They say that people either love or hate Quito, but were not sure what there is to hate about it.Quito is spread out in a long thin strip from North to South filling a valley surrounded by spectacular mountains.The Old Town to the South is full of charming and picturesque colonial squares and streets, with lots of nice hotels, museums and galleries, whereas the New Town to the North has just about everything you could need for travelling all conveniently in one place.The Mariscal district in the New Town has lots of bars, restaurants, book shops and outdoor shops and was perfect for refreshing our wardrobes and getting stuff together to take to the Galapagos (my sandals were a disgrace and were in desperate need of replacement: they just weren't appropriate for wearing on a posh cruise boat!).Mariscal is supposed to be very dangerous after dark, but we didn't see anything to substantiate that; in fact, there was a visible police presence in the evenings and a fairly relaxed holiday atmosphere there.
We spent most of our time in Quito either organising things or relaxing after the Galapagos, and the only touristy things we did were to visit the Old Town and go up the Teleferico (cable car).This was a whole different experience to the one in Bogota, since this was much longer and higher, and took us from 2800m in Quito up to 4100m at the top of an extinct volcano.There were a number of pleasant treks to be walked from the top, but the weather was pretty cold and windy up there - and the air noticeably thin - and we had arrived dressed far too lightly to embark on anything other than a few photos and a cup of coca tea (yes coca, but don't worry, it's quite mild, and even the old ladies drink it round here).
In the Old Town we scaled the impressive gothic towers of the Basilica del Voto Nacional; a massive cathedral with an spectacular interior and an even more breathtaking roof incorporating a number of scary accents that visitors are allowed to climb.To reach one tower we had to walk the length of a plank of wood balanced along the top of the arched ceilings (between the interior ceiling and the exterior roof) before climbing a number of steep and rickety metal ladders.We also climbed to the top one of the bell towers, which was even higher up and involved climbing behind the clock faces and up past the bells (I have a bit of an irrational fear of bells, so this made it an even greater achievement for me).
After a few days in Quito, we continued our journey South to Latacunga, from which we organised a trip round the 'Quilotoa Loop'.