Published: April 9th 2011April 9th 2011
It´s been a long time since our last blog, sorry about that. But a number of things conspired to make it impossible to update the site over the last few days. We are safe and sound in Cuenca Ecuador after an amazing few days in the Galapagos Islands and there is a lot of cool stuff to report. I will start by finishing off our last couple of days in Quito, then will cover the Galapagos in a few posts. I really hope that the connection speed here is good, because I have a lot of photos to share.
Our last two days in Quito included a visit to the Equator, and a walk through the historic centre of the city, and a visit to the doctor to deal with some issues that had recurred with all of us (see first post from Aguas Calientes).
Interesting thing about the Equator site. First, I´ll explain why Ecuador has the name, while the actual equator runs through about eight countries. In the 1700´s, scientists were still trying to figure out the shape of the earth. They knew it was roughly a sphere, but were uncertain if it was somewhat squashed at
Edison at the Quito cathedral
A street with prominent churches runs through the historic centre, and each one has a stone cross out front. Hence the name "Calle de la siete cruces". The name was changed to honour a president of Ecuador who was assasinated, but everybody still uses the originial name.
the poles (turns out yes). Answering that question went hand in hand with finding out the exact location of the equator. Since this had been colonized by the Spanish since the 1500´s this was the region that europeans knew the most about. So a French expedition in 1735 chose what is now Ecuador as their base for surveying and taking measurements to determine the exact location of the equator. Here´s the rub: Despite their excellent work, the limitations of the technology of the day caused them to be out by about 200 meters (we know now). Not bad. But the site where they determined the equator to be near Quito turned into a monument. Despite the discovery over time that the monument was actually 200 m South of the real equator, the monument stayed, and it is still there. But when tourists started showing up with their GPS in hand, trouble started brewing.
Although pesky tourists with handheld GPS units spelled T-R-O-U-B-L-E for the municipal government, which owns the monument, it spelled O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y for the guy who owned the land directly North of the monument. He now runs a little museum that includes visits to the actual equator. Sadly,
Monument to the martyrs of the independence war
Ecuador was the first country in Latin America to declare independence, but the leaders were brutally killed by the Spanish. Subsequently the country was the last colony to achieve independence from Spain.
his museum has little on the history of the 1735 expedition, or geography, and instead offers visitors the chance to perform several unique ´experiments´ in order to spice up their visit. All of the experiments appear to be hoaxes, in particular the demonstration of the coriolis effect (water swirling as it goes down the drain)was clearly rigged. The coolest ´experiment´was balancing a raw egg on the head of a nail right on the equator monument, which we did. However the only thing it proved to me was that this is the only place on earth that I have tried to balance a raw egg on a nail.
We spent that afternoon in the Quito historic centre visiting the presidential palace and a number of churches. I´ll give this to the Spanish: They knew how to build a downtown. Every town, city and capital has a main square, dominated by either a basilica or cathedral, government buildings. Dominating yes, but very impressive. To this day, these squares are the lifeblood of the communities.
At the presidential palace, we watched the changing of the ceremonial guard, and visited the spot where in (1871?)the president was assasinated by a political opponent,
who subsequently killed himself. The assasination was believed to be politically motivated, until it was discovered that the president had more than a passing interest in the other guy´s wife. All politics are local.
Our last day in Quito was free to get ready for the Galapagos and we were grateful to have it. Laundry, a repacking (we decided to leave a bag with Edison, taking only our hot weather clothes to the islands)doctors visit, and even a haircut for Harold (this is now a two haircut holiday - and because it was going to be my first time at sea, I honoured the naval tradition with a number one).
In the evening, we were a few blocks away from the hotel looking for supper, when a huge section of the neighbourhood went dark with a power outage. We managed to find a block that had power and a restaurant for a bite to eat, and made our way back to hotel in the dark. We still felt pretty safe because the sidewalks were well lit by the lights of hundreds of cars stuck in traffic. Our hotel, was also dark, so we finished our packing with candlelight
and flashlights (Thank you Lloyd White for committing me to bring one flashlight each).
Ecuador´s official currency is the US dollar, but because most items are relatively cheap, they have a need for smaller denominations (Ecuador has a $1US coin, a 50 cent US coin, and a 1/2 cent US coin although I haven´t seen it). There are even US minted coins in circulation here that you won´t find in the US. It´s like they are minted for use in foreign countries. Wierd.