Ecuador Part 4 – Quito

October 15, 2019

We slept in and relaxed in our hotel room in Quito for the morning. I think we needed a rest after the worry and then travel back from the Galapagos. Around 10 am we went up the street to the mall to drop of our laundry off to be washed. We packed our bags and stored them at the hotel as we weren’t able to check into our Airbnb until 3 pm.

At 1 pm we met another couple from our Galapagos tour and walked up the street to Plaza Foch for lunch. After lunch they continued up to the market and we returned to the hotel, collected our bags and walked up the street to our Airbnb. It was probably four blocks away from the hotel.

The Airbnb was a nice modern one-bedroom apartment. It felt so nice to have our own space. I even chose to hang up my clothes in the closet. This is something that always made me feel more at home and relaxed on our round the world trip.

We went up the street to the mall, picked up our laundry and purchased some groceries for the next couple of days. Since we missed Thanksgiving in Canada we decided to try to have our own Thanksgiving dinner. We found some chicken breast, a turnip and what we thought were potatoes. It wasn’t quite a normal Thanksgiving dinner, but it was pretty good. We watched some Netflix then went to bed.

October 16, 2019

We got in contact with our original Ecuador tour guide, Santiago, when we arrived back in Quito. He arranged to pick us up in the morning to take us up the cable car and to the equator line.

We drove about 20 minutes to the teleferiqo or cable car. Quito is actually the highest capital city in the world at an elevation of 2,850 m. The cable car took us to a view overlooking Quito. You could see from there why traffic was so awful. The city is sprawled out from north to south and then to the east are mountains with a valley in the centre separating the city. Quito is 60 km x 6 km with a population of 3 million. The total population of Ecuador is 16 million.

View from cable car

In Quito, the minimum salary is $400 per month and people making this must live in the mountains to be able to afford rent. In the mountains rent is about $150 per month.

We rode back down to the bottom and drove about an hour north to the “Middle of the World”. There is one spot with a large monument to the French mission to find the equator’s location in the 18th century. Then there is another spot with a museum at the exact location of the equator. We went to the second site because that is where all the cool stuff happens.

Standing on the equator

First we were given an overview of some of the history of Ecuador. We were told of the Shuar who are an Indigenous people of Ecuador and Peru living in the Amazon. They are most well known for shrinking heads. They first cut the head off the dead person, then cut out the skull. A combination of secret plants is used to shrink the skin. The mouth is sewn closed so the soul can’t escape. It is then placed over a fire to dry the skin. The idea is to preserve the soul in the head to immortalize a person.

Shrunken head of the Shuar

We were also told of the Waorani who are an Indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon. American missionaries airdropped gifts to the Waorani in the 1950s. The package included photographs which they believed to be evil magical creations. When missionaries landed on a riverbank the tribesmen speared them to death. In the Amazon there are fish, candiru, that will swim up your urethra. The Waorani men tie their penises up to prevent the fish from going up when they are in the water. The Waorani also have ear piercings. The size indicates how important they are. They are also the group that hunts mainly with blow guns.

Quito means centre of the land in the language of the Indigenous in the area before the Incas. This Indigenous group had found the equator line using astronomy. They built temples along the equator knowing that twice a year no shadow existed for three minutes.

At the equator we did a couple of different tests. One of them was balancing an egg on a nail. It is supposed to be easier at the equator as gravity pulls completely straight down. I was still not able to do it, but Danny did and even got a certificate for it!

Trying to balance eggs

We were shown how on the equator water will drain straight down. The lady demonstrating then moved the sink about two metres to the north and the water drained clockwise. She then moved the sink two metres to the south and the water drained counterclockwise.

As another test we walked along the equator line with our eyes closed and each of us would automatically veer to one side. I’m not so sure about this test. We were also told about how in Ecuador you can see the Big Dipper (northern hemisphere) and the Southern Cross (southern hemisphere) which is pretty cool.

The last test was my favourite. We were told to hold our thumb and index fingers together then another person would pull them apart. About two metres to the north or south of the equator it was relatively hard and then on the equator it was insanely easy. It was crazy how much of a difference it made. I think the explanation was something about there being less gravity so you have less muscle mass.

We headed back into the city and I was craving pizza so we went in search of an Italian restaurant. The first place Santiago said was very good, but it was closed. We then drove to another spot that Santiago thought had pizza, but it just had Italian sandwiches. I had seen a sign just a few stores over that said pizza so we walked over there. They did not currently have pizza. We decided to eat there anyways because we were getting very hungry. We enjoyed our last meal with Santiago. We were very grateful for his efforts in keeping us safe and ensuring we saw all we could along the way.

Last meal with Santiago

He dropped us back off at our Airbnb where we chilled for the evening. Danny found a free walking tour of the old town and booked us in for the next day.

October 17, 2019

Our day started with breakfast and then a long walk to where our walking tour was set to start. I think the walk took us about 45 minutes.

The tour started in the local market. The market had local herbs that are used for medicine, then tons of fresh meat, fruit and vegetables. The top exports from Ecuador starting from the largest are oil, cacao, shrimp, tuna, bananas, coffee and flowers.

