Friday, November 6, 2015

Straddling The Equator At The Middle Of The World.......In Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador sits at close to 10,000 feet above sea level which makes it the highest capital city in the world.  Add to that the hilly terrain that covers much of Quito as well as most of Ecuador and it makes for a great workout.

We joined several other gringos for breakfast in the little dining room of the hostel. Since space was lacking we invited ourselves to sit with two gringo ladies traveling together.  Soon another couple entered the room who were visiting from Oregon.  Our menu for the morning was scrambled eggs, sliced cheese, croissants, juice and coffee.

Our plan for the morning was to take a FREE walking tour around the city and invited several of the other gringos to join us.  Several blocks away was a place called Community Hostel where we had to go to meet our walking group. Our guide was a young man with a difficult name so it was shortened to OB or OP?

                                                            Our Walking Group In Quito
                                       Our Guide OB                                                     

Our large group headed down the street for several blocks where he took us through a traditional market. Like so many other markets we'd seen in Ecuador this was much of the same.  Produce, handicrafts, other food items, and plenty of places to eat too.  Since this was Monday we would be treated to a special event that happens every week.

The Changing Of The Guard At The Presidential Palace

Every Monday in Quito at 11am the Presidential Palace comes alive with pomp and circumstance as the changing of the guard takes place. Dressed in bright blue uniforms with gold embellishments and tall hats, the guards look like something out of a fairy tale.  Perched high above the plaza hundreds of them stand erect at attention waiting for their shift to end so that they can go home. These special guards are hand picked from the military and serve for one week at a time guarding the palace.  The current President of Ecuador Rafael Correa has chosen NOT to live at the palace since several other presidents have been killed in front of the building. So while we didn't see the president we did see the parade of guards some on horseback, military, orchestra and color guards process in and around the plaza.  The flag of Ecuador is raised while the national anthem is played and sung by the locals who stand and salute.  It was a grand spectacle to behold and something on my must see list of things to see!  But I did however forget about it so it was just perfect that we chose to do the walking tour on a Monday and happened to catch a viewing of this. And as chance would have it an acquaintance in Panama posted on social media that she was in Quito a few weeks prior to our visit and found this walking tour.  Thankfully she mentioned it online and we were able to take advantage of it. Our group included people from Canada, US, Japan, Australia, Holland, and Germany just to name a few.
The Presidential palace is owned by the people of Ecuador and therefore is OPEN to the public for tours.  We did try to catch a tour of the palace on our last day in Quito but it was too late for us to attend so we had to pass.

Those Tiny Little Things Are Guards

Entering On Horseback With Police Protection
A Better View

Notice The Military Behind The Guards
Aren't They Cute!
Raising The Flag As The Band Played
 The National Anthem Of Ecuador

Our guide spent about three hours walking us around the city pointing out many interesting things. We parted ways with OB around 1:30 just in time for some lunch.  Ecuador is known for having a menu of the day for lunch which is called, "almorzar," or lunch. Typically these meals have a set price of $2.00 to $3.50 and include soup, juice, rice, potatoes and some type of meat. Ours this day had chicken soup with rice, grilled chicken with rice and French fries since Ecuadorians apparently love double carbs.  It also included a salad with avocado and juice.  Since they were celebrating Day of the Dead we were given a special drink called, "colada morada.," This is a purple thick corn drink made with fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple and sweetened with cane sugar called panela. It's served warm and usually alongside bread in the shape of children, another way to remember those that have passed on.

Around The Hood

Local Women.....Is She Going To A Pajama Party?
No Walmarts In Ecuador So She Can't Be Going There

Another Church

The Art School Of Quito Made These Statues
Real Blood Was Mixed With Paint For A More Realistic And Lasting Look

Crypt Under The Church Is Only Opened One Day A Year
And We Just Happened To Be There On That Day
Day Of The Dead

More Views Of Church

Golden Touches

Local People

Stopped At A Candy Store

Strange Sculpture

At 2:30 we headed back over to Community Hostel where we met up with a smaller group for our next journey.  Since Ecuador in Spanish means "equator" a visit to Medio del Mundo, or Middle of the World was a MUST.
We Made It To The Equator
Standing On The Equator....Middle Of The World

A rather nice van bussed seven of us to the town which bears the same name.  There we met up with our local guide that would show us around.  Here we stood on the belly of the earth, the bulge or equator, which is closer to the sun that any other point in the world. At 00°-00"Latitude we were able to straddle the equator and learn about some unusual happening that occur only here. I remember hearing about how water flows in one direction in the northern hemisphere and the other way in the southern, but was that really true?

Straddling The Equator.....How Cool Is This!

The English Side Of The Sign
I Have One Foot In The Southern Hemisphere And One Foot In The Northern Hemisphere

With a sink, a plug and a bucket of water our guide demonstrated water draining on one side of the equator, then moved it to the other side.  On either side it DID drain in opposite directions and finally ON the equator the water ran straight down the drain. Then he showed us how he could balance an egg on its end and challenged everyone in the group to try. It still wasn't easy and only one women in the group was able to do so and was awarded a certificate for her accomplishments.

Balance is supposedly also effected at the equator and we were all challenged to walk a straight line with our eyes closed.  Whether at the equator or anywhere else in the world it was a challenge for me.
But it was VERY COOL to straddle the equator line and stand at the middle of the world in Ecuador!

Trying To Balance An Egg On The Equator

Trying To Walk A Straight Line.....Not Even Close

We were dropped off back in Quito around 5pm and made a quick stop back at our hostel before heading out for the evening. One stop along our walking tour was an area of the city called, "La Ronda."  Considered to be the Bohemian section of the city we headed over there for a closer look. While it didn't feel Bohemian to me it was a small touristy strip of restaurants and shops geared toward tourists.  Many of the food places features typical Ecuadorian food with loud music too.  After walking around we settled in a quieter restaurant where we ordered a fried fish meal.  What we received were six breaded balls of fish alongside a few fries and a salad for $5.50. With it we enjoyed some coffee and watched the people go by.

"La Ronda"......Dressed Up For Tourists

This Creepy Guy Kept Calling Me Over

More Costumes

A Night Photo
Fried Fish Balls, Rice, Fries And Salad
Ecuadorians LOVE Carbs And Sugar

Because we ate lightly we had room to enjoy one of the famous foods of the city called, "empanadas de viento."  This humongous version of an empanada is filled with cheese and sprinkled with a generous dosing of sugar.  To me it was more like a Mexican buñelo that we'd buy in Texas which was a fried tortilla sprinkled with sugar, only a much larger version. This large sucker set us back $5 and was so huge that the two of us didn't even finish the whole thing.

This Sucker Was Bigger Than A Large Pizza
A Little Fried Dough Anyone?

After stuffing our bellies with fried stuff we headed up and down the hills as we made our way back to the hostel.  It was another enjoyable but tiring day of exploring Quito, Ecuador......along the gringo trail.

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