On the Equator in Quito


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South America » Ecuador » North » Quito
July 29th 2008
Published: August 3rd 2008
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Day 26: Friday 25th July - Goodbye to the Northern Hemisphere

I've got to get up in the middle of the night (4am) for a transfer to Guatemala City airport. My flight isn't until 8am but Antigua is an hour from the airport. I have to catch a connecting flight in San Jose, Costa Rica to Quito, Ecuador. All goes smootly as the flights are on time. On the flight from San Jose I get talking to a guy from Los Angeles whose family are from Ecuador, and who is travelling to Quito for his cousin's wedding. He ends up inviting me to the wedding which happens to be tomorrow, but when he explains it is a black tie do I politely decline (sadly I didn't manage to squeeze my tuxedo into my backpack!!). I am however intrigued what an Ecuadorian wedding is like though. Quito airport employs a unique method of checking baggage for illegal substances.....they put a labrador on the baggage conveyor and it gets a good exercise whilst checking the bags!

In the airport I'm told I need to catch 2 buses to get to my hostel in the old town. I haven't a clue where the bus is heading, only that its going in roughly the right direction, but fortunately I spot a bus station I've seen on the map, jump out of the bus and I'm only 200m from the hostel - result! After taking my first shower in 36 hours I head to the Old Town and spend a couple of hours wandering around.....its beautiful and although I'm tired after an early start to the day I can't help but appreciate its charm.

Head back to the hostel for an early night.....the views from its 5th floor balcony are spectacular....I've made a good choice.

Day 27: Saturday 26th July - The biggest market in South America

Saturday is market day in Otavalo, which 150km north of Quito is the largest market in South America. Get talking to a Dutch guy over breakfast and he's got the same idea of going to Otavalo so we decide to head their together. After doing my own thing during the day this past week its a welcome change to have some company. After a two and a half hour bus journey, and after looking around the market for a couple of hours, we leave slightly disappointed, although it is fascinating seeing the local indigenous Andean culture at close hand. I think having been to Chichicastenango market only 2 days previuosly doesn't help...there's only so many markets you can be bothered to see in such a small space of time!

On our return to Quito we find out that the hostel is having a BBQ and all you can drink for 2 hours.....so naturally end up partaking. However, 3 beers at this altitude (9000 feet) and I've had enough. The food's great and the hostel has got a great vibe.....possibly the best so far.

Day 28: Sunday 27th July - Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the World)

Planing to go to Mitad del Mundo, which is at the equator today. Sit next to a guy from Manchester at breakfast who has similar plans, so decide to catch a bus together. The guy ends up being paranoid about being robbed.....Quito is a dangerous city but he ends up driving me crazy by the end of the day as he's so jumpy. First, I need to head into Quito new town to get fitted out for my climb of Cotopaxi next week. Sort most of the detail out with a crazy Swede but i'll need to go back tomorrow to pay the balance and to see if my hiking boots are suitable. I'm carrying most of the gear I need but I don't have crampons and certainly not an ice axe!

We need to catch 2 buses to get to Mitad Del Mundo....its only 20km North of Quito but it must take upwards of an hour to get there. Mitad del Mundo is basically a monument built by the French to signify where the equator is but using GPS technology they realised its 200m from the actual equator! There's a museum at the actual equator which is really interesting.....get the obligatory photo on the equator before watching the effect of the Corriolis force at the equator. The water goes straight down the plug hole on the equator, clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and Anti-clockwise north of the equator.....very cool to see it demonstrated in the space of 10 metres. The rest of the museum has other cool experiments demonstarting the diferent effects at the equator....apparently you're 1% lighter at the equator (wish it was 10%!!) and also shows indigineous culture.....including a blow dart!!

In the evening have another meal in a communal setting overlooking Quito old town. The food in the hostel is probably the best so far on the trip.....3 courses if you want it. After our meal about 7-8 of us head to the new town for some beers to the customary Irish bar! Sunday night is quiet though so don't see Quito nightlife at its best.

Day 29: Monday 28th July - Nearly a mile above Quito

After finalising all the details with the climbing agency in the morning I start walking across town to get to the Teleforico. First, I try numerous banks and money changers to try and get rid of my Guatemalan currency......no joy, I think I may have to wait until another country to change it if I can't change it in the capital. Its a good walk to the Teleforico, most of it uphill which will be good practice for my climb of Cotopaxi next week. The Teleforico is a relatively new attraction in Quito, and is the second highest cable car in the world, going from just over 3000m to 4100m. The views over Quito from the top are amazing, but I can't be bothered to continue the ascent of Volcan Pinchincha which is a further 600 metres to the summit from the top of the cable car, and its probably too late in the day anyway.






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