MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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December 28, 2011

Ecuador Climbing School underway

MM guide Tino Villanueva checked in with an update of the team. After a bit of acclimatizing and shopping, the team has moved up on Cayambe for some schooling.

If this looks like the way to start off your New Year, join us on one of six trips in Ecuador starting in January and going through Feb. For more info about the school click here.

"A belated Merry Christmas from the South American Ring of Fire!

"Mountain Madness has begun its holiday expedition and climbing school on Ecuador's volcanoes: Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.  Our team has assembled and we have been spending the past couple of days acclimatizing while exploring Quito, the world's second highest capitol city at 9500 feet above sea level.

Quito with Cayambe in the background. Tino Villanueva photo

Virgin Mary Statue. Tino Villanueva photo

"Our first day in Quito started with a visit to El Panecillo, a park on a hill that rises above the city.  This hill has been the site of the original center of the city on a defensible high ground. It has also been the site of an ancient water reservoir.  Now it stands as the landmark park with a stunning view of Quito.  From the viewing deck on the 41 meter tall statue of the Virgin Mary watching over Quito, a symbol of the sigificance of religion in the country, one can easily see the narrow strip that is home to the city's two million residents.  The city is over 60 miles long and only 3 miles wide in it's narrowest sliver.

"Next, we made our way down into the Old Town.  The historic center of Quito is a UNESCO world heritage site, considered one of the most important in Latin America, with about 130 monumental buildings.  First we visited Eugenio Espejo, the site of a colonial era hospital that has been coverted into a museum.  Housed in the museum are exhibits of modern art, those dedicated to the history of the city and tributes to the history of the building itself.  The building was constructed using a combination of new, for the period, Spanish architecture combined with native techniques.  In fact, even today the floors and roofs of Eugenio Espejo stand with little more that bamboo and mud holding everything together.

Eugenio Espejo. Tino Villanueva photo

"We then walked over to the Church of La Compania de Jesus.  Construction of La Compania took 160 years.  One of the reasons the church took so long to complete is because of the complex stone carved exterior.  Most rock in Ecuador is volcanic and very soft, therefore very difficult to carve without crumbling.  Another reason the contruction took over 100 years is that everything inside the church is covered in gold.  It is a monument of what the Spanish expected to find in El Dorado.  The Incan people, however, had no currency value in gold and, because they had an abundance, they used gold as a protective coat over their wooden structures.  This is true in La Compania, as the natives were made to carve intricate artwork out of wood and then painstakingly apply gold leaf over nearly everything.  Walking into the church overwhelms the eyes with gold shimmering on pulpits and altars.  I almost thought to put on my sunglasses!

Eating in Otavalo Market

Pig at Otavalo. Tino Villanueva photo

Otavalo textiles. Tino Villanueva photo

"We capped off the day with a visit to fellow Mountain Madness guide Ossy's beautiful hacienda, RumiLoma.  Situated on the side of a dormant volcano, Pichincha, and overlooking Quito 1500 feet below, it is a mesmerizing place to have a meal or spend the night.  We sat down with Ossy's family to a gourmet meal that delighted the taste buds and a view that I could not turn away from.  While the busy city lights twinkled below, we enjoyed our amazing setting far above the hustle and bustle of the city.  Equatorial constellations shone brightly above, competing against the city below.  The setting was outrageous and, of course, our host was extremely gracious."

~ MM Guide Tino Villanueva

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