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South America » Ecuador » North » Quito
December 11th 2006
Published: December 22nd 2006
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South America Diaries


Fake Equator LineFake Equator LineFake Equator Line

Looks good with the big statue but its not the genuine article.
Quito

The flight from New York was great apart from that it was at 7:30am which meant I had to be there three hours before so I ended up getting crappy sleep on JFK´s floor.
Quito is 2850 meters above sea level and is your usual bustling city seperated into a New Town and an Old Town which is a World Heritage site due to containing a lot of Spanish influenced architecture and as you start to look at the History of Ecuador it seems as though the Spanish arrived and said "no no this is all wrong were going to have to start again!" so you see a massive impact on all levels of the culture here, so its nice to delve into the more indigenous side of Ecuador and its people.

One of the amusing things I heard was that when the Spanish arrived they brought mirror´s with them which freaked out the Andean people who had never seen such things and they came to the logical conclusion that it must be the persons spirit trapped within the glass so they traded Gold and Silver for mirrors, you can imagine the Conquistadors laughing all the way to the Bank.
I learnt this little gem at the real Equator line (yes there are two!) the guide showed us how this line was the real one by doing demonstrations like balancing an egg on a nail which I managed to do and have a certificate to prove it so all adds to the C.V. There is also the way the water turns clockwise in the Norther hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere all over the space of around 15 feet which is impressive that the centrifugal forces have such an impact over such little distance.
She also took us to an indigenous hut from 1875 which is made out of a mixture of wood, stone, sand, blood and excrement from animals which binds it all together to make one sturdy hut, being that it is earthquake proof unlike the guest house im staying at! There was also an Adean burial site recreated for lucky tourists, which showed how they would stick you in jars in the fetal position with all the things you needed in real life as they believed you would take them into the next world.
The other little interesting bit was they showed us a
Inside BasilicaInside BasilicaInside Basilica

Looked for the confession box but thought whats the rush.
shrunken head which I had forgot came from South America, now to create this fetching little ornament you take one real human head (picture Delia Smith explaining if you like) detach from body at the neck, scoop out everything, brain, eyes, skull etc and then stitch up the eyes and mouth and place in a boiling pot, add special local plant ingredient and then simmer for at least twenty minutes, remove and once dry stitch up neck to preserve soul inside head. Now for Woman they dont stitch up the neck because they didnt believe Woman had souls which is quite shocking really, maybe there will be a feminist movement allowing woman to have there necks sticthed up in the future.........we can only hope.

Cotopaxi

Decided to take a day trip to Cotpaxi National Park and have a Ganders at the Volcanoes that dot the landscape.
The day began with a relaxed train ride (to a degree as we were hemmed in like Chickens) which took about two hours and meandered through the beautiful rich farmland situated in the floodplanes of the surrounding volcanoes with the locals stopping their arduous work to wave as we chugged on by.
Quito ParkQuito ParkQuito Park

Random balls??

The land then changed to pine trees (planted by the Canadians to see if they would take at altitude) which are planted and then harvested for building and we were now at our first stop.
This where we changed to jeep and Joe (our guide) drove us into the park where we stopped at the Lagoon in order for Joe to explain a little about Cotopaxi.
So basically Cotopaxi is 5,897 m high and erupts sometimes violently, roughly every 100 years so I asked "when did it last erupt?" he said "around 130 years ago".
So if it did happen to erupt what would happen? well it could knock boulders the size of houses for a distance of over a hundred miles but thats not your major concern, although a sizeable one to be sure. Your major concern is the pyroclastic flows which had shaped the land I was currently standing on. The pyroclastic flow is a mixture of hot gas, ash and rock of the consistency of wet cement travelling at 100 mph at a temperature of up to 800 degrees celcius and could go as far as the Pacific Ocean, this obviously gave me the required enthusiasm to
Quito TownQuito TownQuito Town

Everyday around 3pm the Sun would go and the clouds would come.
climb Cotopaxi.
Making our way to the refuge which is roughly an hours journey if you take the long easy way which we did was a hard task feeling my heart trying to esape from my chest and a dizziness like I had stood up to fast. I asked Joe what the extreme effect of altitude sickness was "your heart could stop or your lungs could fill with fluid and you drown" feeling that I should lay off the questions for a while, I finally arrived (in body) to the base camp.

After a very quick lunch as the weather tends to cloud over in the afternoon we made it over to the Glacier, a rather precarious looking slab of Ice which looks down at you with menacing blue eyes.
Joe reminded us to becareful of Avalanches while I pondered exactly how to go about doing that as the last time I checked I didnt have wings.
Still fortunatley there had been a recent give way and it all looked fairly safe........maybe. So quick photo ooh ahh look at the Ice and we were off on to our next insurance claim.

The downhill Bike ride of one of the highest volcanoes in the world and by this time the weather had kicked in with hail stones and cloud so thick you couldn´t see two car lengths in front of you. Anyway I was quite looking forward to this, what with my previous bike riding experience which I have to say had no benefit what so ever to this style of descent.
So as I was heading down gaining a comfortable speed and I happened to notice a jeep coming towards me which reminded me I wasnt the only one on the road and also gave me the opportunity to find my brakes were less then top spec, in fact it took a massive Kung fu grip in order to get any sort of friction out of them which was also a lot to do with the steepness of the volcanoe and the antiquity of the bike.
There were a couple of nasty bends in the road where centrifugal forces alert you to the fact your going to leave the road and I also managed to hit Joe´s two thousand dollar bike but he was in the racing line and then Emma managed to hit me (also in the racing line)so a bit of a pile up but all safe and sound.

Quito is an excellent place to come acquainted with South America, to learn Spanish and meet other travellers. Its also a very compact noisy city with buses that sound more like tractors and belch plumes of black fumes at you. The people are generally friendly but it is very important to have even a basic grasp of Spanish here in order to be less of an outsider.

So for the next week I will be partaking in Spanish lessons in order to have a better understanding of the culture here and then move on to.................................





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The Real Equator LineThe Real Equator Line
The Real Equator Line

Aha here we are, the real Equator line no fancy statues here just the truth.
Made in 1875Made in 1875
Made in 1875

This is the indigenous hut where they keep Guinea Pigs to eat..... no really they love em, theres even a KFG over here...ok there isnt really.
Inside PululaguaInside Pululagua
Inside Pululagua

Property for sale, extremely cheap, inside volcanoe, possibly extinct.
Inside PululaguaInside Pululagua
Inside Pululagua

One of the only places where people actually live inside a volcanoe, for obvious reasons.
Quito HouseQuito House
Quito House

Shame this is falling to bits as I liked the look of it.
Quito SuburbsQuito Suburbs
Quito Suburbs

This would all get totally flattened if there were an earthquake or volcanic eruption.


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