Sunday, March 24, 2019

Middle of the World

Our flight to Quito, Ecuador was uneventful.  We landed at about 11:40pm local time. Ecuador is one hour behind Ontario.

There was a couple on the plane with two young kids. Partway through the flight they started crying. When they got off the plane they were still wailing. We watched in sympathy as these young parents juggled screaming kids and carry-on baggage through immigration. The kids were still howling when we next saw them at the luggage carousel and didn’t show any sign of stopping as they exited the airport. 

Our driver was waiting for us. Once again there were no seatbelts for us. I did notice that the driver was belted up.

It was quite cool out. About 10 degrees.

Quito is located a fair bit from the airport. We seemed to be going up, down, and around the Andes mountains. I was wondering if we would ever get there. 

It was about 1:00am when we arrived to our hostel. Our room was clean, spacious, with fluffy towels and a lovely hot shower.

The bed and pillows were super comfy. We awoke to bright sunshine and a beautiful view out our window.

We were definitely in the mountains. The streets were steep and left me a little breathless. I wondered if it has something to do with the high elevation.

The people that ran the hostel were very health and environmental minded. I was delighted with the buffet breakfast which included muesli/granola, yoghurt, fresh fruit, herbal teas (the anis one was delicious), coffee, juice, buns and made to order scrabbled eggs. Breakfast was in an enclosed rooftop room with great views of the city. Perfect. Our room was also cleaned and beds made every day. 

We walked to the sister hostel which has a travel agency. We booked a private taxi for a daylong tour of the equator area which is about an hour away from Quito.

The weather report said to expect a high of 17 but it was much warmer and I was quickly stripping down the layers. I wish I had worn a T-shirt underneath.

Quito is situated in the Ecuador highlands. Ecuador is part of the ring of fire and there are volcanoes both active and extinct there. The Andes surrounded us.

Our first stop was the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve. This is a caldera of an ancient extinct volcano that last erupted about 500BC. We were blessed with clear, sunny weather which isn’t always the case here. Pululahua translates from the Quichua language to “cloud of fog”.

We next visited the true equator as verified by GPS. This site had all kinds of interesting cultural displays (including step by step instructions on how to shrink a head), how chocolate is made (yum) and much more. The highlight was the true equator. We had demonstrations on how the equator effects the direction water swirls down a drain (on the equator it doesn’t swirl but just drains straight down), how to balance an egg, how the equator messes with your balance and effects your strength. So cool. Of course we did the obligatory picture with one leg in the northern hemisphere and the other in the south.

Our final stop was to the Mitad Del Mundo (middle of the world). This is where a European geography commission in the 18th century decided the equator lay and a large monument was later built on the equator line. More modern measuring instruments determined the true equator was 300 metres to the north. We checked out it’s many interesting museums at the site and went to the top of the monument.

I also checked out a restaurant that had guinea pigs roasting on a spit out front. I will try anything once...I got a recommendation for a great restaurant in Quito’s old town where locals go for this delicacy. Who knows, if it’s good you may see it at my next dinner party - you can get guinea pigs cheap at the pet store!

We got back to Quito shortly after 2pm. Apparently, like clockwork, it clouds over in the afternoon and rains around 3-4pm. By 3pm we had torrential rains, thunder and lightning. Basically what this means is that you plan all your site-seeing for earlier in the day.

At 3:58pm the rain stopped. That’s when I noticed that water had leaked through the window onto the floor. Marco, one of the hostel staff, came up and cleaned it in a flash. He said this doesn’t normally happen and today’s rain was much stronger than usual.

It is quite humid here which makes my hair frizzy. I look a bit like Buckwheat from Little Rascals.

Good Morning Mexico City

I’m worried. 

We are now waiting at the gate for AeroMexico’s 2am flight to Mexico City and everything has gone smoothly....too smoothly. What am I missing?

This week I bought myself a wet suit for the Galapagos part of the trip. When I tried it on, the lady asked “How is it fitting?”.

As I walked out of her bathroom, I replied “Snug and really tight across my chest.”

“That could be because you are wearing it backwards. The zipper goes up the back.”

I’m glad I found that out before I went out in public.

The next day, John and I were going to freak out the boys by sitting at the kitchen table in our new wet suits when they came home from Cameron’s work. The boys were very late and after half and hour I couldn’t handle the rubbing on my arm pits.

The next day I bought a second, slightly larger wet suit. It’s still tight (like they are supposed to be), but not rubbing my skin off.


We are on the plane, despite the crying baby in front of us, I slept well on the flight.

We arrived into Mexico City at 5:00am (7:00am Ontario time). 

I hate carrying cash but this trip we had to carry a lot since Ecuador mostly deals in US cash. John and I split it between us and spread it on a few different parts of our bodies; I had a money belt across my hips that my pants went over, another around my waist which I had a loose top over, under my orthotics in both shoes and in my bra. If you looked closely, you can see Thomas Jefferson staring out from my chest.