Next we walked through the old town which is 485 years old. A lot of the buildings have a Moorish design which is common of Spanish architecture. The Spanish arrived in 1534 and were in charge until the 1809 revolution which took place while Spain was busy dealing with Napoleon in Europe.

The balconies used to be full of geraniums to overcome the smell of the streets before indoor plumbing was invented.

Street in Old Town Quito

We walked to an area where there was a wonderful view of a Virgin Mary statue. In the statue she has wings because there is a story in the bible which describes her getting wings to get away from serpents who were trying to kill her baby.

Virgin of Quito

Along our walk, we were taken to a shop that sold Panama hats which actually originated in Ecuador. Workers from Ecuador worked at the Panama Canal which is how they got their name. The hats are made from palm. I almost wish we had gone back to that shop because the prices for the hats was very reasonable.

We ventured in to the main square where we saw the Carandelet or Government Palace. There were fences and guards outside the square limiting the people going inside. There were people in front of the palace protesting the elimination of cock fighting. The palace still had barbed wire along the veranda, but I assumed it was remaining from the previous weeks’ protests.

Carondelet Palace

In 1997-1998, the El Niño gave rain for one month resulting in no exports from Ecuador. As well, from 1995-1998 there was a border dispute with Peru. This all resulted in increased inflation. $1 used to be worth 5,000 sucres, but by 1999 $1 was 20,000 sucres. There was a 600% inflation. People wanted their money out of the banks, but they didn’t have the money so they just closed their doors. For one week, there was no cash in the ATMs.

The President, Jamil Mahuad, asked the USA to change the Ecuadorian sucre to USD. It was very expensive for Ecuador and the national reserve gold was used to pay the difference. Residents had only one week to change their currency. Over 3 million people left Ecuador during that time and went to Spain, Italy and USA. Soon after the dollarization in Ecuador, Mahuad was forced to resign. In May 2014, Ecaudor’s courts sentenced him to 12 years in jail for embezzlement, but he escaped to the USA. He now teaches economy at Harvard.

In 2012, Julian Assange was granted political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The reason this was allowed was because apparently the Ecuadorian President at the time, Correa, wanted to do an exchange with the USA for Mahuad.

Our tour of Quito ended with a chocolate sampling. It was tasty, but not as good as the Pacari chocolate we bought in the market.

We asked about a nearby pizza place to go to at the end of the tour so our guide walked us to a restaurant. The pizza ended up being delicious and I was able to satisfy my craving.

Pizza in Quito

We ended our tour of the old town by walking to the Basilica of the National Vote. Along the way it really started raining and it was a little bit of a hike up the streets to get there.

We purchased tickets to go up the towers of the Basilica. It offered a really nice view over the old town. We even got to go behind the clock in the tower which was a pretty cool experience.

Basilica of the National Vote

We walked back the 45 minutes to our Airbnb and ate leftovers for supper.

October 18, 2019

In the morning, we had breakfast then decided to go for a walk to a nearby neighbourhood, La Floresta. We were told by our guide from the previous day that it had lots of great artwork and graffiti and was just nice to walk around. We started by walking to the the local neighbourhood market, but it had mostly fruit and vegetables which wasn’t the ideal purchase on our last day.

The guide had also said that Hotel Quito was a nice place to walk to so we walked up there. The whole walk was very up and down. We went into the hotel expecting a view out their windows, but it was mostly just trees.

We ended up walking back to Plaza Foch where we grabbed some brunch from a coffee shop. After we went back to the Artesanal Market to buy some last minute gifts.

We returned to the Airbnb and had to check out so we ended up heading to the airport really early. Our flight was scheduled to leave just after midnight and we got there around 2 pm which meant a long wait for us.

Across from the main airport was another area with some shops and a food court. We hunkered down there for the ten hours. We watched some movies, played some cards and got supper at one of the restaurants. At one point I leaned over on my side to watch a movie and a security guard came over and told Danny, “no sleep”. So back up I sat.

October 19, 2019

Our flight left on time and arrived in Houston with plenty of time for us to grab some breakfast. They did serve supper on the plane, but it was so late I slept through it.

Our flight leaving Houston was a bit delayed which caused us to get into Calgary late. Originally we only had just over an hour layover in Calgary which we thought might be pushing it because we had to go through customs and collect our bags. We likely would have been all right, but it took 40 minutes for us to get our bags.

We arrived at the Air Canada desk to drop our bags and there had been a set of folks that missed our flight to Edmonton. We were all booked on the next flight which was about an hour later. We had enough time to grab some lunch and then get to our gate for our last flight home.

When we arrived home and talked about our trip I wasn’t as excited about it as other trips we have been on. I think the amazing time we had was overshadowed a bit by the ongoing protests. While we were never in any immediate danger, there was still a bit of worry over how to best keep ourselves safe. When I think of the trip now I realize we saw some amazing things and had some amazing experiences. We were also able to check off a couple things from our Bucket List (visit the Amazon and the Galapagos) so who can complain?


2 thoughts on “Ecuador Part 4 – Quito

  1. Jonno January 4, 2020 / 5:37 am

    Quito looks amazing, especially liked all of the stories about the Equator tests. Fascinating how gravity works differently and the water-draining must be so interesting. The pizza looked awesome too. Not sure I could have resisted those each day. Great photos.


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