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Gelukkige Verjaardag Mama!

Gelukkige Verjaardag Mama!

We are hoping that today is our last day in Quito. At breakfast we got chatting to an American/Australian couple. They are travelling for just a few weeks now but are planning a longer trip also. We swapped travel tales and information about Quito and the surrounding area. Our plans for the day were similar and we bumped into them again a couple of times during the day.

Our first stop was the equator. This about 20km north of Quito and they have built a small theme park to mark the spot. El Mitad del Mundo is a bit contrived. You pay $1.50 each to get in. There is a collection of shops and eateries surrounding the main equator monument. Running up to this is a red line painted on the floor which marks the north-south divide. We took a couple of photos before heading for the monument itself.

Here it costs another $3.50 each to get in. You can go up to the top so you can get views down onto the equator. There is not really much else to see at the top and it was also very windy and dusty. The way down takes you through a small museum giving information about different indigenous people in various parts of the country. There are lots, each seeming to inhabit only a very small area. Their traditional lifestyles are changing with the introduction of modern farming techniques and western clothes and culture. No doubt some of the benefits will be offset by the loss of traditional rites, customs and beliefs. We were set to send postcards with an equator post stamp but the post office was closed so there were no stamps and hence no postcards.

We then went on to the Inti Nan museum a couple of hundred metres up the road. This is, by global positioning satellite, the true equator (give or take half a degree or so to keep the US army happy - they do not want people to know the exact position of the equator as they can then accurately target US sites!). They talked a bit about the local people and how they had identified that this was the true equator long before European scientists came on the scene.

Here they did a couple of little experiments to show that this was the true equator. At the equator, water draining from a sink flows straight down. In one hemisphere it spins anticlockwise, in the other it goes clockwise. Only problem is that I cannot remember which way round it is and I cannot be bothered to think it through!! It is all to do with centrifugal forces and gravity. These are strongest at the poles and weakest at the equator. To demonstrate this the guide tried to pull our fingers apart. This was easier to do on the equator than just to either side. I think we both felt he just tried harder when he was not on the equator. The final experiment was to try and balance an egg on a nail. Neither of us could do it but the guide could.

Also at the museum they had a couple of typical houses. Made of bamboo and mud they were more spacious inside than I had expected. Even so they were still not large. Until the age of twelve, children sleep in the same bed as their parents. Twelve is the age at which they become adults. They go through a ceremony where they are given hallucinogenic drugs. This seems to be the process through which they determine what role they will have in the community such as farmer, warrior etc. There was also a little handicrafts shop. For the first time we saw a little demo of them spinning the yarn they use to make cloths and rugs. They also had a loom set up to show the weaving process. No patterns are made, the weaver simply visualises what they will do and gets going.

Looking down onto Quito

Heading back into Quito, we stopped off at the Teleferico and Parque Volcan. It is new, only three months old, so it is not yet in the guide books. There are parts that they are still building. As its name suggests it is built on Volcan Pinchincha. There is a small fair, go karts, lots of places to eat, a few gift shops but the main attraction is the cable car up to the top of the mountain. From being hot in the valley it was cold and windy at the top. We shared a car with one of the staff who pointed out some of the sights of Quito along the way. At the top there are paths to follow and the adventurous can keep going up to the crater.

The views of the city from here were incredible. Quito is a huge sprawling mass. Slap bang in the middle is the airport and we watched the planes take off and land. We thawed out in a cafe at the top looking out across the valley and seeing the clouds below us. When we headed back down we got the Teleferico bus back into the centre. They have really thought this through and have three of four different bus routes to make it easy for people to get to and from the amusement park.

Having had lunch at the Teleferico neither of us wanted a meal so we popped into the local supermarket to get bits for a picnic supper. Tomorrow is a hellishly early start so we wanted to be in bed by 8:00pm. By the time we had packed (it still takes Stef an hour to do his pack - aaarrrggghhh!) and had a sandwich it was already past 9:00pm before we got to bed.

Our last day in Ecuador has been totally touristy but really good fun. Overall we have enjoyed our stay in South America. We have generally met friendly people (both locals and other travellers) along the way and have been to some incredible places. Things I will not miss are men using any street corner as a public urinal, high altitude and having to put your used loo roll into a bin next to the loo rather than flushing it away!!