Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Quito - it's got altitude

The thing about cities is that they get a bit samey. Quito is pretty by night, the old town has plenty of colonial old houses, more churches than you can shake a catholic at, and some really quite dull museums (museum of money anyone?), but we didn't find enough stand out features to make it comparable with the other capitals we've seen.

It does however have altitude. At 2850 metres, you have to move slowly, eat little and often and knock the booze on the head.  As Quito is dry every Sunday (to try and get people to turn up to work on a Monday) that side of things was taken care of for us. We walked the old town, perused the markets and watched some dancing in a plaza before heading back to our hostel for Sunday night curry. 

The next day we got a couple of local buses to Mittel de Munde (middle of the world) to see the equator line.  Being on the exact line makes no difference to anything (the effects are the same roughly 10k either side) but it makes for a novel tourist attraction and plenty of cod-science.  As such we (along with our dorm mate Louie) marvelled at our ability to balance an egg on a nail (the yolk centres on the equator line making this possible), teetered along a painted line with our eyes closed (no idea what this was meant to prove but was funny watching people be very earnest about the powers of the equator), and posed for the mandatory 'we're at the equator' shot.  

There was also a much underplayed museum of Ecuadorian culture where they showed us shrunken human heads, and gave us a banana. Never worked out the relevance of the latter. 

The bus back meant we'd spent a massive $1.20 between us on travel ($40 if you take the package tour offered from the hostels to see exactly get same. Not sure if you get 2 bananas though for extra value). Grabbed our packs, and shared a cab with 2 Finnish travellers to the bus station (much small talk about The Killing was had). 

3.5 hours bus travel South and we arrived in Banos - a small town nestled between active volcanos, famed for its thermal baths and extreme sports.  It's a tourist hotspot for Ecuadorians and gringos alike so with much glee we found many cheap restaurants and went for a pizza & a litre of red wine for $12. 

Given we'd been ok in other altitudey venues the sickness came as a surprise! I put the headache down to booze and set off up the side of a volcano In order to peer at a much bigger volcano. About 30 mins in I got tunnel-vision and had to sit on the floor while it passed. Fearing a migraine we turned back and started descending at which point I lost depth perception. Probably very funny to watch as I took giant steps to get down tiny inclines and fell on my arse several times but it was the longest and most stomach churning stroll I've ever had.

2 days in bed, massive amounts of water, ibuprofen, no booze or coffee and I could get to the loo and back without falling over and everything. 

Fixed, we went walking up hills and cross rivers as we'd originally planned.  The cloud was too low to see the volcanic action but we still endured the night time disco bus up to a viewing point in the hope it might clear. It didn't, but on the upside the sound system failed so we were spared the ear splitting disco beats along the way.

Rested, far more respectful of the powers of altitude and with a huge amount of growing excitement we headed back to Quito to a swanky hotel for the start of our galapagos trip.  

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