I had just gotten back from Europe in June and I was itching to travel again. Or in other words, I was suffering from Acute Travel withdrawal Syndrome. It somewhat similar to what a meth head feels like the first week of being sober. Fourth of July is a 4 day weekend for me. Tickets to any place in the US was astronomical and there literally is no point spending a 4 day weekend in LA, SF or SD – they are all crowded.
I’ve had Ecuador in mind for a while. Cheap-ish tickets plus visa waiver to Indian passports meant I was booked for 6 day trip to Quito.
United. I love United. More precisely, I love the stuff you can sometimes get away with on united.com. Flying back to Quito from LAX the easy route would be one stop via Panama City. Who would want to do that when you can also stop in Bogota and Mexico City.
Mitad Del Mundo
The Equator line actually runs along nine countries around the earth. If you are in Quito, you can put your feet on either side of the equator and be on both the hemispheres at the same time. The Mitad del Mundo complex is located just outside Quito and it is built or at least it’s supposed to be right at “the equator”. Actually, it is a tourist trap that looks like souvenir and handicrafts market built around a big monument. The fun fact is that the actual equator line is about 240m off the mark where the monument is.
The cool thing about the “real” equator museum is that you get a passport stamp. It is one of the few non-territorial passport stamps in the world (Machu Picchu has one and I am getting it soon). I have moved on from the Physics nerd days, but, some of the experiments they demonstrate there are pretty cool – like, how water drains straight down over the equator and it swirls to left / right on either sides etc.. I also got a certificate for balancing an egg on a nail, which you apparently can’t do anywhere other than on equator.
You can get to the Middle of the World monument either by bus or a taxi. The taxi will cost you around $15-20 from Mariscal neighborhood or the Old town Quito. I took the bus. It lacks the luxuries of the first world, but it is an experience that I am glad I experienced. Also if you are gonna attempt taking a bus, it’s good to have intermediate proficiency in Spanish.
Take any local bus that travels north to Ophelia station. Just ask the person who sells the bus ticket for Ophelia station and hop on the first one. When you arrive at Ophelia bus station just look for a bus with a big sign “Mitad del Mundo” on top of the windshield. They depart every five minutes and the ticket costs $0.40. Ride to Mitad del Mundo is roughly 30 minutes.
Teleferico is one of the highest city gondola rides in the world. You can just take the gondola up to upto 13450 ft and hang out in the restaurants and take in the views.
Or if you are stupid like me you can hike upto Pichincha. why stupid, you ask? It sits at almost 16000 ft. Climate is foggy and rainy to the most aprt of the day, oxygen is thinner at that altitude. I was at on the beach in Santa Barbar two days before this. And to top it all off, I did not have any hikign gear on me – hiking boots, water bladder, shell jacket, hiking pole. But then again, I am not know to take informed decisions. But, I am not also not the oen quit. I did it make it to the running out of breath.
I am a total sucker for small, European-y town centers. Old town Quito is just that and I totally went to town one afternoon walking aimlessly and taking in all the views.
…and that was my fourth of July weekend.
Some random points from this trip:
- Traveled to South America for the first time.
- Traveled to 3 continents in a 3-week window.
- Over the years I have stayed in a lot of hostels. But El Hostelito in Quito is one of my favorite. They have “pods” instead of dorm beds.
- Ecuador was country# 23 since last year when I decided to travel to 25 countries in a 12 month period (I turned 25). My 35th country overall.
- Met a lot of British in the hostel who were not happy with Brexit. Now I can relate to it after the clusterfuck that was US Presidential election
- Met a really inspiring long term travelerr, Andrea, who quit her job, packed a bag and has been traveling for 2 years now and has been to 5 continents. http://whereisandrea.com/
- Ate Guinea pig (cuy)