Quito, or the one where we visit two equators

3rd-10th Feb 2016
Quito is a city with a bit of a reputation. We got a few warnings before we arrived about pickpockets and muggers, and read stories about fake taxis performing express kidnappings. Having felt safe from these kinds of worries in Colombia, hearing these kinds of things made it seem like we were suddenly going to have to be on our guard. In reality it seems to be like any other big city: stay in the busy areas, don’t wander about at night, keep an eye on your stuff in crowds/public transport.

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Big city (photo actually taken on second visit to Quito)

Anyway, we stayed in the Old Town which is meant to be pretty safe anyway. Our hostel was a tall building on a hill, and we soon discovered that being at 2850m altitude means that having to climb four flights of stairs to get to reception can make you feel incredibly unfit (although the view from the bar at the top is really impressive). The altitude hit us all a bit. We’ve been tired and a bit ill, but still have seen a good few things in and around town.

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View from the hostel at night

The most visited tourist attraction in all of Ecuador is ‘Mitad del mundo’, a big monument marking the equator (or at least the original measurement of where the equator was). It would cost $40 between the three of us to get a return taxi right to the monument, which seemed tempting in how easy it would be, but with public transport costing a mere 40 cents each way per person, there was no way we couldn’t give it a go. It was an hour and a half on overcrowded overhot buses, but worth it given the slightly steep entrance fee to the monument itself.

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By the monument
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Not a bad view

Inside there is a small museum, lots of shops and exhibitions, and he monument. It’s pretty cool, and there’s a fun line that you can take lots of touristy pictures on and around, but it felt a bit odd since its not the actual equator.

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Lunges on the line

The equator for real, gps speaking at least, is a few hundred metres north of the monument. You pay to enter another little museum, this time with a  guided tour, and look at another line and take more touristy pictures. The tour was half interesting about the native tribes of Ecuador (it is based around an original inca monument) and half absolutely nonsense experiments demonstrating different effects either side of the equator due to coriolis forces and apparently being less strong either side of the line as you ‘had less gravity on you’. For someone with even even a basic grasp of physics the explanations were painful, but it was still pretty fun.

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Foot in each hemisphere

Most of my week in Quito was pretty chilled. I was the first to get ill so skipped out on the nights into town which Rav and Amber went out on, and instead got some sleep. By the time I felt a bit better, the other two were succumbing to it (it seemed like something was going round the whole hostel) so we didn’t push ourselves too hard. I did take one night ‘out’ for dinner so I could see the touristy nightlife of La Mariscal and Plaza Foch, but we headed back after a couple of drinks (it wasn’t cheap).

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Plaza Foch, centre of 'gringolandia' La Mariscal

The rest of our days we spent in the absolutely beautiful old town, wandering around and enjoying the sights. We’ve seen a lot of colonial cities, but Quito was particularly impressive, with loads of huge churches, well kept old buildings, and a bright square with a statue of the Madonna looking over from a hill. The dramatic mountain landscape just added to it all. We were in town for Carnival as well, but it’s not really that big a thing in Quito, mainly just a few days where it’s acceptable to spray foam at unsuspecting people in the streets.

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Plaza Grande
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Blue skies make white buildings look amazing

So we didn’t do tons in our Quito week, but one exciting development was that I decided I would in fact be going to the Galapagos. Although it’s incredibly expensive and was never in my budget, I was definitely just going to get jealous if Rav and Amber went and did it without me, and I got assurance I could get some help from the bank of birthday and Christmas future. That’ll be the next blog, which I’m sure will be very picture heavy so I will get up whenever the wifi can deal with it…

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Another sneaky pic from the second trip to Quito as I doubt it will get its own blog post
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