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We said goodbye to the friends we had made during our 8 day cruise around the Galapagos and boarded a plane for Quito. Luckily, we had one more day in Quito with our friends Anthony and Sarah (the English/Irish couple we had been traveling with for close to 6 weeks) before our paths diverged and we would be forced to go our separate ways.

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About to sample the variety of fruits and vegetables with the miracle berries

We arrived in Quito with enough time to run a number of errands around the historic center before walking half way across the city in search of a particular Indian restaurant. We chose to go there to have our final dinner with Anthony and Sarah and celebrate Anthony’s birthday (coming up 2 days after we parted ways). Our arduous walk was rewarded and the food was delicious. We ended our evening back at our hostel with a dessert of various sour fruits aided by the taste changing properties of miracle berries. Lisa had received the miracle berries from her sister, Rebecca, and had been waiting for the right time to use them. No, “miracle berries” is not a euphemism for some street drug, they are actually a West African berry (or in our case a lozenge made from berry powder) that bind to the taste receptors on the tongue and cause sour foods to taste sweet. It was an interesting and fun way to end our celebration.

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Stopping to pose in front of the towering equator monument that also has a museum within and a lookout on the top

The next morning we decided to go to the Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world or equator). In the past there was a bit of a debate about where the official equator lay so now there are two separate gated plazas that boast a collection of museums located down the street from each other. Our group chose the more “official” line, governed by the Ecuadorian government. Once inside the plaza we watched a planetarium show (completely in spanish much to the dismay of Lisa, Anthony, and Sarah), learned about the French explorers who came to Ecuador in search of the highest point on earth through which the equator passed, and went to a museum dedicated to science experiments concerning the oddities surrounding the equator. We were disappointed to learn that several of the myths we had grown up with such as drains circling different directions in the different hemispheres were untrue. We did however learn a variety of interesting facts such as you weigh a kilogram less at the equator and that you don’t cast a shadow during the spring and autumn equinox. The rest of our time at the Mitad del Mundo was spent taking photos while balancing on the equator line, doing handstands straddling the lines, or finding any way to look as gringo and touristy as possible.

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The top left photo is looking down from the top of the monument with our friends Ant and Sarah are posing on the line below.  The upper right shows the globe on the top of the monument that is divided into halves by a golden equator, and on the bottom right is Lisa with an N for Norlander (or maybe north?)

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Having fun being as touristy as possible

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Kevin and Lisa walking the line

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Taking a moment to imitate the French scientists who came to Ecuador to research the equator

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A look at the Virgen de el Panecillo after our hike up the mountain

After returning from the Mitad it was finally time to say our goodbyes to Ant and Sarah after 6 entertaining weeks together. Fortunately, for travelers it is never “goodbye” but until we run into each other again. Talks have already begun of climbing Kilimanjaro and meeting up in Australia. When Ant and Sarah got in their taxi we headed up to the Virgen del Pancillo statue that overlooks the historic district of Quito. Despite being told by taxi drivers and hostal workers that it was quite a hike up hill and a cheap cab ride, we hoofed it up the mountainside and were rewarded with an impressive view of Quito lit up at night. After snapping some photos (Kevin held back and only took 50 shots of the statue and night skyline) we rushed back down the hill to meet up with Kevin’s Ecuadorian friend Andrea that he met years ago in Spain. The three of us wandered around the La Ronda neighborhood enjoying the colonial architecture before heading into a cafe to enjoy live music and some traditional Ecuadorian food. We tried sopa de locro (a type of milk and potato based soup), empanadas verde y del viento (a folded dough that is fried with stuffing inside, the first was a made from a type of green plantain and the second was filled with cheese and the inflated and topped with a sprinkling of sugar), and to drink we had canelazo which is a hot drink with rum that had a taste similar to apple cider.

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Some of the impressive night scenery we saw wandering around Quito and the view looking down the hill from the Virgin statue

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Kevin and Andrea catching up after more than 3 years

Our last day in Quito we did a walking tour which was one of the best that we have been on. The guide did a fantastic job balancing his time explaining about culture, history, food, and architecture. One of the highlights of the tour was visiting a convent where nuns make and sell a variety of products from natural ingredients to fix a variety of problems. The most interesting product that they sold was a gelatin made from pigeons that is a remedy for anemia. The nuns also were not allowed to be seen by the public, so all sales were made through a device called a tornon that looks like a wooden revolving door providing complete anonymity for the nuns. Another point of note from Quito is that it had some of the most lavish and elaborately decorated church interiors that we have ever seen.

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The first stop on our tour was the central market where they had food stalls, butchers, flower stalls, and stalls selling herbal remedies

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The tour group in a cultural museum

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Looking down at El Sagrario from a lookout on a balcony of the cultural center where our guide took us.  Evidently this is not a known viewing spot as we were the only people up there enjoying the view

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Iglesia San Francisco, the outside is beautiful but doesn’t prepare you for the spectacle that you will encounter when you enter

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San Francisco had more gold surrounding the altar than any church we have ever seen

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A side profile of the stunning interior of San Francisco

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The view looking down the center aisle of the church, everywhere you looked was intricately carved statues, beautiful tiles, or was plated with precious stones and metals

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The hostel where we stayed was on a hill in the historic district which gaves us beautiful views every time we walked to or from the hostel

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The hostel had a balcony on the 3rd floor which gave us a great view of the Basilica del Voto Nacional

Our next stop is Banos, the adventure sport capital of Ecuador. We are eagerly anticipating the rafting, rappelling, bungee jumping, paragliding, and other adrenaline rushes that we can choose from when we arrive.

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