Quito, you had me at two beers.
The first thing you notice about Quito, Ecuador is the altitude.
At 2800 metres above sea level and nestled amongst and surrounded by the magnificent Andes, it is quite a unique place.
Altitude sickness affects everybody differently and not knowing how our bodies would react we decided to go with the travel doctor’s advice and take diomox while there. I don’t think I could deal with the hangover symptoms everyday if we were prone to it. It was just not worth the risk! We felt a little breathless at times and the tablets made us a little tingly and dizzy sporadically but overall we were fine.
What makes Quito, which means middle of the world, all the more special is that it is on the equator, which although they have the wet and dry seasons, it is practically the same temperatures year round.
About 45 minutes from the town itself is the actual equator, and although a massive monument stands to mark this significant location measured by the world’s best scientists at the time, the advances of technology have proven it to be slightly off.
|Old monument marking the equator|
GPS now says the correct location is 300 metres from the statue and has become quite the tourist attraction on its own. Here tourists are given examples as to the affects of north, south and middle of the equator like being able to balance an egg on a nail, water spinning clockwise and anti-clockwise, sobriety test walking along a line and a strength test which somehow meant you were much weaker on the actual equator. In all a quirky day trip and a must while visiting this part of the world.
|New equator discovered by GPS|
Another great day trip from Quito, is the small town of Otavalo about two and a half hours drive through the Andes. The drive itself is worth the trip passing snow-capped volcanoes, deep valleys and small towns. The scenery was breathtaking, so much so we didn’t really care if we had a destination. Otavalo is known for its Indian (indigenous) markets where you can haggle and get some awesome souveniers like llama and alpaca ponchos, blankets, scarves etc. They are also big on their silver jewellery and hammocks. Ecuador is also famous for roses, you can pick yourself up two dozen for a cool buck!
The old town of Quito is world heritage listed and a pretty cool area to just wonder around. One of the most impressive buildings is the La Basillica which rivals any I’ve seen through Europe. The coolest thing about it though are the gargoyles which are statues of the giant tortoises and iguanas found in the Galapagos Islands. We were warned about pickpockets in this area so we didn’t flash the cameras too much and we didn’t see too many tourists doing the same either, actually it was hard to spot the tourists.
|Quito old town|
Ecuador is so much cheaper than Chile, and the kind of prices you would expect coming to South America. Its currency is also the US dollar which makes converting really easy. Ordering a beer at a bar is about $1.70, a main meal at a restaurant is about $10 and walking out of a convenience store with 6 litres of water, two tallies, a packet of chips and some chocolate set us back $5.00. By the way, all you need is two beers to feel pretty tipsy due to the altitude so it could quite possbly be the cheapest place on earth to get drunk.
While we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to eat guinea pig yet which is a delicacy here in Ecuador and eaten on special occasions, we are also visiting peru which it is also on the menu. The fact they serve it with its head and feet still attached makes my stomach squirm.
Off the tourist track, we made a visit to a bombero estacion (fire station). There we were fortunate enough to meet an english speaking fireman Alex who very kindly showed us around. Brad discovered the equipment used is almost the same back home and the heirarchy is very similar, the only difference being the main station is military and that they have dual functions with being paramedics.
Oh and I have asked locals about Julian Assange, to which their response is always “If the President says it is okay, then its okay”, so there you go!
Next stop, Galapagos Islands!
|Sights around Quito, Ecuador|