Journey to the Centre of the Earth

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South America » Ecuador » North » Quito » Historical Center
May 31st 2014
Published: June 19th 2014
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We had not left much time for Ecuador and as we were not planning to go the Galapagos we were really just passing through the country. We took two buses from Tumbes in Peru to Quito with a quick overnight stop in Guayanquil to break it up.

We arrived in Quito on a Saturday and the city seemed strangely quiet. This was due to our hostel being located next to the Palacio Legislativo which is the Ecuadorian Houses of Parliament. The president was giving a speech to the country which was being watched by everyone on any TV screens they could find, in shops, restaurants etc. The roads were closed off with police and security everywhere, they even had a military marching band.

We spent the weekend exploring the city which is huge. The centre is divided up into the old and new towns and we were staying in the middle. On Sundays the roads are again closed to traffic so it was a fairly quiet amble around the old town, apart from the usual stray dogs and a few bored looking prostitutes. The street vendors were particularly unusual here, selling everything from kitchen scourers to puppies.

The old town of Ecuador is a UNESCO world heritage site and is very pretty. By now we have become a bit immune to the charms of colonial architecture so we were not expecting to be so impressed by the Basilica. Sitting higher than the rest of the old town it looks a bit like Notre Dame in Paris, but instead of gargoyles it has turtles and iguanas. As it was a Sunday there was a service going on so we sat respectfully at the back. The inside is beautiful with colourful stained glass and high ceilings. Even though I am not religious, I have always been drawn to churches as a quiet place to sit and reflect.

Quito has similar weather to the UK. When planning what to take with you on a day out you need to plan for any type of weather. We got caught out in the rain a couple of times. I definitely was not prepared for how cold it was going to be at the top of the Teleferico cable car. Quito itself is at high altitude but the surrounding mountains go even higher. There is a helpful sign at the top of the cable car telling you that you have just ascended to 4100m, making the walk along the hills pretty tough. They even sell canisters of oxygen to help you out. The view was worth it even if we spent half of our time in the clouds.

We had a nice surprise when we went to sell our Lonely Planet Peru in a second hand bookshop, the owner threw in a cup of Yorkshire tea as part of the deal. It’s been a while since we’ve had an English cup of tea so this was much appreciated.

It wouldn’t be right to come to Ecuador without going to the equator (it is what the country is named after). Steve has been to the equator before in Kenya so it wasn’t quite as exciting for him as it was for me. We took the metrobus which was an experience and an hour and a half later with help from locals we arrived at La Mitad del Mundo, The Middle of the World. There is a complex here with a huge monument marking the ‘exact’ equator line. It is pretty cheesy but how often do you get to go to the equator. We got our photo taken with one foot in each hemisphere, got our passports stamped and sent a postcard home, before looking around the museum.

There is surprisingly little information about the equator here as it focuses on the peoples of the Amazon; the real-life shrunken head from an amazon tribe is worth the entrance fee alone.

Our last couple of nights were spent catching up with some Australian friends we had met in Nicaragua. They have just come from Colombia and were heading to Peru so we spent the whole time swapping travel stories and advice.

With such a short stay in Ecuador I don’t feel as if we have gotten to know the country very well but I am sure we will return at some point. After stocking up on some amazing Amazonian chocolate we headed to the airport, next stop Colombia.

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20th June 2014

English tea
What a nice surprise. Sounds like you need more time in Ecuador.

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