What is it about men not wanting to ask directions? After we cleaned ourselves up we searched for a place to store our carry-on luggage. Finally I asked a car rental agent who didn’t speak any English but was perfectly able to understand what I needed through my highly developed mime skills.

Our guard was up since we were prewarned about the cabs in Mexico City.

Just in front of the taxi stand, a driver approached us. Thinking he was legit, we asked him how much to The House of Tiles. He said 400 pesos, then said he would be right back and ran like the wind for his car. John saw the taxi stand, went over and got an official cab for 245 pesos. It took us about a half hour to get into the centre of town.

By 7:30am we were inside the House of Tiles at the beautiful Sanborna restaurant surrounded by ornate architecture, a cheery fountain and gorgeous murals of birds. It was quiet due to the earliness of the hour.

The menus were in Spanish so we had to guess. I recognized a few words (and saw a picture) so I chose Mexican eggs with green and regular colour chorizos, mushrooms and re-fried black beans. John just pointed to something on the menu and got a plate full of meat in a gravy.

The House of Tiles is, not surprisingly, covered in blue and white tiles. 

It was still early, so we crossed the pedestrian street to check out the lovely Franciscan church. Workers were watering the beautiful floral pieces which were laden with pale pink roses.

A pipe organ grinder wearing a police type uniform was out early cranking his pipes to play a loud tune. Through out the day, more and more of these organ grinders in the same uniform showed up all over the place.

We were one of the first customers at the LatinAmericano Tower. We had fabulous views of Mexico City from 44 floors up. Early in the morning is the best time to go up the tower as the haze from the pollution gets worse as the day goes on.

The temperature quickly rose in the bright Mexican sun and I started removing layers of clothing.

We joined a three hour walking tour at Almeda Park. The Jacaranda trees showed off their bright purple blooms.  Simply stunning. There were a number of Canadians on our tour- all from Toronto.

We checked out the beautiful white Beaux Arts Museum before heading over to the gorgeous post office. The architecture here is wonderful.

We walked through the Tile House again. This time it was packed with people.

Our guide took us to a pastry/cake shop that was frequented by locals. We checked out the cake displays upstairs before going to their main floor bakery. It was wild, so much to choose from. You take a huge round tray and tongs and go around filling your tray. You then bring the tray to one lady who tallies it up, writes you a chit which you bring to another lady to pay. You then bring your receipt to the First Lady who has wrapped and packaged your purchase. Locals were leaving with numerous suit sized boxes filled with pastries. John and I each got one of the large chocolate covered pastries. The chocolate was not as sweet as ours. It was really good.

We made our way through the shopping streets to the Zocalo (central square area). There is some kind of festival going on in the city this weekend. Many people dressed as native Mexicans were demonstrating cultural dancing, customs and costumes.

After the tour, John and I checked out the cathedral and the ancient architectural site called the Temple Mayor.

Exhausted, (because we only had a few hours sleep), and footsore (me, cause I didn’t wear socks and got blisters), we grabbed a cab and went back to the airport to catch our plane to Quito, Ecuador.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Hiking Mount Nemo

In early March, John and I decided to do a hike on our own. The snow was softly falling as we arrived at Mount Nemo Conservation area.

The challenge of hiking when you have taken only one car is that you have to backtrack to where you parked.

The views from the cliff edge were gorgeous and much of this hike was along the cliff edge. The snow became heavier. For most of the way the path was fine but a few spots were icy.

At one part of the trail there was a strong sewage smell. I couldn’t figure out where it came from since we were surrounded by nature with not an outhouse in site. The smell lingered for a good 10-15 minutes of the hike.

We needed to stop and go back when we got to a steep narrow part of the path that was shear ice. John made it through on his feet. I got through by sliding down on my butt. When it came around to Molly’s (our dog) turn, she was having no part of it and we couldn’t reach her to carry it down. That was it, it was the end of the line for this hike and we returned to the car.

March 2 total hiked: 5.9km

Main trail hiked 4.2km

Total km of the main trail hiked 2019: 21.6km

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Forks of the Credit Hike

This year our family day activity was a hike in the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park.

There was a lot of snow the week before, so we weren’t sure what to expect. A van stuck at the entrance of the park was not a good sign. After helping free the vehicle, we decided to park on the road and walk in. 

That’s when we realized that I had navigated us to the wrong parking lot so we ended up doing more side trails than the main Bruce trail.

We saw some interesting bird tracks. The snow made them so clear.

Fortunately the trails were well trodden and not too icy. The park was beautiful with its fresh winter blanket. We walked to the waterfall lookout before heading to the main Bruce Trail. We hiked from -11.3km on the #15 Bruce trail map to 14.5km of the main trail, ending at Puckering Lane where we made our way back to our car.

Feb 17 Total main trail hiked 3.2km

Total hiked including side trails 11km

Total of main trail hiked in 2019- 17.4km