The streets in the colonial city centre of Quito are closed this morning in order to create a “Sunday pedestrian zone” for families and cyclists. It’s a great idea and brings lots of visitors into the centre of town to socialise and enjoy activities and music performances. A mild downside for us is that we can’t bring our buses directly to our hotel for our excursion, but no one is complaining. We simply walk downhill for a couple of blocks and our buses turn up bang on time to pick us up. We are heading south on an excursion in the general direction of Cotopaxi, the currently-active volcano! Richard and Dawn are not allowing us to get too close! Our first stop is in the town of Sangolqui to visit a busy market. Sunday is definitely market day and this one is vast and truly busy. Our guides, Fernando and Santiago lead the way. We’re all listening via our radio headsets which proves very useful as a way of keeping in touch during our walk through the market. It is, of course, obvious that we are tourists in a local market. Very few tourists visit this market, so the locals are definitely surprised to see us. There is every conceivable Ecuadorian vegetable, fruit and food item on offer, plus clothes, homeware, and more. Richard considers buying Dawn a goat but realises excess baggage on our flights may be a problem. In the end, we buy a selection of local fruits to have with our dinner.
From Sangolqui we take a cobbled road (potentially with Inca connections) towards Cotopaxi. The National Park has been closed due to recent murmuring from the volcano, so our “plan B” is to enjoy lunch at Cotopaxi Pungo, a hotel restaurant located on the edge of the park. The hotel is beautifully situated with stunning views in all directions. Cotopaxi is sadly covered in cloud but just as we head into lunch, the clouds reveal some of the snow-covered peak. We’re very lucky. After a tasty lunch of a typical potato soup, trout and three-milk-cake, Santiago gives us an explanation of the fruit we purchased in the market. Dawn acts as assistant and slices the fruit with a rather large knife. Richard stands well back.