Arriving back from the Galápagos Islands we had a night at the Hilton as part of our Gadventures trip. Our friends, James and Jen, from our South America tour were also in the same hotel so we went out for some dinner and drinks. It was good to catch up and exchange stories about the Galápagos Islands we had both visited (although separately) and share photos.
The following day we made the most of the nice hotel (pool, gym and amazing breakfast) for the morning. We walked to our hotel from before the Galápagos Islands and checked in for a few days. Our main aims were to relax after a busy few weeks and see some sights over the few days.
We had arranged a tour guide for the following day to show us the main sights of Quito. He picked us up early and to our surprise we discovered we were on a private tour. First stop was the ‘centre of the Earth’.
After a 40 minute drive north of Quito we arrived at the GPS coordinates of the equator line 00’00’00. A small interactive museum sits on the line with some fun experiments. Firstly our tour guide explained with the help of some exhibitions: animals of the Ecuadorean rainforest; and native cultures who live in the rainforest such as the famous headshrinkers. Next we were taken to the GPS equator line (a painted line on the ground). Here were several experiments set up to prove the equator line was there or existed.
We’ve all heard that water spins in different directions in different hemispheres due to the spin of the earth. The guide explained with the help of a globe that in the Northern Hemisphere storms and water spin clockwise and anti-clockwise in the Southern Hemispheres. A large basin of water sat in the sun on the line, with a bucket underneath. Pulling the plug in the centre the water went straight down without any swirling. Next she moved the basin 5 feet onto the southern side. She repeated the experiment dropping in a few leaves to further illustrate and the water did indeed drain anti-clockwise. We repeated on the north side and it spun clockwise. Our minds were blown.
The next few experiments were balancing an egg on a nail (easier on the equator); walking down the equator line blindfolded (difficult and you lose your balance as you are ‘pulled’ to different sides); and a person holding their arms out in front of them and another person pulling them down (again easy on the equator. Tougher either side). It was good fun trying them out and after a few pictures we moved on.
A 2 minute drive around the corner was the monument to the equator where scientists use to think the line was until more accurate GPS. Given to Ecuador by the French it is a huge monolith with a globe on top. Again a pained line is on the floor you can pose with with the monument in the background; which we did.
Next to the monument was also an odd shaped building with the 12 flags of South America. Our guide explained it was the conference of americas building used when Ecuador hosts the other eleven nations.
We drove on and got stuck in traffic before arriving at the Quito cable car. Probably the slowest cable we have ever been on. After a long wait for the sporadic cars, it took us over about 20 minutes to get up to 4100m. We took some pictures of the vast city beneath, had a bite to eat and queued to go down. Unfortunately a big group were in front of us, we would be waiting for at least half an hour to forty five minutes. Luckily we queue jumped when a space for 2 people appeared in a car!
Next we drove into town and stopped at the impressive Basilica to take pictures (the following day Mike flew the drone around the Basilica to get better photos). The gargoyles on the building reflected the unique animals that inhabit Ecuador. One side had animals of the Galapagos and the other animals of the rainforest.
Then to end our tour we drove to the old town for a look around the colonial buildings. After parking we first visited the stunning Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús or golden church. From the outside it looked like a pretty church inside it was decorated head to toe in gold leaf. So much so it has tight security as locals try to scrape off the gold with knives. We wandered around looking at its paintings and exhibitions.
Next as a contrast we visited Convento San Francisco another church and convent which dominates a square, which had lots of building work taking place for the cities new metro. Inside it was very plain and not well kept at all. The paintings were gone/stripped or damaged. A remarkable difference to the golden church where clearly the city spends its money. Underneath the church are restaurants and shops that all sit in its arches and catacombs.
Finally we strolled around the Plaza Grande or independence square. It is surrounded by impressive buildings and the presidential palace. We thanked our tour guide and wandered off into the little back streets to find some food.
After a beer and pizza we made our way back to our hotel. The following day we didn’t do much apart from catch up on some ‘House of Cards’ and other admin tasks that had built up while we were away. Then early the next morning it was off to Cartagena in Columbia.