The drive from the farm to the capital Quito was about 2 hours, but en route, we stopped to check out the Middle of the World!
Ecuador, being positioned on the equator, has 2 famous sites– a “fake” equator line and a “real” equator line. The fake equator line was established in the 1700s when it was thought that the equator was identified at that very spot. They even built a monument there to mark it! Ofcourse, when the GPS was invented later on, it was discovered that the actual equator sat 700 meters away. They couldn’t move the monument over, so they kept it at the original spot where the equator line was thought to be, and now, tourists have TWO sites to visit! 🙂
We first visited Mitad del Mundo, where the original monument stood. Being the only tourists around, we were free to take all the pictures we wanted on that “fake” equator line!
We had lunch at one of the restaurants there, and I ordered a soup that I thought would be potato soup. It tasted weird to me as I gulped it down, so I had Alan look up the Spanish ingredients online. After he read the descriptions, he told me it was best I didn’t know what I ate. Ofcourse, being the curious person that I am, I insisted that he tell me, and was appalled to know I digested a number of animal organs in my body. 🤢
After walking through the monument, our driver took us to the real equator line. We found them closed to the public, but there was a private tour about to start and the guide was incredibly nice to allow us to join!
It was a guided tour where we learned about the equator and some of the myths around it. We had so much fun testing out some of the famous claims, like not being able to walk a straight line on the equator because you’re being pulled by the conflicting forces of the northern and southern hemispheres. Bridgette also tried her hand at balancing an egg on a nail right on the equator and succeeded!
At the end of the tour, we each got an actual stamp on our passports, which was pretty cool!
We arrived to Quito in the late afternoon and checked into our beautiful Airbnb, which belonged to the same owner as the farm stay. The spacious 3 bedroom home was way bigger than we needed, but it’s always nice to go with a host that you know and trust. Best part of the home was the WASHER AND DRYER that was available to us. This is no doubt my favorite luxury when traveling– getting to do the laundry! At home, I use to see it as “Ugh, I have to do laundry.” Once we started traveling, my mind shift totally changed to “Yay, I GET to do laundry!”
Our host introduced us to a sweet lady name Anita, who takes care of the elderlies on the floor above us. Anita was available to cook for us in the evening if we wanted, so we totally jumped on the offer since we are always yearning for home cooked food when traveling. During our stay, she cooked several delicious Ecuadorian meals for us, and we loved it!
I hadn’t planned much for this entire trip at all since I knew we had to remain flexible due to COVID, so every activity was pretty spontaneous. Even in Mindo, we would just ask David at the lodge if he could suggest some activities for the day and he’d make a few calls for us and before we knew it, a guide would show up to take us tubing, or canyoneering, etc. It actually felt kind of nice to not be in the planner role, and to surrender our plans to whatever was available that day. We took the same approach in Quito too. Our host recommended an English speaking guide and driver for us, and we just asked him to take us to places he felt we’d enjoy.
We rode the Teleferico, one of the highest aerial lifts of the world. Quito itself, as the world’s second highest capital city, already sits at a very high elevation of 9,350 feet. The Teleferico took us another 3,600 feet higher where we were rewarded with an astounding panoramic view of the city. If you’re willing to hike a little further up, which we did, there is a pair of swings that allow you to get some fantastic photos above the view!
For those who are prone to altitude sickness, you need to prepare yourself before heading up there. I definitely experienced a bit of a headache, and was consistently out of breath with every step that I took. In fact, it took me a few days to acclimated to the altitude before I truly felt normal again.
After the Teleferico, our driver dropped us off at old town where we strolled around a bit, but found most of the businesses to be closed due to COVID. We did get to visit the beautiful Basilica del Voto Nacional though!
We stopped by briefly at El Panecillo to see the statue of Virgen de Quito. Since it is perched high up on a steep hill, there is a beautiful view of Quito as well. We passed by a restaurant which offered an amazing view, so we took down the name and ended up going there for dinner on our last night in Quito.
There was a day when Alan stayed behind to work, and our guide drove Bridge and I to Otavalo, which is a famous indigenous marketplace about 2 hours from Quito. Unfortunately, when we arrived, we found the marketplace to be nearly empty. Since tourism was still virtually nonexistent then, many of the indigenous people decided not to open shop. We then detoured a bit to visit a crater lake nearby and took a short hike.
On one of our days there, we were craving Asian food pretty badly, so our guide recommended a Korean BBQ place for us to try. It turned out to be our favorite meal in Quito! Not sure if it was because we needed our Asian food fix so desperately or if it was truly that good, but I still have very fond memories of our meal there. 🙂
The rest of our days were relaxing and uneventful. Bridgette caught up with some of her classes and schoolwork at the Airbnb. Alan was able to do some work remotely. We had someone come do a COVID test for us before we headed to the Galapagos, and we also ventured out to a nearby mall for an afternoon snack and stroll! Overall, our time in Quito was a good balance of exploration and relaxation.