Can’t Quit Quito, Part 2

3

December 2, 2012 by jiejie768

Here’s the scoop from our second day in Quito (Monday, Nov. 26 — Happy Birthday, Heather and Marci!). Click here for Day 1.

The Mitad del Mundo is the faux-city built around Ecuador’s namesake — the Equator. It was surprisingly easy to get there on Quito’s public transportation and after an hour’s bus ride we spent the morning and early afternoon hopping back and forth from the Southern to Northern Hemisphere and back again. The official park dubbed Mitad del Mundo was formed more than 100 years ago and is the locale you’ll most likely find if you google Equator near Quito. It features a giant monument built by the French (not sure why, we didn’t go in that museum) and about 14-dozen stores selling llama sweaters, knick-knacks, and most importantly for my purposes, stickers.

For many years, this was believed to be the Middle of the World where the Equator marked the passage from North to South. Look closesly and you'll spot Meg on sojourn to our native Northern Hemisphere. Recently, however, the advent of GPS has led to another claim to Equatorial exactness just 200 meters to the north.

For many years, this was believed to be the Middle of the World where the Equator marked the passage from North to South. Look closesly and you’ll spot Meg on sojourn to our native Northern Hemisphere. Recently, however, the advent of GPS has led to another claim to Equatorial exactness just 200 meters to the north.

However, the fairly recent advent of GPS and like devices has led to an interesting occurrence — a second, smaller museum about 200 meters north of Mitad del Mundo claiming to be the actual, GPS-confirmed location of the Equator.

Here are Meg and I straddling the Equator at the longstanding monument built by the French at Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), or ...

Here are Meg and I straddling the Equator at the longstanding monument built by the French at Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), or …

... Here is us at the Equator (About 200 meters north of the previous photo). It's hard to know, but this one claims to be GPS accurate and apparently one of the visitors confirmed it with their own GPS.

… Here is us at the Equator (About 200 meters north of the previous photo). It’s hard to know, but this one claims to be GPS accurate and apparently one of the visitors confirmed it with their own GPS.

Having come all this way, we figured it best to cross our t’s and make sure we actually crossed the Equator, so we hiked up the road after a quick lunch. Though much smaller and tucked away off the road, the second location — Inti N(y)am — featured much more information and a guided tour complete with Equator games such as “Which Way Does the Water Spin,” “Balancing the Egg on the Nail,” and “Equatorial Sobriety Test.”

Legend has it you can balance an egg on the head of a nail at the Equator (because the gravity pulls the yolk straight to the bottom of the shell). Fact has it that I cannot, though our guide did pull it off.

Legend has it you can balance an egg on the head of a nail at the Equator (because the gravity pulls the yolk straight to the bottom of the shell). Fact has it that I cannot, though our guide did pull it off.

As for the water question, the guide had a portable basin and drained it directly over the equator (no vortex), about six feet south of the Equator (clockwise vortex at the drain) and six feet north of the Equator (counter-clockwise vortex). I’m still a little skeptical that there wasn’t some sort of trickery going on to make this work, but I saw what I saw and it spun differently, just ten feet apart, on either side of the Equator.

Later that day, we met up with Stephen and his uncle Bladi. Sadly, Stephen is currently enrolled in a rather rigorous first semester of dentistry school, so these two hours were all the time he had to spare during our first leg in Quito. Fortunately, Stephen has an impressive reservoir of historical knowledge when it comes to Quito and Ecuador at large and these two hours were both fun and informative. Stephen and Bladi drove us all over the historical center and filled us in on the history behind such locales as the governmental palace, and a handful of gorgeous churches. They also took us to the top of the Panecillo, which is a large hill that sits at what used to be the southern edge of Quito (nowadays Quito stretches for miles to south) and features a massive statue of the Virgin Mary who is looking out over (what used to be) all of Quito watching over its citizens.

Here we are with our excellent guide Stephen in front of the San Francisco Cathedral in downtown Quito. We only had a couple hours with him, but Stephen (Meg's former track athlete from Quincy where he was an exchange student last year), but the Ecuadorian native proved to have a deep reservoir of local historical knowledge.

Here we are with our excellent guide Stephen in front of the San Francisco Cathedral in downtown Quito. We only had a couple hours with him, but the Ecuadorian native (and Meg’s former track athlete from Quincy where he was an exchange student last year) proved to have a deep reservoir of local historical knowledge.

