January 26, 2020
Our first adventure of the day was a trip to a large, well-organized, very clean produce market. On the way there we drove past many modern daringly designed high-rise buildings. The Equadoran economy must be booming for some, if not for the people we met yesterday. Volcanic peaks and towering clouds towered above the shiny buildings.
At the market Alfredo pointed out some of the more unusual products to us, such as scented soaps, teas, and potions designed to attract the opposite sex, and work other miracles.
He gave each of us $1 in coins, and sent us to find a fruit or vegetable we’d never seen before. A treasure hunt — what fun! I never did find out what the large green fruit that looked much like a jackfruit was. It cost $8, so was beyond our budget. However we did find an unusual large yellow fruit for $1.50, and had enough left over to pick up a couple of handfuls of small round yellow gooseberries, the likes of which I’d never seen.
Later we shared our finds, and tasted them at an impromptu lunch in a lovely shaded patio.
The equator site, touted as “El Mitad Del Mundo,” was a bit gimmicky. I was reminded of recent visits to the Four Corners monument—but we had a good local guide who demonstrated balancing an egg on the equator, and pouring water into a golden sink that he moved from center and then to north and south to show how water ran down the drain straight at the equator and swirled clockwise and counter clockwise on north and south sides.
Then Alfredo had arranged a surprise visit for us to la Casa y Museo de Agave, the enterprise of Diego, whose goal was to resurrect the indigenous traditions of working with agave, from producing rope and textiles, to juice, syrup, and spirits cry. After a light lunch of popcorn, our market fruits, and a delicious gazpacho-like cold soup with addition of small white beans, we were treated to a very elegant and informative tasting of various agave drinks and syrup, as we were instructed to look at the liquid in the glass, holding it up to the light, then swirling, then breathing in the aroma, and finally, after toasting the sky above, the earth beneath our feet and blessings for all, we savored the taste and warmth of the liquor. Miske, the Spirit of Equador.
Several of us visited the Botanical Garden afterwards, and Kent and I got instructions on how to walk home. Unfortunately, we had 2 mishaps. First, although Alfredo had instructed us to follow one street “straight” until we came to another that would connect us to a familiar one, at the end of the park we came to a Y and didn’t know which branch to take. I had not purchased cell service, so had no access to Google maps, which might have saved us, and lacked a printed map, too. Then, as we asked a man handing out flyers along the street for directions, he pointed to our backs. We had been slimed with a thick black substance, Kent worse than me.
We knew this was a common trick used by pickpockets, but we saw no one around us and were totally unaware that anything had hit us. Fortunately we’d suffered no losses.
We continued on the street I thought would be the right one — and it was— but then we came to a traffic circle with several choices of streets, and had no idea which way to go. We walked a bit farther, then hailed a taxi that delivered us to the corner closest to the hotel.
We made a successful visit up to a bank ATM, then hurried back, now in the rain, to our room, where we spent the next half hour or more scrubbing, rinsing, and wringing out two pairs of pants, two shirts, and one backpack.
Fortunately we’d suffered nothing worse than embarrassment, annoyance, and inconvenience.
We finished the evening with a lovely meal and a bottle of wine at a nice Italian restaurant (La Briciola) near the hotel (NH Collection Royal Quito), with Linda and Ed from North Carolina, a couple who, like us, had met and remarried late in life.
Tomorrow: the Amazon Rainforest!