Trip Start Jan 07, 2013
Trip End Aug 01, 2013

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Flag of Ecuador  , Magdalena,
Monday, February 18, 2013

En route to Patagonia, Quito was the first of our 3 layovers turned stopover. Although we could have stayed in Ecuador much longer, we only gave ourselves 3 days here in order to maximize our warm weather time down south. Upon arrival we had almost no idea of what to do or where to go (way too tired from the lost city to plan) so we decided to just "go with the flow" and see what happened.

Either couch surfing is the most amazing concept ever, or we have just had some ridiculously good luck. We arrived exhausted at our host's apartment at 10pm to find we had hot water AND our own rooms/beds! We slept about 10-12 hours that first night... In addition to the generous accommodation, Francis and Dayan acted as our tour guides during the days and salsa teachers at night. As I said after Medellin, I have some heavy hospitality karma to repay when I get back to the states.

Quito is the capital city of Ecuador, and lies in the mountains at 2850m. It's one of the longest cities I've ever seen, like a river of brightly colored houses flowing through the mountainous valley. Everywhere we went there were spectacular views of he city and green mountainside. Just south of the equator, it's a cool 60-70 degrees all year round. After the heat of the carribean coast it was the ideal recovery weather.

Like most capitals, Quito is full of museums, churches, and notable plazas. It's been a while since I've been to any of these things so I was ok with being the passive tourist for a few days. Among others, we saw independence plaza, San Francisco plaza, the presidents quarters, basilica del voto national, and museo de la ciudad. We also got some great views from el teleferico, a gondola to the top of a nearby mountain, and panecillo, a large statue in the middle of old town Quito. We also tried some shopping at a crafts market, but can only really buy bracelets because our bags are about as full as they can get.

The most notable attraction for me was the mitad del mundo, the center of the earth. here a large monument and surrounding tourist trap complex marks the equator line. However, the REAL equator lies just beyond the walls of the mini city. Someone must have been pretty embarrassed by that one... To prove it was really the center of the world they had a variety of experiments that were preformed in each hemisphere, the most convincing being watching water drain in opposite directions. The rest were a little iffy, such as balancing an egg on the head of a nail along the line. I'll have to test that later.

Leaving Quito turned out to be quite the hassle. Apparently during the 3 days we were there the airport in the middle of the city closed down and all flights were moved to a new facility an hour and a half into the mountains. We got to the gate 20 mins before departure, trying to hope for the best. At first the airline representative told us that there were no flights for the rest of the month, but thankfully she pulled a 180 and found one the next morning. Greg complained to Expedia and we got some flight vouchers too, so it turned out to be almost a good thing... almost. Not wanting to take a bus back to town just to pay for a hotel room, we blew up our sleeping pads in a corner of the airport. Got some jealous looks from the others who had a similar night ahead...

Day two of the airport was almost as stressful as the first. This was the 2nd day the place was functional so all the employees were running around stressed and none of the screens were working so the travelers had no idea what was going on either. We were told to go through customs despite having a domestic connection flight and ended up in the wrong section of the airport. With the help of 3 police officers we made it to our gate just in time.. to find out it was delayed. In Guayaquil (connection) it was a similar story with 8 customs officers trying to figure out why we already had our stamps. I'm on the final plane now so at least everything finally worked out... I really miss the slow bus traveling. So great just to show up unannounced and get on the next bus. Hopefully after we get to Patagonia there will be no more plane travel for a long time..

Next stop is Lima for 8, well now 7, days. Going to try to either get some hiking or surfing in, we'll decide on that later.
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