Soaring over Quito
November 24, 2017
After a month of working on the boat in the yard, we (along with our friend Dan on Kini Popo) decided to take several weeks to travel throughout Ecuador and Colombia. Unfortunately, a few days before we had to be out of our condo and we were due to fly to Quito, all three of us came down with a horrible stomach flu. Dan’s comment was that it was like something out of the Exorcist. Very bad.
Somehow Mike powered through to have some energy those last two days (I couldn’t move) to help load everything back onto both boats that we had been storing in the condo. Thankfully by the morning we were scheduled to leave, we were all finally feeling a bit normal. We made the two hour drive to Guayaquil to get on a plane to Quito.
Quito sits at almost 9500 feet in the Andes. It is a dramatic view as you drive into the city from the airport. It was quite chilly and we could definitely feel the altitude walking around the city. We had rented an apartment on airbnb that was in a great part of town with lots of restaurants and cafes to walk to. After a quick trip to the market for some snacks and breakfast items to stock in our kitchen, we cleaned up and headed out to find some dinner and check out the nightlife.
We walked to a little outdoor courtyard that had a bar, cafe and restaurants. The boys were apparently ready for tequila and had a couple of tamarindo margaritas. After being sick, that sounded horrible to me, so I stuck with tea. But, we struck up a conversation with the bar owner who had spent some time in the States and was eager to tell us everything there was to do in Quito.
He mentioned that paragliding was big in Quito, and that it was a fantastic view over the city. After a couple of phone calls, we were set to be picked up the next morning, Mike commented that this was a bucket list item that he didn’t even know was on the bucket list!
A short drive to a clearing outside the city the next morning introduced us to our pilots, as we would each be flying tandem with a separate pilot. There was a pretty big group of people gathered on a Sunday morning to fly off of the cliff. It was a clear and sunny day and the conditions were impeccable. After a short briefing of what would happen, we each donned our harnesses and got ready.
As we were flying tandem, each of our pilots would be strapped on our backs. The pilots had the kites and controls attached to them; we were just along for the ride. I was the first one off. When my pilot said to run, I had to lean forward and run toward the end of the cliff. I only got to take a few steps before I was lifted up into the air. The kite lifted us up even higher over the cliff we just left. Our gages said we reached 3200 meters (10,500 feet)!
We soared over the valley with the mountains in the background. The green, fertile hills were like something out of a painting. What a fabulous way to take in the scenery. As we headed toward the landing area, we needed to descend. My pilot asked if I was up for some tricks, which I agreed to. He then started spinning us around and around as we dropped quickly in altitude. My face in this picture probably says it all!
We then slowly started to descend the rest of the way to make a soft landing in the clearing. I watched as Mike and Dan also made their way down, and we all high fived each other after an awesome experience. Check out our Facebook page for the videos our pilots put together for us!
While in Quito, we also took in some other sites visiting the Old Town area and the beautiful churches. We sat in the square drinking coffee and people watching.
We also visited the Capilla del Hombre, which is the home and museum of Guayasamin, the famous Ecuadorian artist. I didn’t know anything about him or his art before visiting. He was a contemporary artist, and you can see a lot of influence of Picasso in his work. His artwork was also a social commentary on what was going on in the world and specifically in South American during his lifetime. I found it very interesting and moving. If you go to Quito, I highly recommend visiting Capilla del Hombre.
We also went to Mitad del Mundo, which is a bit of a tourist trap where the equator runs through the city. After having crossed the equator by boat, it didn’t quite have much of an effect on us. But, we had fun anyway eating some local cuisine, tasting chocolate and picking up some souvenirs.
One of the other reasons we were in Quito was to visit the French Embassy to apply for long stay visas for French Polynesia. Without a long stay visa, we would be limited to only 3 months in French Polynesia. There are so many islands to see, and everyone we know that has made the crossing has told us that we have to get it.
We had put together stacks of paperwork, including bank statements, proof of insurance, etc. However, when we attempted to give them our applications, they told us they wouldn’t take them unless we would leave our passports for at least a month! This was a no-go for us as we had planned to travel to Colombia and the States before January. So, we left defeated.
Dan and I were pretty resigned to us having to return to apply in January, delaying our Pacific crossing next Spring, but Mike was determined. Mike headed off to the US embassy to come up with Plan B. A couple of hours later, we got a call to meet him outside the US embassy. We arrived around the block from the embassy where Mike explained we needed to get passport photos. The US embassy would issue us a second “emergency” passport to allow us to travel while our other passports were at the French Embassy. We had no idea!
Excited that we were going to figure out a way to do this, we couldn’t wait to call the French Embassy the next morning to try and get another appointment. Our excitement was a bit short lived as they told us on the phone that we had to come back in December to give them the applications and passports. Argh! We are planning to leave for the 3-4week crossing at the beginning of February, and they now tell us that it is too early to apply. So, now we have to go to Quito in December to apply and return in January to pick them up. Whew!
Next up…Canyoning in Banos!