Breakfast being my favorite meal of the day, I couldn’t wait to get some soon.
So, I quickly dressed up and headed down to the cozy, comfy dining/kitchen room, where my oh-so-pleasant hostess was busy serving other guests with nice homely breakfast dishes. Nothing better to start a day with a good cup of green tea(also known as Te Verdad in Spanish) along with a hot piece of croissant and scrambled eggs(with lots of cheese and ham). I interacted with a few of the other guests and was happy to see that Quito attracts people from different parts of the world(most of who are heading or coming back from The Galapagos Islands). There were people from Canada, Singapore, Germany etc.
While I was on my 2nd cup of tea for the morning, I got talking to two really awesome lady backpackers from Canada- Molly and Jane. Both were friends since childhood and were teachers and had made it a point that every summer vacation(teachers get 2 months paid leave every year when the school is off for summer vacations..sighhh, I should have chosen teaching as my career) they would back pack to some or the other part of the world and do what they enjoyed the most:Travel. It’s funny how people from different backgrounds, different cultures, different countries can still bond well, if there is a common interest. In our case it was definitely our love for Travel.
They mentioned that they were planning to head to ‘Mital del Mundo’ aka Middle of the World today and that we should join them. For all who are not aware of what I am talking about. Mitad del Mundo is the imaginary(in this case it was the yellow) line which divides the earth in two parts i.e. in two hemispheres. Interesting right?
This was anyways on my things to do list, thanks to the many web pages and reviews I had read before coming to Quito, and thus thought ‘Why not?”. Plus it would work out economical as well, as our destination was a good 50 min taxi ride(costing about USD 25) away from our hotel. We did not need much convincing after that, and immediately rushed to freshen up and get ready to leave for our destination. 20 minutes later, we were all packed up and sitting in the cab headed to visit the line, about which we had read in our boring high school geography books- The EQUATOR. In fact by now you would have guessed the connection between ECUADOR and EQUATOR, and thus the origin of the name of the country.
In the midst of knowing about our Canadian friends, their travel plans ahead, their experiences and at the same time taking the beautiful ambiance during our drive, we soon reached our destination: MITAD DEL MUNDO. I couldn’t wait to check in on facebook. How cool would that be ;).
On the advice of few other tourists who also happened to be exploring the place, we decided to start with the main attraction and that was the Museo Intiñan or the Intiñan Solar Museum. The entry to this museum is for USD 4 and this comes along with a free guide(English or Spanish) who will explain everything about the museum. Totally worth the money.This museum has a beautiful collection of indigenous huts, weapons and artifacts used by the ‘indians'(another name for the indigenous people), shrunken heads, animal/reptile skins, depiction of the burial methods and most importantly, this is where you can see that bright RED line which according to researchers is the NEW and the REAL line dividing the earth in two parts. Here, your tour guide will make you do different types of fun activities to prove that this is actually the center of the earth and how the results for a particular action is different to the south of the line, then to the north and finally in the center of the line. Two words my friends: Mind Blowing..
How would you like to show that off to the airport immigrant officer next time you are travelling to another country. I imagine the conversation would be like this: “Here you go sir, this is my visa stamp for Indonesia…oops, am sorry that is for the middle of the earth. My fault…Here, this is the correct one“. Imagine that!!!!. Unfortunately, I wasn’t carrying my passport, so got it tattooed on my arm instead and have pledged never to take a bath, thus risking it getting erased :).
We then headed to our next destination: Ciudad de Mitad del Mundo, which is just a few steps away from the museum. There are various ticket options as per what you plan to do inside eg for just a walk around the city it is USD 2, if you want to visit the planetarium too then addition USD 1. We decided to skip the Planetarium and just bought the basic ticket. Once inside, the main attraction is the big monument with the sculpture of the earth on the top. This was the OLD line of equator as per researchers and scientists, but later down the years the same was corrected and changed. This monument still remains very popular, and you can see a lot of people getting funny yet interesting pictures clicked on the old equator line(Yellow in this case).
Since it was just a little after 2, we still almost had half of the day and decided to make most of it. And hence after a quick lunch of hot dogs, we decided to catch a bus from the bus stop near by and experience that kind of travel as well. The bus which was a direct one to the centro, takes a bit longer than the taxi as it stops a lot to pick up passengers; but is veryyyy cheap.And when I say cheap, I mean 40 cents cheap.So, if you are not in a hurry back home, go for it.
We reached the centro, Plaza Foch and then decided to take the trole aka trolley ride to the “Old Town”. This part of the town is the most famous in Quito and all guide books, websites etc will recommend it. And so do I. Just 25 cents from centro till Old town, the travel seems to get cheaper by the passing moment. STATUTORY WARNING: The trolley will be super duper crowded, especially during office hours and there will hardly be any place to stand. Also be extra careful about your belongings, because thefts are very common in this mode of travel.
“When something comes so Easy or Cheap,
Remember, there maybe a price you will pay which you
never accounted for.”
Anyways,thankfully we managed to reach our destination unharmed, untouched and unrobbed(Voila’ I discovered a new word ;)).
This part of the town is what makes Quito so special. As soon as you step in a lane, you feel the stark difference and immediately feel the history seeping into your veins. The Old Town is popular for many reasons. Few are listed below:
1) The buildings and architecture will immediately take you to different era.
