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.

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