Quito

I can't believe this trip is actually happening. I have been planning this (on and off) for the past 7 years. Almost going. Then deciding it was always just too expensive.
But this time. I'm going to do it.
Fully expecting this to be the best trip yet. High standard to live up to.
First stop – Bogota. As much as I love Colombia (see here: https://glitteringocean.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/the-colourful-maze/) I'm not staying this time. Just 4 hours at the airport.
We landed in Bogota at 2am. That's 2 hours EARLY. How is that even possible.
My next flight isn't until 8.20am. So I now have 6 hours. Exciting.
The airport was deserted. Nothing was open. I found a quiet spot and sat. For hours.
Then the next flight to Quito was delayed. Great. We ended up taking off around 9.30am.
Over the Andes. Green lumps across the land, steep canyons, rivers and small scattered towns. Several snow capped peaks appeared – 3 of them. The furthest away – Cotopaxi. The highest peak in Ecuador.

We landed at 11am. The city is far away and the only practical option is a taxi. Booking ahead was expensive. And at the taxi desk there were set prices, which makes life a lot easier. Get a voucher and the lady even walked me to the taxi! $26 to the old town.
The drive took an hour. The airport is new. It only opened in 2015 and is surrounded by mountains and fancy housing complexes.
As we approached the city, the coloured boxes houses cascading up the hills came into view. The main city is slightly in a valley, and all around you can see hills sides scattered with these houses.
I'm staying in the Historical Centre – a UNESCO site – narrow one way streets lined with shops and stalls overflowing onto the streets. Women dressed in traditional dress walking around selling oranges and avocados.
Quito is at 3,000m above sea level. Prime altitude sickness elevation. I was feeling short of breath – but perhaps paranoia from previous altitude experiences of being sick in Peru and Bolivia.
It took an hour to get to my hotel. Which was cute – a small courtyard, filled with plants and sofas. And the second floor with a balcony running all around the edge, looking down into the courtyard. It is a 19th century building and used to be a convent. It was only 11am, but luckily my room was ready, so I could shower and leave my things. Before going back outside to explore!
I'm staying just off Plaza San Francisco, which is sadly being dug up. The whole middle cordoned off, cranes and cement mixers busy at work. They are constructing a metro system across the city. This square would have been beautiful. Ecuador's oldest church on one edge, locals sitting chatting and views to the surrounding hills and church spires all around.
The old town is centred around 4 squares. With small streets lined with coloured buildings and balconies leading between each one. Plus over 100 churches scattered between.

I found myself on Plaza Grande. The largest of the squares. Surrounded by the largest church in the city and columned old buildings. And gardens, a fountain and a column in the centre. Completely full of people. Mango sellers. Shoe shiners. Coca tea. Ice cream. And several cafes lining the edges.
I got a bit lost trying to find La Ronda. A narrow street full of flowered balconies and flags. Each building is a restaurant and in the evenings this area is heaving with people. I was a bit early for that.
I found a supermarket – I love foreign supermarkets. And picked up some unusual fruits (they aren't unusual, I just don't commonly find them at home). A yellow pitaya – yellow are the best. A papaya, maracuya, guava and a naranjilla (this is like a very sour tomato and wasn't that good). I don't know why, but I just wasn't expecting to find fruits in Ecuador. But actually they had the same as Colombia (which makes sense as they are right next to each other…)
The real reason I'm stopping for a day in Quito – to visit the Middle of the World (Mitad del Mundo), where they have painted a line across the floor to represent the equator. Except that isn't really the equator. GPS says it's 250 yards away.
The equator is 22km north of the city and took well over an hour to reach – so much traffic.
There are two equator sites in Quito. One is a large monument which was constructed by the government on the site that was determined in 1736 by French explorers. However, this was later found to be incorrect. But it was too late – a large monument and line had already been set up here.
The Solar Inti Nan museum (museum is really the wrong word here) is supposedly located on the actual GPS equator. A woman took us around the different things they had set up here – a sundial, some old burial sites and artefacts from the Amazon tribes.
We went in a hut, constructed from mud walls and a wood roof. Inside was a stove area – this used to be a chicha bar (chicha is an alcohol made from fermented corn – and its not very nice). This hut is 125 years old, the walls and ceiling are original and still stained with black smoke.
There were also 'experiments' which they have set up to show how things work differently on the equator. For example, being able to balance an egg on a nail. You weigh about 1kg less. And a complete inability to walk in a straight line on the equator – it sounds ridiculous, but it was impossible. It felt like you were being pulled to each side. You are also weaker on the equator – demonstrated by trying to pull each other's arms down from above your head – so hard to resist when standing on the line. Apparently this is all to do with magnetic fields. It was fun.

From here, it was a 2 minute drive around the corner and we stopped off at the monument, just enough time to wander around the edge of it and look at a yellow line.
The drive back into the city seemed a bit quicker, but again there was so much traffic everywhere.
In an attempt to reduce congestion, they have introduced a rule whereby cars with certain number plates are not allowed onto the roads on certain days. I wonder if this means people simply have two cars?
Despite all the cars, there are a lot of buses. Bendy buses. Some 4 sections long. Crazy! Bus stops are raised platforms – almost like a train stop. And most were overflowing with people.
We got back into Quito around 6.30pm, as it was getting dark. It was a 15 minute walk back to my hotel and the demonstration on the main square was still ongoing!
A lot of the old buildings were all lit up – very pretty.
Before coming to Quito I was paranoid. I had read about bag slashing being common. People trying to rob you. General unfriendly-ness. And people saying they didn't like it. But I have found the complete opposite. I really loved it! I didn't feel unsafe at all and everyone was friendly.

It was very similar to Cusco in Peru, in terms of temperature, architecture, and local dress. Except this city is much bigger. And I didn't manage to find any craft markets. (I wasn't really here long enough!)
There are police everywhere. Literally every street. You cannot move for them. Apparently they are common because they are dependent on tourism – and if anything happens, that is potentially a large part of the economy destroyed.

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