Quito Sin
April 13, 2007

It was decided on the flight that I would do dinner with Kirk, Scott and four other people that they became friends with on their trip.

But that meant I still had an hour to wander the streets of the Mariscal Sucre area of Quito before meeting them.

I took an instant liking to this city. No, I haven’t seen much of it. But I know there is a lot more good stuff to come tomorrow. Since
tomorrow is my only full day, I am forgoing the Otavalo market so that I can roam around the Old Town and head out to the

We found a great tapas-style restaurant for dinner. This type of restaurant proved that we were now in a ‘city’. I think we all
craved a meal like this more than we even realized. The only thing that could have been better would be having wine with the
dinner. But that wasn’t to be…

We went to order bottles of wine for the table. The waiter then tried to explain something to us. We weren’t quite following. He
repeated what he had said, but slower. Then I caught a few keywords: pais, seco and eleccion. I now knew exactly what he was
getting at. The table was curious. I told them that the country is dry for the elections coming up. Of all weekends to be in Quito – a
city with great restaurants. And talk about finding out the hard way that the country of Ecuador goes dry before an election. I’m
not sure how many days before the election. But I can confirm that it’s at least two considering the election is on Sunday the 15th.
That means that this entire weekend – the only three days and two nights that I am out here – is alcohol-free. So not fair!

Proof that Friday the 13th does bring about bad luck…  

April 14, 2007

I can never do things the simple way. For example, going to the equator. There are tours galore that go out there. But nooooooo. I
had to do it ‘on my own’.

It all started when somebody gave me the wrong information of where to catch the bus for ‘Mitad del Mundo’. She told me to go to
the main bus terminal. Since she worked at an information center, I of course didn’t question this. I get there and everybody is
telling me that there are no buses for Mitad del Mundo out there. I wasn’t able to follow where they were telling me to go. Honestly,
by that point I was ready to throw in the equator towel.

Instead I walked to the old, historical part of Quito. So colonial, so beautiful. I wasn’t in search of anything particular. Just walking
up and down the pretty streets and enjoying the ornate buildings and churches. This really is one charming city. Guayaquil might
be the biggest city in Ecuador but this one has so much more to offer.

While I was in the main square, I found a little ‘tourist information’ booth. I decided I would give the ‘Search for the Equator’ one
more try. This guy knew his stuff. He showed me where to go (the
tram station – much different than the central bus terminal!)
and told me the stop where I could pick up the Mitad del Mundo bus. Progress was being made!

I eventually got out there. I saw the huge monument. This monument
says it is at the 0º mark…but it lies. Everybody has told me
this. They have warned me not to fall into the monument trap. I was well aware of this. I was asking everyone near the gates where
the equator was. They kept telling me it was
there (while pointing to the monument). I would then proceed to tell them that I
wanted to go to the real equator. They pointed me to the ticket office and told me that was it. So I then paid the money. Barely
realizing it, I just fell into the monument trap. Talk about being putty in their hands. So now I am inside this made-for-tourists
‘city’. It was almost as artificial as Disneyland. And in the background the monument towered over it. Now that I know I have been
taken by all of the people that worked here (as they must have known what I was talking about) I was just trying to find out where
the ‘other’ equator was. I was not getting anywhere. I was so frustrated – so frustrated that I was minutes away from hopping into
a bus back to Quito.
Finally a guy pointed me in the right direction. Another entry fee later, I was in the museum.

