Ecuador is names after the equator, which in Ecuador is simple to reach and a real money spinner. Sure you can also visit it in countries such as Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Brazil, Gabon and Sao Tome & Principe but it’s often well off the beaten path while in Ecuador, it’s about 20km from Quito on a good highway. It is a huge tourist attraction and we had a choice of three spots where we could stand on the actual line.
We actually chose to miss the best known monument called the Middle of the World, because it’s actually not on the equator! The original surveyors got it wrong, and only with GPS in the last few decades was the equatorial line established exactly. So this monument is a few hundred meters off. We went instead to the fascinating Inti Nan monument which claims to be located exactly on the equator. Here we saw an interesting museum including a huge blowpipe from the Amazon, anaconda skins and other exotica, and we did various experiments that can only be done on the equator, like balancing an egg on a nail, seeing water swirl down a plughole in one direction on the north side and then in the opposite direction on the south side and so on. A great spot for kids.
Later we visited another site at Guachala – so, really tourism has staked its claim to the Equator!
Other great day trip stops included Calderon, where figures as hard as ceramics are made out of bread dough – we bought some figures for Daniel and Eitan and they could not believe that something so strong could be made of bread , and we visited Otavalo, site of one of the biggest outdoor markets in South America. We missed the main market day which is Saturday and went midweek instead – and we loved it. Apparently it is very busy on the weekend, but we had it all to ourself, so we could browse and bargain as we wished. I was definitely ripped off by the first leather belt seller I met, but by the end of our stay I was far wiser, while Gal was very happy with her rings and great alpaca blanket that she bought. The produce market was very non touristy and fun.
By now we felt pretty much at home in Quito – we found a branch of Crepes and Waffles – an unlikely sounding name for a popular Colombian chain , and we absolutely loved it! We explored a supermarket and bought Aji to take home – aji is the local spicy sauce (we are big lovers of any hot sauce) and people told us that every family has its own aji recipe. The bottle we bought was made with chiles and tree tomatoes – no relative to tomatoes at all, and a fruit we had never seen before.
Of course, the fact that the official currency is the US Dollar makes Ecuador seem so much less foreign. The country produces its own coins, but all bills are American.
Quito is a great place to hang out for a few days – the city itself is really interesting, and the surrounding areas can keep you very busy. We didn’t get to the Cotopaxi volcano, where one can hike and horse ride, or stay in a real hacienda – we’ll have to keep that for next time. We did go to Mindo, where the cloud forest can be found, as well as butterflies, hummingbirds and more. I’ll be covering that in the next blog post.
I now plan great trips to Ecuador. For more info, click here.