Journey to the Centre of the Earth!

Trip Start May 23, 2010
Trip End Aug 31, 2010

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Back to the city, which is a bit of a relief after spending most of the last 2 weeks at sea or in the depths of the jungle.  With one day to spend in the Ecuadorean capital of Quito, we had a packed schedule.  We'd already failed on objective number one, which was to find to some dachshunds to pet - missing Emma's parents' dog, we'd read that a hostel in Quito had a pair of dachsies in residence.  Never mind lumpy beds or cold water showers, we booked without a second thought, only to discover that the dogs in question had been moved to a sister hostel in Cotopaxi.  No sausage dogs for another couple of months, dammit.

Next on our list was buying me a Panama hat.  Ironically, these have always been woven by hand exclusively in Ecuador and are more properly known as pajas toquillas or Montecristis.  In the end, we visited 4 shops before we found some that weren't a small fortune and actually fitted, it's no secret that I have an enormous bonce that is narrow at the front and wide at the back.  In fact, viewed from above it resembles something like the cross section of a Toblerone.  Luckily, I found a nice one that means I can be the Man from Del Monte at future fancy dress parties.

After a short break for ice cream (crucial) we headed up the Teleferico, a gondola like a ski lift that took us up onto the ridge of one of the four volcanoes surrounding Quito.  The city's location is utterly breathtaking, both figuratively and literally.  Located at 2850m altitude, if you're not yet acclimatised to the height you can find your heart beating faster and your lungs working harder after nothing more than a gentle stroll.  Flying in and out of Quito has to be one of the most beautiful journeys I've ever taken, as the enormous white and terracotta-hued urban sprawl of the city looks like it has been scattered around the valleys and small canyons that have been carved out of the landscape and between the deep green hills and mountains, the tallest of which fade into the white drape of clouds floating around the entire vista like a fogged halo.  The view from the top of the Teleferico was no less spectacular, the same elements stretching as far as the human eye would allow.

A little chilled from the winds, we then made our way by bus to the very far North of the suburbs to Mitad del Mundo (The Middle of the World), where the equator line that gave Ecuador its name is celebrated.  The 'official' equator site was a little disappointing, being a government owned attraction consisting a mock-colonial town full of tourist-tat shops and restaurants that surround a soulless plaza where a monument marks zero degrees latitude as triangulated by a 19th Century French scientific mission.  After a few photos and lunch in a restaurant showing Bear Grylls eating anything that moves in the Sahara on the telly, we moved on to the Museo Inti Nan next door.  This is an independent museum 150 metres North that celebrates the equator and Ecuadorean culture.  It has stolen a march on the official site by being located on the true equator as calculated by US Military GPS...and as a result is forbidden from advertising!  Nothing like a free market economy.

Anyway, the museum was good fun and demonstrated some pretty interested things about the Equator line, including the classic Coriolis effect on water going down a plughole, as well as how muscular resistance is reduced.  Walking toe to heel with eyes closed is much harder, as the magnetic forces create greater dizziness.  I also managed to balance a raw egg on the head of a nail, because the Coriolis effect means that the yolk isn't swirling around.  Yes, I am officially certified as an Egg Master.  I don't know whether I'll find that useful in my future career, but figure that it can't hurt to include it on my CV! 

We were also shown some interesting artefacts from Ecuadorian history, including a genuine trophy head that had been shrunken by an Amazonian tribe...I could sense Emma thinking that maybe she could get the same bunch to shrink my head so that she wouldn't have to spend so much time traipsing around hat shops in future!

Feeling tired but happy to have done so much in a day, we headed back to Quito proper to prepare for country number 6 on our journey...and our 6th visit to Quito airport in 12 days!
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