November 3, 2011
11/3/11 - 11/4/11
Posted by Tony.Ruby
Archived in USA
November 2, 2011
11/2/11 - 11/3/11
We can’t tell you how good it feels to wake up in a big soft bed and have a nice hot shower after a trip to the Amazon! After breakfast we decided to head over to the Mitad del Mundo monument of the official equatorial line. As most of you know we are “thrifty” travelers and if there’s a local bus going in the direction “we aint takin no taxi!”. It is fairly easy to get to, just look for the bus marked “Mitad del Mundo and if you’re white then people pretty much know where you’re going. The total cost is around $1 for two people so try not to complain if you have to stand or sit on the floor!
We arrived at the monument, got our passes and started shooting photos like all the other tourists. Take one of me standing over the line, kissing over the line, and pointing at the 0’0’0’ sign, you know the usual stuff. It didn’t take long before Ruby was drawn into a restaurant by the smell of amazing food. We sat at a table and noticed a young girl and her grandmother looking for a seat. Being the kind people we are (and good looking I might add) we decided to offer the two extra seats at our table of 4 to them. We had a very yummy lunch complete with a pitcher of sangria. We made some new friends Juliana and her grandmother Olga who live in Cordoba, Argentina. Ruby loved their Argentinean Spanish accents and had fun trying to practice her own. After lunch they invited us to visit and stay with them in Argentina . . . we warned them not to offer because you never know we might take them up on the offer!
A lot of people don’t know this but the official GPS certified equatorial line is actually a short walk (about 200 meters) up the road at a small museum called the Museo Inti-Nan. It cost around $6 p.p. and included a tour explaining a bit about the location, the different tribes in Ecuador/Peru, how to make a shrunken head, and of course the physical effects of being at the equator. They did lots of experiments but our favorite had to be “the egg on a nail” that we originally saw on Andrew Zimmern’s TV show Bizarre Food. The theory is that there is more of a downward force of gravity at this location that allows you to balance something round on a very small surface, like say an egg on a nail. This is definitely NOT easy . . . we thought that it would be from the TV show. We both gave it a try without any luck and we had to leave before anyone in our group could do it.
Of course, Tony is extremely competitive and he couldn’t even focus for the rest of the tour—all he could talk about was going back and trying one more time! He was determined to be the egg master of the equator. After the tour ended he went back with the determined look of a boxer going back into the ring! He even had an old man cheering him on saying “you can do it” and “be the egg”! After a few tries Tony did balance an egg on a nail, and we have the photos and the Egg Master paperwork to prove it!! Just look at the looks of awe on the faces of the people in the background
We had a beautiful ride home along a ridgeline, admiring the volcano Cotopaxi looming over the entire city of Quito. It was so beautiful . . . next time we come to Ecuador, we’re definitely going there. We were so distracted by the view that we missed our stop and ended up in Old Town. No big deal, it was during sunset so we enjoy the beautiful walk though the colonial buildings while doing some people watching. Once it got dark we headed back to our hotel, and after a quick shower we headed out to a Cuban restaurant recommended by our Brazilian friends last week. It was ok, originally we had wanted to check out another place—a tapas restaurant from our gastronomy magazine but it was closed. It has been an amazing trip but unfortunately we have to get up painfully early tomorrow to catch a flight back home. . .
Posted by Tony.Ruby
Archived in Ecuador
November 1, 2011
11/1/11 - 11/2/11
We were awakened by the sound of monkeys grunting and moving around in the trees outside our room. We gathered our things and rushed out to see but they had already moved on. We stopped for a moment to watch a parade of leaf cutter ants go by and listened to the sounds of the Amazon. After breakfast we started our long trek back to civilization. Our boat driver Milo is amazing . . . but a little crazy. He took us on a little tour of the large lagoon looking for birds and pink dolphins. It was great because we got to see another Hoatzin up close (stinky turkey) and some heron-type bird take off nearby from a tree! The water level was a little low and we had to “jump” a few logs and sand bars. At one point we even got stuck and had to jump out of the canoe and push.
The Amazon wouldn’t let us leave without a great goodbye and this came in the form of a huge spectacled owl that sat down on a branch right at the water’s edge! Owls aren’t even supposed to be out at this time of the day, so that was pretty terrific. After that we tried to capture some shots of the elusive river turtles. . these little guys are hilarious. One second they’ll be relaxing and sunning on some branches but at the first sound of trouble they stand up, look left, then right and then jump in the water! It’s very hard to get a picture from close because they’ll jump in before you even have a chance to push the button. We made a very quiet approach and were finally able to get a picture!
As we made our way upriver we stopped helped a local guy get his canoe untangled from a mess of downed branches—he was quite appreciative. Overhead we heard some familiar sounds and found a pair of blue and yellow macaws perched on some branches high up in the trees. A little further upriver Diego spotted some chicks with a mama duck—hadn’t seen one of those before!
Finally a few hours later we knew we had arrived when we saw children playing in the river and the bridge covered in murals of the different tribe shamans. This was the first road we’d seen in days. We were picked up by a truck and driven 2 hours into town to catch our flight. After checking in and sitting around for a few hours the airline, VIP, told us that they were sorry but there would be no flight today. There was a plane “malfunction” They told us that we could stay in town on them and fly out first thing the next day or take a 5-10 hour minivan ride to Quito now. We decided that our hotel was paid for so we should just take the van, on one condition: A comfortable, non-crowded van!
We started our drive with 5 people in a 10 passenger van: Tony, myself, our old friend from the Galapagos (Sylvan), a girl from Melbourne and an Ecuadorian lady. The lady who was sitting in front told the driver that she would like to pickup her husband and two kids. We drove into town and pulled up at a house and this is where things started getting crazy.
Out came the husband carrying a baby and lots of bags, then a teenage girl, and then a young boy! We were not happy about this but we all squeezed into the van and started on our way (total 9/10 passengers). After two blocks we stopped to pick up one last person. . . and that was the final straw for Tony. He started telling the driver to take us back to the airport and fly us out tomorrow. The lady knew that if we went back to the airport they would get in trouble for trying to sneak her whole family to Quito on the airline’s dime . . . so after a short argument they told the driver to drop them at the bus station. It was a crazy situation and it did get a little ugly but now only 5 of us remained in the van and maybe we would be able to get some sleep on the long ride.
We alternated between sleep and holding on tight while speeding around mountain passes in the dark and foggy night. We finally arrived in Quito about 6 hours later and lucky for us; our driver dropped us just around the corner from our hotel. We said good luck to our two friends and quickly went in and dropped our things in the room. It was about midnight at this time so we walked around the corner to one of the hippest spots to hang out on a Saturday night. . . Burger King! Yes, that’s correct, the locals were all dolled up and apparently it’s a real expensive and novel place to go. We hadn’t eaten there in years but quickly scarfed some food down (yes the quality is the same as in the US) and headed back to our room. . it had been quite a day!
Posted by Tony.Ruby
Archived in Ecuador