Saturday, Nov. 27
The flight from Baltra arrived in Quito Sucre International Airport. We
were immediately escorted to the Hilton Colon Hotel, where we would stay
for the next three days.
That afternoon, we decided to go to the Mitad del Mundo or the center of
the world. This is the monument dedicated to the location of the Equator.
Did you know that?
We learned that the equatorial monument was not exactly on the Equator
and second museum, which was built later, actually was. We visited the
GPS-accurate one first. It was called the Museo Inti-Nan. We learned
about many native Amerindian cultures in the area, including the Shuar
tribe, which makes the famous tsantsas or shrunken heads and there was a tsantsas on display. How eerie!
We then went to the actual Equator, which dissected the museum. We had a short test on the Equator. We had to carefully balance an egg on the equator on a nail. Everyone who succeeded got a certificate.
Later we proceeded to the inaccurate monument – Mitad del Mundo Monument. This monument was made to commemorate the work of the French and Spanish scientists who studied the earth from here. Inside the monument there was a big museum with all of the Amerindian cultures of Ecuador. Each floor of the tall monument contained a specific culture. It was really interesting.
Ecuador is named for Equator and this location was chosen because elsewhere the imaginary line goes through jungles or marshes and only here it is close to an inhabited city. Quito also was a significant ceremonial location for the Andean cultures of the past – I am amazed how advanced the ancient civilizations were and how little we know about them!
It was dark and about to rain when we came out of the museum, so we headed back to the hotel.
Sunday, Nov. 28
Today the whole country was closed for the census. Not a soul on the road! Buses, cars, and all citizens were off the road, barring the military, police, and census takers! Due to this, we could not go anywhere in the morning.
We took a walk in a nearby park at noon. We had the whole road to ourselves and could walk right down the middle of the road! While walking, a troop of soldiers came to us to inquire. When they learned that we were tourists, they were so friendly and asked us to enjoy the peace!
In the evening we decided to walk all the way to the city center to check out all the monuments. It was really cool with all the public transport and private cars off the road! I think it is a good idea to keep our cars at home at least one day a month!
Monday, Nov. 29
Today was the last day of the trip. We had planned the big hike up Mt. Cotopaxi, the tallest active volcano in the world. We left at 8:00 a.m. to begin the great hike.
We reached the foot of the mountain in an hour and began the big and lengthy climb. On the way up we encountered lots of snow. We started to whirl snowballs at each other, but soon the trail became strenuous and we had to stop and rest every 20 feet.
Then was the section where the trail was covered with slippery ice. It was the most difficult here. We rested and slipped every 15 feet. Finally, after an hour and half, we made it to the base camp/refuge some 15,000+ feet above sea level. We all congratulated ourselves on having survived the hard climb. There was a small canteen at the refuge where I had some hot chocolate. This warmed my cold body.
Among all the ice around, we spotted some mountain warblers, Antpitta, and the mighty carunculated caracara bird even in this high altitude.
It had taken us one-and-a-half hours to climb up, now it was time to go down. This was much easier than climbing up. I went most of the way just sliding in the snow and made it to the bottom with all the parts of my body freezing and now a snow storm started in the mountain. First we were being attacked by bullets of hail and finally it became snow. We left the mountain in a hurry!
We stopped at a picturesque lake in the park. You were supposed to see the reflection of Mt. Cotopaxi in the lake but we couldn’t see it due to the rain. We did manage to see a few Andean gulls, some ducks and coots, however.
All of us were hungry at that point and we stopped at the park’s museum for a quick picnic and we were very tired when we reached the hotel and sadly, our vacation was over.
Following the footsteps of Charles Darwin, I realized the diversity of life on our planet Earth. From the pristine waters of Galapagos to the high reaches of Cotopaxi, the life forms are all unique. There are many such places on our Earth from Antarctica to Congo, from Everest to Death Valley, each one unique and pieces of the great big puzzle that is our Earth!
It is our responsibility to save this great planet, so let us all do our part. Let us reduce our waste, reuse it, and recycle it to the maximum extent.
We have only one blue planet, let us keep it blue and not gray!
Here I sign off for the moment!