Last month, I spent five days in the Quito area of Ecuador and was enthralled by the region’s austerity, beauty, history and green mindset. Upon first glance, eco Quito topography is breathtaking – simply astounding! Over the course of my short stay, I visited many conservation-minded sites all within a 2-hour radius of Quito and was amazed at the diversity of culture and colors.
Given that the city is surrounded by not one, but four active volcanoes, I was not surprised to learn that people’s lives are dominated by spirituality and religion, specifically Catholicism. At one of the high points of Quito is El Panecillo (formed by volcanic ash), and on top of the hill is the famous Vergin de Quito (Quito’s Madonna) quietly protecting the city.
You cannot step far within Quito’s Old Town, which was declared the first UNESCO World Heritage site (city) in 1978, without bumping into grand cathedrals that each represent a different catholic order (i.e. Franciscan, Dominican). Even young students at the local Escuela Taller are apprentices who are learning the lost arts of church restoration and carpentry.
As I entered the Plaza de Independencia, I came upon the monument that was erected for the signers of Ecuador’s Declaration of Independence from Spain in 1809 and was reminded how fate had handed Ecuador a severe blow then since Spain reacted to the declaration by killing each (patriot) signer for treason and many civilians for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
After a visit to the Tulipe archeological area, which recently was awarded the Queen Sofia of Spain International Award for Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage prize, I went to Tucanopy for some serious zip-lining through the cloud forest. I learned that it’s the longest zipline route in Ecuador. But what impressed me more was that the owners are also offering volunteer opportunities for aspiring biologists and ecologists to conduct ecological restoration, flora scientific study and environmental education in the area.
I asked about a recent conservation discovery and found out that the owner, a biologist herself, had figured out a way to save precious palm trees from dying from over-harvesting. The solution? She conveyed to local community members that by harvesting leaves every other year, they could save the trees and the community’s livelihood.
Did you know that right at the equatorial line, you can balance a raw egg on the head of a nail? Try this at home and you’ll just have one big mess to clean up!
Did you know in Peguche, a local family makes musical instruments native to South America and demonstrates them for visitors. Even the children get in the act as demonstrated in this short clip.
Our horseback riding experience at Hacienda El Porvenir was outstanding. After being outfitted with chaps, a heavy poncho and cowboy hat, we were led by the owner, Jorge Perez, who grew up in the area as well as by a chagra (Andean cowboy).
While hearing stories about the local customs and culture, I distinctly remember being told that if the bulls start running after us, our chagra would know exactly what to do. They didn’t start running after us (thankfully!) and we were treated to amazing views and a glimpse of life in the Andes.