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Location: Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

Sunday, July 30, 2006

So much to do... little time! A tired group of travelers arrived in Quito late Thursday, got situated in our hostel and apartment and had a good night's sleep. Friday we explored the city a little. On Saturday Laura, Morgan and I went by bus to Otovalo, a town north of Quito located in a beautiful valley surrounded by extinct (we hope!) volcanos. The trip was an experience in itself. The ride was two and one half hours through varied landscapes--mostly mountainous, in a bus that became SRO. On Saturdays the town is filled with natives of the surrounding province who set up stands and sell about anything and everything you can imagine. Local crafts as well as produce, livestock, food and so much more are hawked at every turn. We were accompanied on our trip by a man from Boston we met at the hostel, Michael. We all had a great time shopping and bartering. It was fun for me to compare this experience with shopping in old Jerusalem. We were exhausted when we got back to Quito after dark.

This new week we plan on visiting Mitad del Mundo, taking a tram up the side of Pichincha (the volcano that towers over Quito), and traveling to Banos 4 hours to the south where Tungurahua is now said to be safe to visit. There will be lots to explore there--waterfalls, ATVs down a river gorge, hotsprings and if we're lucky a visit to the jungle.

Also there are many more 16th and 17th century churches to visit and be amazed at the artwork and craftsmanship seen in them. One church with twin spires that reach to heaven is awaiting me and whoever is able to tackle the steep climb up the narrow stairwell to the belltower above (sound familiar to anyone?)

I hope to be able to post some pictures, but as for now I have some compatability problems with the internet cafe computers I'm using.

More later. This is definately third world and helps us appreciate home. But we are enjoying ourselves!