Day 3 - Quito. Went to visit the Equator! Yup, that´s right!
Woke up to a lovely sunny day.. had a very civilized breakfast on the terrace and met an Australian guy called Daniel who has been working on an ecological Andean bear reserve for the last 4 months, helping track the movements and number of Andean bears left in Ecuador - apparantly there aren´t many left, sometimes local people in the countryside (´campo´ to you Spanish speaking folks!) have taken them in as pets or if they are very poor (which can easily be the case) and they havent had meat for a long time, they capture and kill them for their families to eat...so a bit of a sorry state of affairs all round! Add to that the darn WWF (World Wildlife Fund - not be confused with the World Wrestling Foundation!) doesnt seem to care too much for the Andean bears - too much bloomin´ money and attention going to those pandas - Dominique and I said we would do all we could to promote the Andean bears - down with the pandas we say, they have had more than enough attention over the years. If you are interested in donating or just learning more, go to the following site - http://www.andeanbear.org. We promised Daniel we would get the word out!!!
So - today we are going to the equator - yup , that is correct. The one and only - but no, that is not true! There are actually 2 equators, but before i go into that i have to tell you about the most boring volcano crater we climbed to see. The crater is called Pululahua and it is about 5km from Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world AKA the equator!). Pululahua is a massive ancient volcanic crater where apparantly the views are "fantastic" and you can hike inside the crater if you are really excited. Sorry, but it was very boring - first boring thing on my trip...so dont listen to Lonely Planet and dont go!
So we hop, skipped and jumped it back to where all the action was - the equator (s)!!! Mitad del Mundo (the fake equator) is about 22km from Quito and it took us 3 buses to get there. A French expedition back in 1736 led by Charles-Marie de La Comdamine apparantly took measurements at the spot marked by the landmark that it is in fact the location of the Equator. Or so they thought - oh dear - they were wrong! Please review the "fake" shot first...
Recently with the advent of technology - thank god for GPS!! - the truth came out that the real equator is actually about 250 metres away - so of course we had to go visit the real thing!
That was wayyyy better than the Disneyland style buildings next door. The real equator is called the Museo Solar Inti Ñan. It has fantastic exhibits of astronomical geography and some other fun stuff - who knew water flows into the plug in the sink clockwise on one side of the equator/world, anti-clockwise on the other AND straight down on the equator!! AND can you balance an egg on a nail - you can on the equator. There were some other brilliant sights e.g. some shrunken heads with details on how you too can do this at home, a challenging "blow a poisonous dart through a very long pipe" contest which i proudly managed to do first time around - please review the impressive pic!
After all that excitement, we had to catch the bus back to Quito ASAP to pick up our laundry (yes the glamourous life of travelers - with smelly clothes!). Ventured out to "gringo alley" as it is fondly called, for a fantastic Indian dinner which cost a whopping $3.50 for a starter, main course and gigantic beer (i hear you gasp, its true, i have had to succumb to the lowest of the low - well, i cant always get my blue bols and fresh orange or stoli raspberry, 7up and a splash of cranberry at some of the establishments we visit so its beer (but only in dire circumstances!). After dinner, we were feeling flush so checked out a funky bar called Sutra - really quite hip and happening (so we had to leave quickly as we were wearing our hiking boots!). No armed guards at this place - dont know if that was good or bad - but we had a good time, listened to some great music then headed back to the ranch aka hostel to get ready for our next adventure to Chugchulan... will talk soon!!!!