April 25th – Quito
Another long travel day. We seem to spend a lot of time sitting in airports. At least this time on the Guayaquil stop we got to avoid the Ecuadorian fire drill and were allowed to stay on the plane.
Back in Quito late afternoon. Too late for shopping. Dinner at restarante Colombia which specializes in all sorts of meats. Mike and I had beef chorizo (tenderloin); huge portions for $6.00 US each, and excellent.
Hotel Alemeda again very good, but this time we did not get suites. Don’t care for the hotel restaurant staff as they are very stiff and unfriendly, but everything else about the hotel is quite pleasing.
Side note: don’t order a club sandwich in Ecuador! The one here had a fried egg and tuna in addition to the usual layers! In Peru, it came with the fried egg but at least omitted the tuna salad.
Also, be sure you are specific when ordering water. As in Mexico, the “sin gas” is plain bottled water. The other option is mineral water “con gas” or carbonated.
April 26th – Quito
Another early morning for a tour of Quito led by Kevin Palacias, son of Ernesto who has been our stalwart and faithful guide during our stays in Quito. He has been 100% dependable: meeting us at the airport, transporting us everywhere, and meeting all of our needs and requests, however tiresome and trivial. It is invaluable to have such a guide and contact when traveling in foreign lands.
We toured Quito: the municipal buildings and churches. Quito is the safest, cleanest, and most lovely South American city I have seen yet. It rivals San Francisco for beauty and charm. Certainly would be a lovely place to retire.
We also traveled south to the true equator, a site determined exactly by scientists of 4 countries in the 1700’s. They used measurements and declinations of the sun. Interesting fact: we weigh approximately 6 pounds less here than at home! We took pictures with one foot in each hemisphere!
Returned to the hotel with a couple hours to shop. The girl in the “camasita tienda” remembered to look for a “shamana” t-shirt for me in my size, and was fortunate to find one. She had been holding it for me for a week, indicative of the cheerful helpfulness of these people.
We returned to Bentley’s for dinner as planned, this time with cameras in hand, anticipating another meeting with Shasha.
No one would have been too surprised if one of us had suffered a shark bite on this trip. Considering how closely we had communed with the white tips of Galapagos, but none of us anticipated a jaguar bite!
We were sitting in the bar, which resembles closely a traditional old English men’s club with the hunt pictures, overstuffed chairs, and dark environs, when Sasha made his entrance. He paused at the door, surveyed the room and bounded to the floor without touching the 4 steps. He circled the room, checked out his territory, and with each of 3 passes, uttered a purring growl and gave me a nose to nose “cat-kiss”.
On the fourth pass, as he paused in our midst, about 5 of us reached out to stroke him and flash bulbs started popping, and he swatted at my face. He made a solid contact with the right side of my forehead, cheek, and nose. The scabs remained a week later! He then turned over on his back, exposing his belly and the maitre d’ arrived to tell me that the cat wanted his stomach rubbed. Although I seriously doubted that the man knew what he was talking about, I tentatively extended my hand. By this time Sasha had mouthed Elo and Michelle, leaving us all a “bit” suspicious of his level of domestication! When I touched his belly, he let go of Elo and got me! He left tooth marks on my palm and hand that were sore for days, and he wasn’t even serious. His actions reminded me very much of the playful antics of my house cats, but magnified by about a zillion by his greater size and strength.
After dinner, his owner, Mrs. Coffey, came home and apologized for Sasha’s rowdy behavior. She explained that Sasha is very territorial and tends to be possessive of whoever is currently petting him. When several people approach at once, he becomes agitated and will tend to bite or scratch whoever is handy!
After dinner Mrs. Coffey offered to reintroduce us to her “baby” and we gladly accepted. This meeting was less traumatic, but equally exciting. It was most amusing to watch this beautiful Latin woman (90 lbs. soaking wet) drag that 60 lb cat around like a sack of potatoes with not a whimper of complaint from him.
Mrs. Coffey had acquired Sasha as a tiny kitten. His mother had been killed by poachers and two kittens left orphans and offered for sale in the public market. Unable to resist the kittens, she purchased one in spite of her vet’s assurance that she could not raise it. They normally stay with their mothers for 2 years, and require tremendous amounts of care and attention. Rarely do they survive as household pets when orphaned. But she was determined, and now has a beautiful companion and impressive guard cat. She told of a would-be burglar who left much faster than he entered upon hearing that low growl in the darkened house.
One more day here. Tomorrow is our last day and we will travel to Otavala for the weavers market, to San Antonio Ibarra to the center of wood carving, and then to Cotocachi for leather goods.