Trip Start Apr 20, 2008
Trip End Aug 15, 2010

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Where I stayed

Flag of Ecuador  , Quito,
Sunday, May 18, 2008

We are now in Quito, Ecuador, so named because of itīs location, right on the equator! Despite this its 2850m elevation ensures a much colder climate than one might expect. Described by the lonely planet as perpetual spring weather, what we have experienced is more like an Aussie winter. Itīs setting is quite stunning, in an Andean valley, surrounded by mountains although often very cloudy so itīs hard to appreciate. We arrived two days before we were to go to our homestay so we stayed ina hostel near the old town. On Saturday we went to a place called Otovalo  which was a 2.5 hour bus ride away. It was well worth it though for the great markets they have every Saturday.

On Sunday we went to explore the old town. We were supposed to go to our homestay but we werenīt sure what time. We attempted to ring an information number we had but got a lady who spoke no English. The man in the phone shop ended up ringing out homestay to ask for us. There must have been a miscommunication somewhere along the way because half an hour later outįr host mother turned up ina taxi to collect us! Our host mother, Graciella is a 70 plus year old grandmother who doesnīt speak a word of English so communication is quite a challenge!

We have our own rooms with a double bed which makes quite a change from hostels. Itīs nice to have some privacy but not having had any for so long it feels quite bizarre. After arriving we had a late lunch with Graciella daughter, Anna and her three children. At first we were left sitting alone at the table with the kids and it was unbelievably awkward, having used up the only couple of questions we knew in Spanish we all just sat there in silece staing at each other! Anna was really goof though, she didnīt speak much English but somehow managed to make herself understood. After lunch Graciella and the two boys walked us down to show uswhere our school was. When we came back the table was full of cakes and pastries etc. for Carlosībirthday which was the next day. Communication was getting easier andthe mood was much lighter and it was all fun and games until Fernando shoved Daniellas face into the birthday cake!

Monday was day one of Spanish classes. The school is about a 20min walk from where weīre living and classes are from 8:30 until 12:30. Jo and I were the only ones in our class and out teacher Gustavo was great. Apart from us there is one Canadian girl and two swiss people at theschool and all the rest (about 20) are Korean!
We have breakfast and dinner at our homestay. The food is good and ample and we get freshly made juice with every meal. We have lunch out, the typical set lunch costs around $1.50 and is made up of soup, a rice and meat dish and a desert.

Tuesday we went to classes as usual and then we went to meet our friend Sonja. Sonja is the German girl we met on our tour in Yosemetie and ended up hiring a car with. She studies in Ecuador when she was younger and has an Ecuadorian boyfriend so she is here staying with him. We went with her and her boyfriend Andres so a bar and drank beers all afternoon, the sun even came out for a while! Everything is really cheep here, we had two jugs of beer and two mojitos for $10. We went home for dinner and then went out again. It seemed necessary as we discovered it was out one month anniversary of travelling! Just went to a couple of bars and a club, had the biggest shots I have ever seen in my life, at least three times the size of a normal shot and it took me three tries to get it all down!

Wednesday Jo swapped into a different class as our abilities are different as I have studies some Spanish before. She now has classes in the afternoon, from 1 until 5 so she can have the same tecaher. Itīs really great because now we have one on one classes and we get through so much more. Itīs really cold here and they donīt have heating anywhere. We also donīt really have hot water at our house so showering is a task that results in mild hypothermia...

Wednesday night I became very ill and spent the whole night vomiting. I have no idea what it was from but I felt awful. My body was still trying to vomit when there was absolutely nothing left in my stomache. As well as feeling might sick and tired the next day I also had incredibly sore stomache muscles and all my muscles in my back and neck felt like they had spasmed into hard little knots. My lessons on Thursday were not overly successful despite everybody being lovely and making me a huge pot of the local remedy for stomache upsets, oregano tea.. and my host mother feeding me powdered tablets of what I assume was aniseed and cinnamon..??

I spent all of Wednesday in bed while Jo was out at the pub watching the soccer we had considered getting tickets for. It was the Quito team against Argentina and surprisingly Equador won. Although I would asssume that because of the altitude that Quito had a huge advantage.

On Friday I was feeling much better which was lucky as we had organised a class excursion.. our class consisting of course of myself, Jo and our teacher Gustavo. We went to mitel de mundo, the centre of the world, otherwise known as the equator. There are however actually two sites dedicated to the existence of the equator, the first is the one that was discovered by French scientists a couple of hundred years ago. Here there exists a whole mini city built entirely for tourists, full of restaurants and shops as well a huge monument in honour of the scientists. Due to the lack in technology of their measuring equipement the scientists were a bit off the mark, although only 200m which is quite impressive. Although apparantly had they only talked to the indigenous people they would have found that they had temples built all along the real equator line, being worshippers of the sun, this point was very important to them.

200m down the roadl ies the real equator line calculated with GPS and the site is also an outdoor indigenous museum. We were taken on a tour where we were told all about the phenomonens that occur on the equator. In particular the one concerning the way way water flushes down a toilet. We were shown a demonstration where a plain old rusty sink full of water was placed right on the equator line, when the pug was pulled the water funnelled equally from all sides and went straight down into through the plug hole. When placed in the southern hemisphere the water spiralled anti-clockwise down and in the northern hemisphere it was clockwise and the water spiralled faster apparently because the forces are stronger in the northern hemisphere because of the greater land mass. I was fascinated but slightly dubious having just read in my lonely planet that it is a hoax as experts say that the forces are not strong enough to have an effect on such small volumes of water. The only thing that I can think of is that there was a slight downhill slope either side of the line...ŋ Perhaps there is a Dr Karl wannabe out there who can answer my question?

Some other demonstations included balancing a raw egg on a nail, supposedy easier because the forces are equal etc. Ones weight is less on the equator because it is the furtherest away from the centre of the earth and one is also weaker. Supposedly it is also harder to balance along a straight line with ones eyes shut on the equator, although I have to say I find this exercise challenging wherever I am!

The museum also contained a traditional indigenous tomb where bodies were buried in the faetal position in large pots. If a chief dies he would be buried along with his wife, servants, children (if they wish) and a bunch of guniea pigs, all alive of course but thankfully drugged. One such tomb was found near Quito with 47 bodies in it and only one person had actually died. The guniea pig has a special meaning for the indigenous people, they also eat them.. We were shown some replicas of traditional housing from various ethnic groups that exist along the amazon and were descibed in all too much detail the process of making shrunken heads. The museum contained one example of one such head from a small boy. There heads were made and kept by the family or if the person was killed by an enemy the head would be kept and worn around the neck as a trophy!

There were also specimens of jungle creatues such as an anaconda and massive tarantulas much bigger than my hand!!! Eww... we returned to Quito around 2pm and went straight home to get ready to go away for the weekend. As I have mentioned Quito is cold and the weather is unpredictable with lots of rain. It is also quite polluted and I feel with each walk to school I have brought myself one step closer to lung cancer, for some reason the cars and buses seem to emit a whole lot more black disgusting lingering smoke than they do in Australia.
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