A Travellerspoint blog

September 2008

The middle of the globe

Spotting boobies in Ecuador


View MAP OF THE JOURNEY on AnnaMickus's travel map.

So we’re back in the mountains again after getting spoiled with the easily breathable air and the pleasant temperature. This time we’re in Quito, Ecuador’s capital at an altitude of 2811m. After getting used to the altitude again, recovering from a stomach flu and running back and forth to the hospital four times with the sea lion bite we were back in business. We did some sight-seeing here around Quito and then we did a couple of days’ touring south in the mountains. And now we’re back again. But not to worry; great adventures await us tomorrow again when we fly down to the rainforest.

So what have we been doing this past week? Well the first thing was to visit the small town of Papallacta that lays a couple of hours south east from here. We set off in terrible weather; it was raining cats and dogs and ice and the streets were flooded with water. So the destination was in a way perfect: when we got there we jumped into one the nice thermal pools with naturally hot water. It was quite relaxing.

Another day trip we did was to the Mitad del Mundo – the middle of the world, the equator. There was a great monument and a yellow line that marked the position of the equator. It was pretty cool; you could stand there with one foot on the southern hemisphere and the other one on the northern hemisphere. This place was where measurements were made in 1736 and it was thereby proven that it was the location of the equatorial line and that the world isn’t absolutely round but that it swells at the edges. These measurements also gave origins to the metric system. To be honest, the real equator isn’t exactly there, but about 240m from the monument (measured by GPS), so of course we had to visit the real line as well. There we saw a hoax demonstration of how the water spins to the right in the northern hemisphere, to the left in the southern one, and straight down right at the equator. Well it was a load of crap but it was funny anyway. All of us also got a certificate for managing to balance a raw egg on the top of a nail :).

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Bo is making a jump from the south side to the north

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The 'real' equator

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Our next trip was south to Latacunga, the capital of the Cotopaxi region. As it happened, the town happened to celebrate the festival Fiesta de la Mamá Negra, which is a celebration of the La Virgen de las Mercedes and lasts for two days. It is supposed to be a Christian festival but it has clearly a pagan indigenous influence with all its costumes, processions, street dancing and the amount of abundant amounts of alcohol flowing in the streets. We spent one night there watching some crazy parades where there were bands playing music and lots of dancing, drinking and singing people. Every once in a while Mama Negra rode past on a horse waving at the crowd and every once in a while somebody came by with a bottle of some unidentified strong alcoholic liquid and passed out cups to people standing around the parade. But the most interesting thing must have been the guys carrying huge grilled pigs on their backs. From the pigs were hanging countless bottles of various kinds of liquor. Madness.

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Our next stop was the Saquisilí Thursday market day with 8 plazas filled with indigenous people from remote villages selling or buying everything from straw hats to fruit to screaming pigs and goofy looking llamas. The most interesting market we saw was the animal market. We strolled around for some time looking at all the animals and the busy business going on. Here animals were sold just like apples and oranges on a fruit market. In one corner of the market there were screaming pigs, in another mooing cows, and in a third you could find silent llamas. A bit different than going to the supermarket and buying a piece of filet on a styrofoam plate covered with plastic.

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After the market we took a bus to Chugchilán, a small town to the west of Latacunga in the central highlands. The bus ride took forever on a really bumpy and very narrow road. At some points it was just a matter of millimetres should the tire of the bus stay on the road or go over the edge for a 100m plunge into emptiness. Not so much thanks to the crazy bus driver we arrived ”safely” in Chugchilán and walked straight to the ecolodge set on a marvellous place overlooking the Rio Toachi canyon. The views from there were stupendous. Here we spent a couple of days enjoying the views while eating cheese and drinking wine. And to saturate the needs of the golfer in the crowd, Bo, we did some out of the ordinary Frisbee golf in the slopes of the mountain. They claimed that it was the highest altitude Frisbee golf in the world! One more to our collection!

One evening we did something we haven’t done in 9 months: we went to the sauna! Believe it or not, the lodge had a really well made sauna that was heated with wood! We spent quite a time in there. Other people came and went, but we just sat there and enjoyed. The sauna was actually a mix of the Finnish sauna and some native Indian steam room, so in order to get into it you had to crawl through a tiny door.

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Enjoying wine and cheese

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On our way back to Quito we stopped to have a look at Laguna Quilotoa, a volcanic crater lake. The crater is 400m deep and at the bottom you can see the lake. In the distance we could also see the majestic volcano Cotopaxi with its snowy peak. With a height of 5897m it is Ecuador’s second highest peak. At the moment it is only slightly active, you can’t even see any smoke unless you climb up and stare down the crater. The volcano has erupted 3 times during the last 300 years every time of which it completely destroyed the town of Latacunga. They have built it back every time...

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Posted by AnnaMickus 16:01 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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