Day 2 – 30.10.2009
I woke up around 4 a.m. The jetlag is a killer. Last night I went to sleep at 19:30. When I opened my eyes it was still pitch dark outside. So I stayed in bed staring at the ceiling for another couple of hours.
At 6:30 I decided it was enough. I woke Tudor up and we had a wonderful breakfast: coffee with milk, fresh mango juice, scrambled eggs, toast, butter and jam and a banana on top of everything.
After that we took a taxi and went a few kilometers out of town to “Mitad del Mundo” – the middle of the world.
All the tourists come here to see the orange line drawn where the Equator is supposed to be. (It’s not actually there. It’s about 100m away).
When we decided to come here, we promised ourselves that we would stay clear of the touristy sites.. but now we’re drawn to it like a moth to a flame. But it’s the Equator we’re talking about.. so we’re allowed.
It’s a bit like Disneyland. You can easily spend a whole day here and not get bored. There are stylish cafés, restaurants and a lot of souvenir shops (where bargaining will get you a considerable discount), a planetarium, a museum, nice alleys with green lawn and comfortable benches, and traditional music to complete the atmosphere.
We arrived very early. We were already there at 9 a.m. when the whole thing opened its gates. By the time the tourist crowds began to arrive, we were finished and ready to go back to Quito. We had the place to ourselves, along with some locals and some school children.
Naturally we took a lot of pictures with the orange line: a foot in each hemisphere, lying down, standing, balancing on the line, etc. Tudor says he feels exactly the same in both hemispheres. Strange!
Now we’re sitting at a nice café basking in the warm sun. It’s pleasant, considering it’s almost November! I just spotted a humming bird! It’s tiny, cute, and metallic blue in color. It feeds from a sort of artificial flower filled with sugar-water, designed for them. It’s a feast!
When we returned to Quito, we decided to save the 15 dollars taxi fare, so we took a bus. Quito is huge! It has over 3 million inhabitants. It took 40 minutes to get to Mitad del Mundo by taxi, and cost us a small fortune.
The bus ride back was a mere $0,40 per person. But it didn’t work out as smoothly. Here’s what happened.
So we took the cheap bus. We paid the ticket inside the bus and we made our way to a seat. I sat right next to the driver. The cabin was very colorful. Flowers lined the edge of the windshield, while the floor and dashboard were covered by red carpets. Between us was a bowl of change and a bunch of Andean music CDs. The driver was looked after by a plastic angel hanging above our heads.
The bus stops anywhere. But it never really stops, it slows down so people can jump on and off. A woman holds her head out the window and occasionally yells out the destination of the bus.
We jumped off right at the edge of Quito in a huge bus station which was the end of the line. Tudor tried to ask a guard in Spanish what bus we should take to get to our hotel. The guard speaks, Tudor nods and I smile stupidly. We can’t understand him. Tudor asks another lady. She speaks, and I smile again. Tudor says he may have understood about 10% of what the nice lady explained.
To get a third opinion, Tudor sends me to ask an Asian tourist who seems to be less lost than we are. I refuse. Maybe it’s because I want to be able to blame him in case things go wrong.
Tudor sulks. He tells me that I don’t get involved, and I remind him how he was bragging about how well he can speak Spanish before we left.
We pick a random bus and wait in line. All buses go somewhere in Quito. They form lines here to get on the bus. When it’s full, you just wait for the next one.
We get on the bus without a ticket (we thought we would pay inside the bus) and ride for about half an hour. Tudor is persistent and asks another lady where we should get off. “Where I get off” she says. When we arrive she also says that we should watch our valuables. At first I didn’t understand why she would say that. But I soon realize that we’re nowhere near our hotel. We give up. We take a taxi and pay 2$.
Speaking to the taxi driver, we finally understand our error. All this time we were asking how to get to Mariscal area (it’s in the friggin’ Lonely Planet book!), and it turns out there is no Mariscal area. Mariscal is just a big boulevard in a different part of town.
The second error was a confusion of the words “albergues” and “hostels”. We were asking for “albergues” and it turns out that it means a completely different thing: shelter for the homeless. That’s why we never got the right directions!
All and all it was a nice day today, in spite of the long bus ride. Now we’re having an evening cup of coffee. It’s 17:45 and it’s starting to get dark.
On top of my bad cold, now my face is sun burnt and my lips are cracked.
Before dinner we try to draw some early conclusions. We like it here. The city still impresses me. Its cleanliness and tidiness are amazing. And the plants are unlike what I’m used to.
Halloween is just around the corner. All the bars and cafes are decorated in accordance. It coincides with the Ecuadorian traditional holiday – Dia de los Difuntos (Day of the Dead), which is celebrated on Nov 1 and 2.
We will be in Otavalo then.
For dinner we had a salad, Tudor had a Schnitzel with fries (!!!), beer and coke. $15 total.