All I wanted to see were the experiments that can be done on the equator. I really didn’t have much of an interest in how the
indigenous people live. I know that makes me sound like a really horrible Westerner. But seriously. It seems like the story with
indigenous people is very similar across the board. Men here reigned supreme (of course). They got to sleep on the ‘beds’ (more like
hammocks) while the women and kids were left to sleep on the floor. There were some other practices they had that I now forget.
But in the middle of my tour we finally got to the equator. I was now standing in two hemispheres at one time. My left leg was
experiencing winter while my right leg was experiencing summer. I have to let you in on a little secret: both seasons felt pretty
much identical to me. Then we did the water experiment. I might be alone in this…but I really didn’t realize that physics plays such
a role at the equator. (While taking Physics in college, maybe I shouldn’t have slept as much as there is the possibility that we were
taught about this.) Anyway the girl started with the water experiment. This is where they put water into a sink on the equator. It
falls straight down the faucet with no mini-whirlpool whatsoever. Then done in the southern hemisphere, the whirlpool is clockwise;
in the northern hemisphere it is counter-clockwise. (If this stuff ever comes up in Bar Trivia, now you know!) Then it was time for
an experiment with an egg. There was a nail lined up with the equator. The theory is that the egg is supposed to stand straight up
with no problems while on the equator but not so much when it isn’t on the equator. I think a theory is all it is. How else can they
explain that they don’t have nails set up on the sides to see if the egg stands up when it’s not on the equator?
Plus when I tried to
make it stand up, it never did. And I tried for at least a few minutes. Then it was time to walk a straight line on the equator and
then again off of the equator. Balance is not really my forte but I walked a perfect line both times. Then I asked what was supposed
to happen. I guess there are forces at the equator which makes it difficult to walk a straight line. So then I tried it again. Another
perfect line was walked. She told me I must have really good equilibrium. Anybody who knows me…and how often I trip while
walking…knows that this is
not the case. But I didn’t really care – I was just happy that I found the equator to do these tests.

Now I could leave.

I found a bus and got in. While I was trying to figure out how to say my sentence in Spanish to ask where the bus was heading to,
the bus driver simply said “A Quito.” Perfect. It felt like a longer bus ride than before but I thought that was just because I was
really hungry. But then I noticed we were elevated looking down on Quito. Now I knew this was nothing I had seen before. I asked
the guy behind me. Turns out there were several different buses that one can take from Mitad del Mundo. It was pure luck that at
that moment we were lined up to exactly where I wanted to go (the Mariscal area where I was staying). I got off the bus and
walked straight for about 40 minutes and got to my ‘hood. My reward was a snack at the chocolate café that I had found last night –
hot chocolate and a chocolate pizza.

I spent my last night in Quito with Scott and Kirk. Such a treat. These guys are seriously so great. I met them at their hotel. If for
no other reason, it was because they weren’t adopting the ‘dry’ rule that the rest of the country was. The advantages of staying at a
nice hotel, huh? We had a bottle of wine. This was when it was decided that Scott and I should be partners on the Amazing Race. I
think we have what the viewing public wants. They would love us. Everybody would be pulling for us. We are really good at talking
about people we can’t stand. But the viewers wouldn’t think we were being bitchy – they would totally agree with everything we
were saying as they would be just as annoyed by the people we would be annoyed by. We agreed that we should keep it under
wraps that we both have a lot of traveling under our belts. But in actuality, we were talking about how perfect it would be since I
have found out the hard way (i.e. doing things on my own versus on tours) how to get to certain places in the world. We would have
an edge on others by having been to many of the places before. Kirk is a firm supporter of Team Scott and Jen. Ohhhh, it would be
so much fun!

After a great time, it was time to part ways. It was great to not really even say ‘good-bye’. It was definitely more of a ‘see you
later’. I just know I will see these guys again whether it’s in Vancouver (where they live) or San Francisco.

April 15, 2007

When I went outside this morning, I saw something I had yet to see in Quito: patches of blue sky. That was all it took. I got in a taxi
and told the cabbie to take me up to the teleferico. From what the locals say, it has been quite some time since anybody has had
reason to take the teleferico to the top of the hill. And they say that if it’s clear, you can’t afford to wait even a half-hour as that is all
the time it takes for all of the clouds/fog to roll in.

I got up to the top (4,100 meters). I definitely got a sense of the size of Quito when I was up there. There was a trail that I followed
for more views. And that was all the time it took for Quito to completely disappear. I was now looking at nothing but grayish-white
fog. I took the cue and made my way down. But I have to say that I was definitely happy that I was able to get up there and there
were no regrets at all. I got a good ten minutes of viewing pleasure.
Back to Ecuador.
In the Mariscal neighborhood.
Experiencing summer and winter at the equator.
On a street in the Old Town.