Wednesday, May 15, 2013


The thought of going to Quito freaked me since the beginning since at least half the people I've met in Ecuador have had their phone/ camera robbed or just plain hated it. But going to Quito has to be done and my experience turned out to be a really good one. I'm just going to put it out there: I like Quito!

My Quito adventure started on the Friday morning when Tommy, Canadian Chris and I left Wisdom Forest at about 6am to catch the 6.30 bus from Tena to Quito. Chris and I wanted to go with Tommy since he knows some shortcut way that cuts about 1 hour of travel time and avoids the southern bus station, where most of the robberies seem to occur. 

As usual in Ecuador, the bus ride was through some stunning scenery including a perfect view of Cotapaxi since the weather was so good that day.

Here's a stolen photo from the internet of the volcano at her finest:

More on Cotapaxi later. It gets its own post.

Anyway, five hours later we got off the bus in a southern part of Quito called Cumbaya (my Lord, Cumbaya). We then got on a local bus that skirted around Quito arriving at some local bus station, and a short taxi ride from La Mariscal - the touristy area of Quito. 

We followed Tommy and stayed at this Hare Krishna place, which was beautiful and had amazing food. But $15 a night is too expensive for me to do a lot. I'm cheap now. I like $7 a night hostels, or at least <$10. Although it was really nice to have my own room after all the dorm sharing. And it was really quiet compared to the rest of the area, which is full of bars and restaurants.

As we got out of the taxi, Chris lost his wallet in the taxi. Obviously, this was quiet stressful so after cancelling his credit cards we found a pub that sold a litre of beer for $2.50 and sat there for a while until he felt better. Also, $2.50 for a litre of beer, how good is that?

The next day we visited the old town and visited the Basilica, which is stunning from the outside, but looks like every other church on the inside in my opinion. Dark, cold, nice stained glass windows.

Pope John Paul II:

Then we walked to the Igesia de la Compania de Jesus which is average from the outside:

But is gold on the inside. Literally!

You can't take any photos though so I stole these from the internet to give you an idea.

After visiting all the churches we went to another Hari Krishna place for lunch, which was cheap and awesome. I think it was Govindas, but there are three there together, so I'm not sure. Regardless, I'm so glad that the South Americans have found Krishna and built vegetarian restaurants everywhere.

Interestingly, walking around the old town we were offered drugs twice. I think this is because Tommy looks like Norwegian Jesus and Chris looks like a musician. No one ever wants to sell me drugs and I haven't been offered any since I stopped hanging around with them.

After lunch,Tommy left to go to Bogota and Chris and I went to the Botanical Gardens, which were beautiful. I still didn't have a camera at this point, so check out the link if you're interested in plants. On the way back to the hostel we priced cameras (since Chris knows about photography and I don't). The cheapest I could find was a point and shoot Cannon for $155. He reckons this would cost about $75 in the US, which means about $90 in Oz. I ended up buying it because I can't go the rest of my trip without a camera. However, I felt very ripped off and it's no wonder that pretty much everyone in Ecuador has a shit tv and cameras and phones get stolen. Electronics are such a rip off here.

The next day Chris had left and I was on my own. But not to worry, Ecuador is full of Canadians. Enter Canadian Collin who I met at breakfast. We went to the Mitad del Mundo (i.e. the equator) which is about 50 mins north of Quito. It would be less if the traffic wasn’t so shit.

Obligatory photo standing in both hemispheres:

There were some cool things there, but the best bit was up the road at the Museo Intinan. If you can only go to one, go to the museum since the monument was created before GPS and is out by a few metres. Whoops. Fail.

Southern hemisphere:

 Northern hemisphere:

At the museum, you can stand on the actual equator and they do cool experiments like the "egg balancing on a nail test" that only works on the equator:

This is like some American sobriety test on the equator line. And it's really hard cos the forces pull you off the line into both hemispheres!

They also have the water experiment that shows water draining clockwise in southern hemisphere, straight down on the equator line, and anti clockwise in northern hemisphere. Obviously, my first thought was of the Simpson's episode of Bart vs Australia where they are at the American Embassy and the Americans have some massive pump to make the water go anticlockwise.

There's also this strength test thing you do with hands and another person has try and force your fingers open. But equatorial forces mean you lose strength so it's really easy for the other person. You also weigh a kilo less, which is nice to know. And, in the summer and winter equinoxes nothing has a shadow for three minutes at midday. How cool is that? I love science.

There's also some indigenous stuff there including a shrunken head. Apparently, if you want to know what size your head would shrink down to, just make a fist.

I know you just did that!

Keeping with the Canadian theme, Colin and I headed back to Quito and went to el Maple for lunch. It is an awesome vegetarian restaurant and I highly recommend it. I ended up going here twice it was so good.

The next day I was on my own again so I did the hop on hop off bus tour, mostly cos I was too lazy to work out how to get to all the touristy places on my own. Plus, I liked getting the commentary in English on the bus. 

I feel I learnt a few things I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Like this street is the route of the seven crosses.

Seven crosses were placed outside the seven churches along the street, apparently to keep the locals in line. I don’t know how well that worked.

Here are a two of the crosses:

In the main square outside the Presidential Palace there was something official going on and cops and guards were everywhere.


All these official looking people were standing on the balcony. I wonder if President Correa is standing there? Let’s assume he is, for fun, and so I can say I’ve seen Ecuador’s president.

Part of the hop on hop off tour takes you up the hill to the Virgin statue, which is made from 7,000 pieces of aluminium apparently. As you know, I love my big religious statues! 

You can walk up, but word on the internet is there is a high risk of getting robbed somewhere near here:

Getting the bus therefore seemed like a good option given I’d only bought my overpriced new camera a day ago. Although there is a black market here somewhere so if you get robbed and wait an hour, you can probably buy it back. But then you would be supporting criminal activity, which is wrong.

The views from the top of the hill over Quito are spectacular. And you get 360 degree views as well, which is nice.

Overall I thought Quito had a good vibe and I did not feel particularly unsafe wandering around. That said, I did not wander around on my own at night cos that seems to be when a lot of the problems occur.

Julian Assange's new home?

Pros: Despite what people say Quito is nice and feels like a proper city, cheap beer, good internet, good veggie restaurants, can do cool equator stuff and have no shadow twice a year.

Cons: high risk of getting robbed, fucking cold at night, and traffic is rubbish.