Woke up to the sound of church bells early this morning. We dressed and decided to go out looking for coffee. The weather was chilly, so we wore our jackets this morning. We walked the steep steps to towards the church and found that there were not many people out early at 6:30 am. The shops and restaurants were not open. We walked all the way to the church and noticed that there was one place with several locals drinking coffee. We sat down and ordered coffee. The server asked if we wanted bread with cheese and I told her no, just bread like the one the elder lady was eating.
Carmen wanted the bread because it looked like the one from Mexico made in the oven. The lady told me she did not have that bread, because the elder lady brought her own bread. We had to settle for the bread that she had in the house. The view we had while drinking our coffee was outstanding. The beauty of the mountains, the church, the waterfall and the river below. It was all so overwhelming and so painfully beautiful. To imagine the task of building a church of this size on the side of the mountain was just incredible.
After coffee we went back to the church and caught the end of mass. As always, Carmen lit her candle and said a prayer for our girls and family. The interior of the church was beautiful, clean and well maintained. We then paid the 1.50 USD to enter into the museum. The cost was well worth it! We were able to walk down into the underground rooms to see the artifacts as well as to view the professional video of the story of how the church was built and why. The story is that a lady walking with her daughter was caught in a terrible rainstorm. The child saw a vision of Mary in the cave that called her in. Their lives were saved and from there they went to share the story. The first church in honor of Mary was built of adobe and straw, there was a picture hanging in the museum, as well as other pictures of the expansion and construction of the current sanctuary. There were many items in storage from the beginning years of the church and from many visitors from around the world....including China.
We then walked the exterior of the church and to the gondolas that carry people from the sanctuary area to the city area. Carmen was afraid to get on, so we did not ride these. We walked to the shops then headed back to the hotel to get our items and to take a taxi. Carmen took a picture with a very fancy dressed Llama. We realized that we spent less than 24 hours in this beautiful site and were left so impressed with the magnitude of followers, the faith and the peace that is there. Carmen told the taxi driver that she hopes to return one day. He shared with us that the dates of Fiesta is when there is lots of people and lots of festivities. Christmas is also a time of much celebration and decoration. I think we got the better time....because we were able to see everything in a peaceful and beautiful way.
The Taxi driver stopped at the overlook area so we could take some pictures of the church with the river. He then took us to the boarder of Ecuador and Colombia. He dropped us off right at the immigration office of Colombia. We walked up the sidewalk and entered the building, within 3 minutes we had our exit stamp and were ready to cross the bridge into Ecuador. While crossing the bridge we were asked by a soldier if we had gotten the exit stamp.
This is probably because there have been tourist that forget the exit stamp and then have to go back. We got the stamp from Ecuador then walked out to the street. We walked to the area where there were some stands and taxi cars.
Carmen was hungry, but after looking at what was offered we decided to wait until we got somewhere else. We took a taxi to the bus station which was about 7 miles south of the border. We decided before getting a bite to eat that we would check the bus schedule to Quito first, we asked at one kiosk when was the next bus leaving, they told us about 45 minutes, then the guy in the next kiosk tells us that they are leaving in 5 minutes. We decided to go on that one to get on the road, I pulled out our passports and they told us that they did not need them that the bus was leaving - It cost us $7 US Dollars each for our trip. We rushed to the already moving coach, about an hour into our trip we were pulled over by immigration, they came onboard and asked everyone for Cedula (ID) or passport. They saw ours and gave them right back. Finally immigration without any hassles, it must be our age, we are no threat to the country.
Lots of people getting on and off the bus at the check point, the local sellers see it as an opportunity to come on the bus to sell really odd things, like phone chargers, electric shavers, curling irons and many other things. At about 10:30 we stopped for breakfast, we shared a meal, Gallina soup (Chicken)some type of beef that was very fatty and the usual rice and plantains that you would get with every meal. We fed the Plantains to a small dog wondering around. The full meal which also came with a drink was $4 US.
AT about 5pm we finally arrived in Quito and immediately took a Taxi to our Holiday Inn Express which cost us 15K IHG Points and went out to the neighborhood to have dinner.