2) There are many small, interesting shops and food carts you will find on your way. I suggest try all that you can, whether it is Choco Bananas, Galletas, Fresh Juices or Empanadas. They are yummy.
3) All the lanes in this part of the town are named after countries in Latin America. So you can literally reach Brazil from Chile in 5 min, and from Guayaquil to Venezuela in 7 min. 🙂
4) There are churches in literally every corner of every lane, and while all are beautiful and historic, I would recommend two: Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus and The Basilica.
5) In the Old town , right in the centre you will find the Plaza Grande, where at any time(especially on weekends) you will find a lot of activity to keep you busy. Magic shows, comedians, singers and various other artists performing for the crowd. Very good way to spend time and relax.
6) Right next to the Plaza Grande is the Presidencia de la República or the Palace of the Government. In fact on Monday mornings you can even catch a glimpse of the President, who comes to the roof and waves to the crowd. Interesting huh!
7) Lastly, it is here in the Old Town that in the evenings the beautiful La Rhonda lane comes alive. A number of bars, restaurants, cafes, shops with local artifacts etc are present in this lane and you can take a wonderful walk along the lane to admire all. Maybe even enjoy a nice meal and drinks if you may. After all, it is a HOLIDAY right :).
These are the reasons I feel this part is so special and worth visiting, and thus why it is always full of enthusiastic tourists just like us.
Of the two churches that I mentioned were must visit places, Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus is a beautiful ancient church and it’s speciality is that the interiors are completely made of gold.
Gold literally covers each and every corner of the church and the same is a sight that will be in your memory for a very long time.
Unfortunately, the church rules say- No Photography inside the premises and hence, I have no pictures to show for the beauty of this place. Guess you will have to go and see for yourself.
And saving the best for the last: The Basilica. The fact that I made a special endeavor to visit this place, is all thanks to my new friends- Jane and Molly. They had been to The Basilica a day before and were all praises for the beauty of the church. But what they mentioned stood apart was the fact that the church allowed you to climb right up till the top and at the final point the view is beyond description.
Well, this information was more than enough for me to be convinced that I have to go and see the much talked about beauty with my own eyes. “See it to believe it.”
So, off I went asking for directions for the Basilica, and once I was there, I immediately started looking for the stairs. At the
back of the main church is where you will find the stairs and will find a person seated to see the tickets. To climb up there is an entry fee of USD 4. Once the ticket was bought, I started climbing the Staircase to Heaven.
There are in all appx 350 stairs and as you climb higher, the level of climbing becomes tougher as the paths become narrower and the stairways become shakier. The first 100 steps will take you to a place where you can stand and look down at the mass taking place,
the priest giving sermons and the people praying with all their heart and soul. There is a terrace door, where you step out and you immediately get the whole view of the town. I initially thought that this was it. But then I decided to follow some people, and thankfully I did. Because this was just the ‘entree‘. Further walking a bit away, you find a shaky, swinging bridge connecting from one side of the church to the other.
You are suppose to cross over this bridge and then climb another 50 odd steps(circular, narrow and very spooky). In fact the steps are so narrow that only one way traffic can move. SO till the whole side which is climbing down finishes descending, one has to wait to climb.
After a painfully slow climb, I finally reached the top. Three words hit me instantly- So Worth It. The view was magnificent. It was like the city was painted and the painting was stuck on a wall for you to admire. Thankfully it being a clear sky day, everything was visible clearly. I was stunned with the beauty and kept standing and admiring for a good 15 minutes. After that time, I overheard some people saying the words ” Let’s go further up”. Further up?? There was more??
Apparently yes. Another 200 steps up you go, and you will cross the church clock, and further up you will reach the tower wings. Now I know why my friends told me that I must visit the place, to know what they were actually talking about. I was highhhh up. And I loved every bit of it. I couldn’t stop clicking pictures, so as to ensure that I capture HEAVEN for me to admire it down the years. Time stood still for the next 20 min and then it was time to climb down.( Sadly, there were no more steps to climb.) The climb down was way simpler, and once on the base I spent the next 10 minutes telling people that they must not miss the opportunity to go up in the fear of climbing all those steps.
Well, I had to do my share of spreading the word after all. For all you know, I would have made someone’s day, just like Jane and Molly made mine :).
After the wonderful climb, I spent some time in Plaza Grande, seeing artists perform and taking the energy all in and then decided to head back to the Plaza Foch for some late lunch/early dinner. I had heard and read great reviews about The Magic Bean restaurant and decided to give it a try.
Thank fully, I was not disappointed and the food was delicious. Just what I needed after the great day I had.
Tomorrow was another BIG day. Me and my husband were going to climb the famous- COTOPAXI volcano, which is the world’s second highest active volcano. So in order to save up all the energy I could for tomorrow, I decided to have an early night, as the day would start at 5.30 am tomorrow.
Keep reading to know more about my adventures in Cotopaxi.
Read more about Quito in my other blogs:
1)About Quito: Paradise between Volcanoes- Day 1
2)Sher-e-Punjab, Quito: Reminiscing India while in Ecuador
3)Hotel Posada Tambuca,Quito: Reasonable and Comfortable
4)The Magic Bean Restaurant, Quito: Relish every BITE.
5)About Quito: Paradise between Volcanoes- Day 3