Flower vendors are a common sight in Quito, Ecuador. Flowers do not seem to be a luxury item or relegated to only special occasions. Old, young and the not-so-well-to-do could be seen carrying two dozen roses back home on Saturday morning.
Quito, Ecuador is the typical connection point for those taking the final two-hour flight to the Galapagos Islands. We spent a night here as a precaution in case a flight was delayed or luggage lost while getting our group together for our 10 day cruise around those islands.
Quito does not appear to be a destination spot for tourists. Like all other Spanish settled countries, the towns have a large, centrally located plaza. The one surprising aspect of Quito’s plaza was the lack of foreign tourists. Being tall, white-haired and obviously a tourist, I stood out like a beacon and could feel the stares from the locals. Most everyone else appeared to be Ecuadorian and were listening to and singing along with local guitarists.
Street vendors selling to the locals
There were a few vendors selling their wares, but based on the lack of tourists, these must be purchased by the locals.
A flower girl does her best to brighten the mood of the city with some colorful locally grown flowers.
Roman Catholic Basilica of the National Vow
Also like so many other Spanish countries, a church is an important part of the community. I visited the Roman Catholic Basilica of the National Vow and spent much time in the courtyard. I could not go inside as a service was then in progress.
Much of Quito is very steep and mountainous. Inside the church courtyard are these stairs bringing you to the street level just behind the church. Very steep hills indeed.
The gargoyles of the basilica take the form of the celebrated iguanas, paying tribute to the Galapagos Islands.
The Local Stores and Shops
Just as in Europe, the small storefronts are highly specialized. Some sell only fruit, others only a few local vegetables. The store shown below sells nothing but eggs.
Finally, The Galapagos Islands
We arrived in the Galapagos Islands via a large commercial jet. Years ago, the Ecuadorian Government would pay their citizens substantial sums enticing them to move to the Galapagos Islands. Initially times were hard. No electricity nor running water and no amenities. However, they eventually learned that tourists with expensive cameras slung around their necks could provide a relatively good living. Now to reduce and limit new residents to the Galapagos, Ecuadorians can only move to the island if they marry a resident already living on the islands.
The bustling harbor town is not what the first-time visitor would expect from seeing the National Geographic shows of these ‘isolated’ islands. The harbor towns have t-shirt shops and many bars and restaurants like what you would see on a touristy Caribbean island. The homes which dot the volcanic island are often poorly constructed of cinder block with chickens in the front yard. Cattle, goats and chickens are visible along our route to the tourist luncheon.
The Millennium Catamaran
Cruise ships are visible out to sea as we landed. After landing we took a bus, a boat, then a van to our three deck catamaran the Millennium. This boat would be the home of 10 avid photographers over the next 10 days.
While driving across the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz to our catamaran, we spotted the famous Galapagos tortoises grazing alongside cattle and goats. They were plentiful around our touristy lunch spot as well.
All of the photographers in our group ran around the fields snapping dozens of photos like we had never been up close and personal with a giant Galapagos tortoise before.
It was very apparent which green plants the turtles favored. Some plants were ignored and other areas were chewed to the ground. They would occasionally take a break from eating to study yet another pesky tourist bobbing up and down a few feet from them. Some of the tortoise would suddenly start laughing out-loud….
They laughed realizing we tourists had traveled halfway around the world to simply take a photo of … this face.
As long as we are discussing the personality of the tortoises, there may never be a better time to bring back my favorite, the courageous tortoise living in the hilltop town of Corniglia, Italy. This tortoise is only found along the rugged coastline on the Italian Riviera of Cinque Terra, many miles from their better known cousins of the Galapagos Islands.