At an altitude of about 9,300’ in the Andes, Quito is the capital of Ecuador and the 2nd largest city (2nd to Guayaquil). The city is laid out in a long north-south strip—more than 20 miles long and just under 1 mile wide in most areas. To the west, the Volcán Pichincha towers of the city; to the east, the land drops away toward the wide Valle de los Chillos, which delineates the beginning of the area known as The Oriente (“the east”) and the descent toward the Amazon River.
Parque La Carolina and Jardín Botánico
Since we were worried about possibly missing a flight or connections or whatever else can happen in this era of travel, we allotted 2 extra days in Quito prior to the rest of the group’s joining us. On this, our first free day, we decided to walk around the area of Quito we were in. (We were staying at the Sheraton, in the northern section of the city not far from the airport.) The map on the left, downloaded from and better viewed here, shows the northern part of Quito that we were exploring. (Click on the map once to see a larger, actually legible version; click on it in that new screen to zoom in a bit further.) A large green space just a block or 2 from the Sheraton, the Parque La Carolina provided our starting spot. Since it was a Tuesday and winter (such as it was), the park was quiet and far less green than it would have been during the warmer months. We strolled through and headed for the Jardín Botánico, which displayed a good number of native plants in a variety of reconstructed habitats including cloud forests, the paramó (high-altitude grasslands), and dry mountain areas. Just beyond the entrance, this arrangement of plastic chairs on wheels caught our eye. Although interesting, they weren’t particularly appealing to me at the time—I was rested, just starting out, enjoying walking. But by the end of the afternoon, as we lumbered down the steep hill from the Fundación Guayasamín exhibits, I would have paid a pretty price for just one of them—and someone who would have been willing to push me in one.
I have no idea what any of these plants are, but they sure were pretty.
Two buildings housed a variety of Ecuadorean orchids and tropical plant.
Interesting species of cacti lined the outside walls of one of the buildings.
As we left the buildings, we wandered through more flowers.
At the edge of the Parque was the Vivarium, a herpetological education and research center that also plays an important role in caring for amphibians and reptiles confiscated by customs. As part of a non-profit organization, this building provided living displays of nearly 90 reptiles and amphibians—all but one of which native to Ecuador. Much of the lighting was low; the various animals were in settings that emphasized their camouflage. So part of the challenge was trying to find whatever critter was in each display. We spent about 45 minutes in that exhibit, then sat down on a bench at the edge of the Parque for lunch snacks.
Continue on to p. 2 for Fundación Guayasamín.