Here is a view looking north from the Virgin Mary statue on the Panecillo (see photo from Can't Quit Quito Day 1). The red circle is rough guess as to where our hostel sits. It was just west and down the hill from the basilica which is visible just left of the center of this photo.

Here is a view looking north from the Virgin Mary statue on the Panecillo (see photo from Can’t Quit Quito Day 1). The red circle is rough guess as to where our hostel sits. It was just west and down the hill from the basilica which is visible just left of the center of this photo.

Though Stephen’s knowledge and company were welcome, his most important contribution to our Ecuadorian experience came during a brief coffee break at Cafe Modelo near the government palace. It was there that he declared Meg and I had to try humitas and quimbolitos, two staples of the typical Ecuadorian fare. Both were fantastic. The humito is essentially a tamale, but without any filling, that tastes like the best piece of cornbread you’ve ever had. Quimbolitos are similar in appearance and texture to the humita but are a sweet treat laced with a few raisins. I can’t explain exactly what it tastes like, but it was delicious with just a hint of the humita’s savory overtones. We returned the next day and enjoyed another humita and a delicious taco-like creation featuring tomatoes, guacamole, melted cheese and oregano. If in Quito, Cafeteria Modelo is a can’t-miss stop.

The humita, a staple of Ecuadorian cuisine, quickly became a staple of our Ecuadorian mealtimes. Thanks for the intro, Stephen!

The humita, a staple of Ecuadorian cuisine, quickly became a staple of our Ecuadorian mealtimes. Thanks for the intro, Stephen!

Gringas are basically cheese quisedillas topped with guacamole, fresh tomatoes and basil. They are a delicious complement to humitas.

Gringas are basically cheese quisedillas topped with guacamole, fresh tomatoes and basil. They are a delicious complement to humitas.

After bidding good bye to Stephen and thanking Bladi for driving us all over town — he even got a parking ticket one of our stops — we decided it was time to hit the rooftop bar. I’d be lying if I said I had vivid memories of what followed, but we passed the rest of the evening sipping glasses of wine (Meg) and big bottles of Ecuadorian beer (Ryan) while conversing with our fellow lodgers. We met a couple from Oregon — a corn-maze designer and a women’s lacrosse coach (Pacific) — a handful of Australians (because you know, it was a hostel, far from Australia and it had beer) and nice couple who volunteered at the hostel (he was from Uruguay, she was from Denmark).

The view (and giant Pilsener's — Ecuatorianamente Refrescante) from the top of our hostel made for a lovely Monday evening.

The view (and giant Pilsener’s — Ecuatorianamente Refrescante) from the top of our hostel made for a lovely Monday evening.

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3 thoughts on “Can’t Quit Quito, Part 2

  1. […] here for Day 2 of our Quito adventure, and here for Day […]

  2. […] like to wish the amazing Tom Anderson (aka Dad) a wonderful birthday. Click here for Day One and here for Day Two from […]

  3. […] Friday started more or less the same as Thursday, though a little less frantic (the shower was still cold, but I got to eat my breakfast sitting down). The plan for the day was a trip to Wari and Quinua on the big yellow bus (which Ryan and I have done before) and then a city tour of Ayacucho. We got a pretty late start, traveling with such a large group (the CARE Peru team, the Brenneman-Silberlings, a film maker from CARE USA, and a Peruvian film crew), so the city tour got scrapped pretty early on. We spent the day in Wari and Quinua, while I translated from the open air roof of the moving bus. I’m going to say I did a good job, because the entire thing would have been in Spanish if I hadn’t been there, but with so many kids (two ) and cameras, I usually only had two or three people listening to me at a time. We stopped for lunch in Quinua, and I had another opportunity to talk to Amy and Brad, this time about politics and education. They did a lot of work on the Obama campaign and were interested in how voting we voted (the process, if not the selections) from here in Peru. We also talked quite a bit about charter schools, since their kids go to one, and we will be opening them in Washington soon. I also had the opportunity to talk to Kate, the film maker from CARE USA quite a bit. She was really interesting and I can’t wait to check out their youtube channel when the videos from this trip are posted. She was headed to Quito next, so I gave her a recommendation on where to eat humitas. […]

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