We rolled into Ecuador's capital city with two missions: to secure a cheap, last minute deal to the Galapagos Islands, and to visit with family (I know!! In Quito!! Of all places!!)
Mission well accomplished on both parts, with a little sight seeing thrown in as well.
Our first task was the Galapagos deal which turned out to be an easy feat thanks to a lot of research done before hand. We saved hundreds of dollars by waiting until the last minute to book, and were also lucky to get on our first choice boat. Tomorrow we leave for the islands with two days to explore on our own before boarding our cruise (a 12 person sailboat) on Wednesday. We are also excited to be joined by our tango-dancing friend Margaret from Buenos Aires!
Second task - enjoy the surreal experience of visiting with a family member over 6,600 kms away from home! Cousin Deidre happened to be in Ecuador for the last week with a contingent of her school-kids, and when we knew that we would be in the country around the same time - we kept in touch to ensure a meeting. Neither Deidre nor I could remember the last time that we saw each other - it is most likely in the 15-20-years-ago range, and likely it was only in passing at church in Grimshaw or a family gathering of some sort. Coming from such a huge family as we do, it is easy to lose track of the many, MANY cousins that we share! But thanks to the wonders of Facebook, reuniting was made possible, and it was an immeasurable joy for me to see (and hug!) someone from home.
Deidre spoiled us with dinner, treats and other things that will be very useful to us on the rest of our journey (it was like Christmas for us!) The most exciting of these treats being a bag of "Bits & Bites", of which we are carefully rationing. Pete is allowed only one nut per day.
With two days left in the city before our departure to the Galapagos, we finally had some time to explore. It is apparently quite a debate between Cuenca and Quito as to which city has a more attractive old town - and being as we just left Cuenca less than a week ago, we had to check this out for ourselves.
It is a close one! But the edge is given to Cuenca from these eligible voters...
Another of the main attractions in this part of the country is to visit Mitad Del Mundo (the Middle of the World) - a large monument and park constructed to mark where the equator passes through the country. And this is where Pete and I would take our first steps in the northern hemisphere in 6 1/2 months!
Oops! Now, thanks to advances in measuring technology (GPS), it is known that the actual equator runs about 240 meters north of the tourist complex. So we had two places to visit celebrating this geographic landmark!
The "real" equator line was way less touristy and more interesting, with some tests set up to show the differences between the northern and southern hemisphere. None of them seemed to work for us though - water seemed to swirl down the same way on both sides, and none of us could get the damn egg to balance on the nail (being right over the equator, this is supposedly possible with the nullified gravitational pulls).
But! Check this out...worth the whole trip, right there!
As incredibly touristy as it all was, we still had a fun last day in Quito with Margaret finally joining us and also meeting up again with our friends Fran and Ross who just returned from Galapagos.
In just a few hours we will be shuttling ourselves off to the airport and embarking on a trip of a lifetime (within a trip of a lifetime)! We have almost an entire week in the islands - half of it on a boat - exploring all of the varied wildlife that the islands have to offer. Tortoises! Sharks! Penguins! Boobys! And more...