After a good night’s sleep to make me feel slightly more human, I had a decent serving of breakfast from the terrace area at the hostel with Sarah and a guy called Ewan from Bristol. We then headed over the the “Mitad del Mundo”, a museum about half an hour outside the centre of town to check out the aptly named Centre of the Earth.
The Mitad del Mundo museum was an interesting place accessible by an expensive cab or, as we decided, by taking a couple of local buses. Way up on one of the stretching hillsides outside Quito, it’s a museum sitting in the middle of a deserted zone – an area you didn’t want to be thumbing for a ride home should you miss the last bus back. Although gimmicky, it was still interesting to see an array of magic tricks which arguably identified whether you were stood on the northern or southern side of the Equator – this included water swirling clockwise to anti-clockwise, eggs balancing on the pin head of a nail and varying strength tests on and around the Equator line. The basic premise of the strength test was to exhibit how gravity is at its most powerful and balanced on the equator line itself. Another big lesson I learnt was not to take a piss in any rivers – we were introduced to the unpleasant Candiru Fish (the locals call it Earth Worm) – a creature that hones in on urine and makes his way up the urethra to implant itself. The only way out is by dragging it out…
After a couple of hours, we started walking down towards the bus stop to head back into town, pausing at a deserted dusty road side restaurant for some eggs on toast. There were no paths en route, so it felt like we were fugitives thumbing down the highway. At the other end of the bus journey, we wandered back to the hostel via the new town which turned out to be a shocking area created for western gravis. There was even a Chelsea bar in one of the central squares flying the Lion flag relating to Chelsea Football Club. It however, wasn’t actually a football bar – just a Euro pop bar. As we walked through the expanse of the Parque Ejido which acted as a natural border between the old and new town, police presence started to pick up. As they put you instantly on edge as you suddenly couldn’t help but be wary of onlooking eyes, we quickened the pace until we arrived back at the hostel safely for a night of Andean music.
On the final day in Quito, I decided to walk back into the old town to check out the huge Basilica del Voto Nacional de Quito before trekking back over to the new town of El Mariscal to see if I’d missed anything on the previous day. For the first time, I woke up with a little bit of altitude sickness which meant I spent the rest of the day in a bit of a blur. At the Basilica, I bumped into Chris – one of the guys who woke me up at the first hostel – so I hung out with him for the rest of the day. The Basilica itself was quite amazing. The most precarious part of the visit was when we decided to head to the clock towers way up high so we could get a decent panoramic view of the city – like the crumbling buildings of the city, we had to make our way across a dodgy rickety wooden bridge that spanned the church eaves, before carefully trudging up a steel ladder without any safety around you to stop you plummeting to impending death. But it was worth the fear for the spectacular views.
Later, we took a bite to eat in the main Plaza Grande before making our way over to El Mariscal. I was still feeling heady from the altitude, so we stopped off at a shisha bar for some local remedy which instantly did the trick.
For the final night back at the hostel, having felt frustrated at not really left the hostel at night for fear of being attacked, a group of us took part in the hostel quiz before buying some tickets to hit some bars in El Mariscal. It was a bit of a tourist shepherding into the safest of the local bars, and really the the only logical way of going out. I wasn’t confident enough yet in myself to go into central Quito at night.
The bars we headed into also introduced me for what was to come on most nights out. Everybody talks about the stereotype of Latin blood – how much they like to dance, drink and party, take drugs and have sex liberally. As westerners, walking into some proper local bars meant that the focus around us was exemplified. At each and every bar, guys and girls would flock to check us out and show us their moves like a special episode of a BBC Nature programme. Locals weren’t fearful of getting down and dirty with scenes of couples needing to be pulled off each other most of the time before tearing each other’s clothes off. The dance floors were cramped, smoky, sweaty and full of life. And I loved every minute of it.
Centre of the Earth – Mitad del Mundo
La Basilica del Voto Nacional de Quito
Quito and the Conquistadores
More Photography :
“The Photography Collection” by Antematters