The New Year started off with a whimper!! We assumed that according to the paper work we would start the tour between 08:00-08:15, but we wandered around the lobby and had to wait for our guide and all the other passengers to arrive for the tour around the city. Time to go; we were now on a roll!! The whimper soon became a bunch of loud voices as we animatedly met some new friends. We had the fun time of meeting a couple from the UK, Chris and Elena, “G” from Ireland (yes, we cannot pronounce her name and she graciously said call her, “G”), and another two girls, one from Canada and one from Chicago (and, no, we don’t remember their names!) The day began with a bus ride up to a small hill near the center of Quito which has a huge statue of the Virgin Mary. We saw amazing views from the top of the hill. We could see up the distant skyline of the volcano Cotopaxi and down to the colorful rooftops of the city of Quito. The city was like looking at a jigsaw puzzle waiting to be put together. New Year’s Day saw us visit quite a few places that were unfortunately closed for the holiday, but we did luck out at the chocolate museum where the group got to taste a variety of chocolates. It is said that Ecuador produces the best chocolate, because it produces the best cacao beans. Sweet times were had by all. Meandering up and down the streets of Quito gave us an opportunity to see the city and learn about the layout. Our guide, Marschel, and the driver then took us for lunch, where we had an opportunity to try out guinea pig for lunch. And, no, we did not try it out. We could not eat what we think of as pets!! We did get to watch several others at the table try the delicacy out to mixed reactions. Somehow keeping the head on made it more disconcerting for Kathy and there is a good chance she will never see a guinea pig in a pet store the same way.
Next, it was off to the museum a short distance away where we had the opportunity to learn about the culture and history of Quito. We got to put one foot on each side of the equator (Latitude 0° 0’ 0”). Dave got to try a chicken challenge where he had to balance a raw egg on top of a nail. He has a certificate now to prove his prowess at balancing in two different “worlds.” Okay not worlds, hemispheres but that doesn’t sound as brilliant or accomplished. This was our last stop on the city tour before we were deposited at our hotel. A quick power nap and we were ready to explore the city some more. For the holiday, almost every business and restaurant was closed. We ended up having pizza for dinner at a café bar. It was Ecuadorian pizza, not at all what you expected but also somewhat familiar. We did recognize everything on the plate so that reassuring.
Last, but not least, we got to meet all of the other tour passengers at the final briefing on our tour of the Galapagos. The briefing was led by the G Adventures representative in Ecuador. We planned on an early night as our wakeup call was to be at 03:40 in the morning for our drive to the airport. We had the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with our new friends (G, Jay and Pam, Chris and Elena) and meet our new friends (Irene, Katya, Prity (aka Rikky), Ed and Elizabeth, Maria, and Chris and Janet.)