches located on the street. The first (and largest) church is on Independence Plaza, but we did not go into it. The first church we went inside was called Iglesia el Sagrario. It was very ornate, but quite a bit of the decoration was painted. It did have a nice carved wooden door that was covered with gold foil, but that was about the extent of the gold ornamentation in that church. The second church had just finished its restoration in the last couple of weeks the Jesuit church Iglesia Compania de Jesus. It was extremely ornate, and the entire church was symmetric, either actually or in appearance. For items that weren't symmetric (e.g. the steps at the back leading to the choir room), steps were painted on the wall to give the appearance of symmetry.
The third church was Franciscan Convento de San Francisco and Fatima had used to work there, so she took us to a number of rooms that ordinarily we would not have been able to see. Carnaval was ongoing, and even at the convent no one was safe was water throwing. People sprayed the monks, women were led up a center fountain and splashed mercilessly, and someone was actually tossed into the fountain. Besides the center fountain, the courtyard also had many tall palm trees, Parajubaeas and Ceroxylons. Justin had his picture taken at the base of a monster Ceroxylon quindiense. We have one at our house it is about 10" tall and will maybe reach 30' tall before we die. At the entrance to the choir area there was an arched hallway that had some very interesting acoustic effects. One was that if you stood in the center and spoke upwards, there was a tremendous, amplified echo. Another was that if you stood on the edge and spoke softly into the corner, someone standing in the opposite corner could hear what you said clear as day.
We left the church and headed up to one of the high points in the city, Panecillo Hill, which is home to the 'Winged Virgin' monument. Justin noted the irony of spending several hours of our city tour in Quito going to churches and discussing Catholicism only to leave the next day for the Galapagos to learn about Darwinism. As we drove up Panecillo Hill, the sun disappeared, but it was still a long way from setting. Just to the west of Quito is a 17,000 foot peak, which means that every day the sun disappears well before it sets, leaving the sky fairly bright without any evidence of the sun. Near the top of the hill Justin noticed several examples of a rare plant we have at our house Delastoma 'Quitoense.' It is a nice purple-flowering tree that attracts hummingbirds. It is not found naturally outside Quito only in cultivation. It resembles other Delastomas, but with bigger and less glossy leaves.
On the way to the hotel, we found out that our flight to Guayaquil the next day was not a separate flight Guayaquil was simply a fuel stop where we would pick up additional passengers. So actually, going to Quito was not a waste at all. Plus, we found we liked what we had seen of the city. The hotel we stayed at was very nice. They asked if we wanted a suite, we said no, but we think they gave us one anyway, at the price of a regular room. Perhaps they were out of regular rooms and wanted to see if we'd pay for the upgrade. The room had two bathrooms, two televisions, and a separate living area and bedroom. We looked at some stuff on the internet, uploaded some photos, and then ate. The food at the steakhouse was very good, but we weren't that hungry and the portions were enough for 3 people, not 1. We came back up and went to sleep while watching the "Trapped In the Closet" episode of South Park en espanol.