We slept in at Hostal de la Rabida since we had the whole day and hadn’t scheduled anything. I slept pretty well after the fireworks and music ended, but Linda did not.
Breakfast was served from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and was included with our package. We met Pablo, who took care of us. He also spoke and understood English better than the fellow that checked us in late last night.
After a decent little breakfast, we decided we needed to get out and do something to kill time. Some of the nature activities and sites I was curious about were just too far away for a day trip, so Pablo arranged for a local guide to pick us up and show us some of the tourist hot spots around Quito.
While waiting for our ride/guide, I took a few photos of the hotel.
Sitting area with fireplace.
Although Ecuador is on the equator, Quito sits at 9,350 feet, the second highest capital city in the world, so it can get a little chilly at night.
Bar and sitting room with books and a terminal for internet access (which was out of order, but there was Wi-Fi in the rooms).
Small restaurant which serves complimentary breakfast and is open for dinner.
There is a small courtyard with a couple of tables, and we watched a large hummingbird out there. Also, there is a resident rabbit named "Brownie" that is quite friendly.
In fact, when I went back to the room to get something, I left the door open slightly. Brownie came in behind me and jumped up on the bed.
Well allrighty then. :) Being an old farm boy, I just picked him up and set him back outside.
Ivan picked us up around 10:30, and we drove about 45 minutes north of Quito to the Middle of the World (Mitad del Mundo), the spot that is supposed to be at exactly 0 degrees latitude right on the equator. It's one of Quito's biggest tourist attractions.
The entrance fee was $7.50 per person. Oh, by the way, Ecuador is great for U.S. tourists because they converted their national currency from the Sucre to the U.S. Dollar in the year 2000. There is no need to exchange currency.
We entered and I took a photo of Linda in one of the colorful hummingbird chairs ....
... that line the walkway leading to the monument marking the equator.
The location of the equator was marked by the French Geodesic Mission in 1736, and a 10-meter monument was built here 200 years later. In 1979, construction began on the current monument which is three times the size of the old one. Unfortunately, though thousands of people come here and have their pictures taken straddling the equator (the following photo shows us taking part with a little kiss across the line on the west side of the monument), ....
it is now known that the equator actually runs about 800 feet north of this spot.
We went up inside the monument (there is an elevator and stairs) and took photos looking down on the little cultural "city" and out at the surrounding mountains.
There are museums on site, a planetarium, shops to pick up locally-made items, restaurants, a replica bull ring, and pretty much anything to satisfy tourists. As we walked by one of the restaurants, we noticed an animal being roasted on a spit.
A young man came out, and we inquired. Turns out it is roasted guinea pig, (called cuy, pronounced "kwee"), a traditional entree in the Andean region of South America. It wasn't quite ready or we would have tried a sample.
Mitad del Mundo is the type of touristy spot we would normally avoid in the U.S., but the drive gave us a chance to see more of the city and brush up on our Spanish by reading street signs, business signs, and billboards.
On the way back toward downtown Quito, we stopped at a small local place for empanadas and ice cream.
We treated Ivan, and the empanadas were very good; the ice cream ... not so much.
I was liking the prices. At the Middle of the World, we paid a dollar for two bottled waters, which would have probably cost us about six bucks at a tourist attraction in the U.S. And our little snack with ice cream for three was only $8.
We continued on. Being a Saturday, there wasn’t too much traffic in the city, but Ivan said it’s a nightmare on the weekdays. As the day went on, there was more and more traffic and the smog and fumes became more and more evident. We passed street vendors selling just about everything you could want, and there was graffiti (much of it very artistic) on just about every blank wall.
Ivan asked if we wanted to stop at the Quito aerial tram - Teleferico. The morning clouds on the mountain had cleared a little, so why not. We paid the $8.50 per person fee and hopped on one of the cars (there was no waiting).
We got some great views of the city amongst the hills on the way up, ....
but the clouds rolled in again before we could complete the 4,000-foot climb to the top at almost 13,400 feet. This was our view the last part of our trip up and the first part of our trip down.
We could see nothing at the top. Oh well.
On the way down, we noticed tram cars with bicycles going up.
You can rent mountain bikes, take them up on the tram, and then ride down the mountain on the switchbacks. I saw a couple of people fall off their bikes on the way down - no thank you.
I took one last photo of the city as we got farther down.
We didn't get the full, spectacular view of the city and all the mountains from the top, but we sure got some perspective on how Quito fills in all the valleys and hillsides. Quito is much larger than I expected with 2.6 million people. Ecuador's population is almost 16 million, and Quito is the second largest city behind Guayaquil.
From the tram, Ivan took us into Old Town Quito, the historic part of the city. Unfortunately, it started to rain heavily. Still, we visited El Panecillo (Bread Loaf Hill) and took a few photos of the 150-foot aluminum statue - La Virgin del Panecillo.
Next, we parked in the middle of Old Town - glad we had a guide - and walked in the rain to the La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus). We arrived late and they were no longer giving tours, but they did allow us to come inside and take a few photos.
Visiting churches, cathedrals, and basilicas isn't really our thing, but I have to admit it was a sight to behold.
We drove by the huge Old Town landmark, the Basílica del Voto Nacional, which is the "largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas" (whatever that means). We also drove by Independence Square, home to the Presidential Palace and the Archbishop's Palace. It was still raining, and we didn't feel like getting out to explore or take pictures.
Back at our hotel, we paid Ivan for his services ($70 per person for the half day private tour), got showers, and decided to just go to the hotel restaurant for dinner.
Before dinner, we sat around the fire in the hotel lobby and met a couple from California. We chatted with them for quite a while as they were wrapping up their tour of South America. We also met a couple from Australia that will be heading to the Galapagos tomorrow as well. We all had similar tastes in travel and exploration, although we were the oldest of the group, and it was nice meeting everyone.
At dinner, we were the only patrons. We ordered two versions of sea bass, and Linda had a glass of wine. The tasty entrees were only $12 each including tax and tip, and they would have been double that in the U.S.
That pretty much ended our day in Quito. We saw a lot of the city and accomplished the goal of killing time as we prepared for our highly anticipated transfer to the Galapagos Islands.
Tomorrow, we fly out early and have to get up at 4:30 in order to be ready for our 5:00 a.m. transfer to the airport. Perhaps we should have forgone the tour of the city and just stayed at the hotel near the airport. Oh well, we have a few memories from Quito, and we can sleep on the plane. Let the real adventure begin. :)