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#22 Quito – The Journey to Middle Earth

While the trip from Salento, Colombia to Quito, Ecuador was exhausting and long, it was also a nice experience. And it was cheap, too. Almost 24 hours of travelling cost me less than 40 USD.

So I finally arrived at my hostel in the Mariscal neighbourhood of Quito, the world’s second highest capital (2’850masl) after La Paz, Bolivia.
I wasn’t a fan of the hostel nor the neighbourhood, so I moved to the historical centre in the morning. The new place was great and perfectly located. Against the common notion that Mariscal is the place to be as a tourist, I would disagree.

If you follow our blog you might even guess what I did next. Give yourself a point if you mumbled “walking tour”. In Quito, the tour starts at the Community Hostel and takes a total of about three hours. Our guide, an Ecuadorian with a mix of a Spanish and Scottish(!!) accent, did a nice job and led us through the local food market and the historic centre. It was a Monday, and in Quito that means that the country’s current president, Rafael Correa, would personally appear on the terrace of the government palace (Palacio de Carondelet) at the top of Plaza de la Independencia together with some of his ministers to greet the people and attend the festive change of the guards.

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Carondelet Palace
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Rafael Correa (right below the guard in the top of the image)

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Plaza de la Independencia

Back at the hostel I met a small group of German and French travellers and decided to join them to visit the equator line or La Mitad del Mundo. Instead of an organized tour we got there by public transport for a fraction of the costs. The trip took about two hours and two different buses, but at least we got dropped off right in front of the site. After getting our entrance tickets ($3.50) we headed straight to the central monument with the official equator line. Funnily enough, it’s not the actual, geographically correct line. The real one is 240 meters north and there is a museum about it. Unfortunately, it was already closed when we got there. Nevertheless, it was fun shooting a few pictures with one foot on the northern and the other one on the southern hemisphere.

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And when I thought that I was already past the highlights of the day during which I was greeted by the president and walked the equator line, I entered this little souvenir shop and found what is possibly the most random postcard that was ever printed. Ever. I bought it. It simply made my day.

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Oh, hello there, strangers…

There were two more things I wanted to do in Quito, so the next morning I took a taxi and let the driver bring me to the station of the cable car that leads up to Pichincha, the 4’784m high volcano just outside Quito which offers nice views of the surrounding mountains and the city itself.

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View towards Quito from Pichincha

The last thing on my list was a visit to the Basilica del Voto Nacional. The climb up the last flights of stairs are not for the faint hearted and considering that the whole building looks like it is in desperate need of structural refurbishment, looking down the outside walls onto the busy street can give you a little chill. Towering high above the rest of the city, its outlook platforms make for a great panorama of Quito, including the Virgin of Quito Statue on El Panecillo.

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El Panecillo with the Virgin of Quito statue

As in every city, you could spend more time there. But I had other plans. The next post should take me to new heights.

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