Video: Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca is a beautiful colonial city in Ecuador. Although not as grand as Quito, it has another advantage – it is a lot safer and that makes it as charming as Quito. With its narrow cobblestone streets and whitewashed red-tiled buildings, its beautiful plazas and churches, and its setting next to the Rio Tomebamba it makes a definite worth-while visit.

This video shows you the charm of Ecuador’s third largest city.

Bag slash robbery on Quito – Cuenca bus

I arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador a few days ago, having taken a bus from Quito. The journey was meant to take about 10 hours, but I arrived in Cuenca exhausted, 13 hours later.

The first bus broke down after 2-3 hours, and we ended up sitting beside the road for about an hour and a half waiting for a replacement. On the second bus I ended up in the seat at the back by the toilet, inhaling the acrid smell of piss.

There’s no doubt about it, this was a journey from hell. My first seating companion was a local woman with a baby that screamed hysterically non-stop for two hours. She tried to stop the baby screaming by shaking it, which of course had the opposite effect. She was replaced by a woman with her (approximately) 9 year old daughter sprawling on her lap, which ended up being on my lap too. The daughter then started vomiting in a bag, and continued vomiting for quite some time, whilst lying all over me.

We stopped for lunch at 3pm, I had got up shortly before 6am and missed breakfast, so I was starving. The man in the roadside restaurant had no change for my $5 note, so I was forced to skip lunch too.

I arrived in Quito 13 hours later, having eaten one bag of potato crisps all day, and then discovered the following morning that my small backpack, which had been carefully sandwiched between my legs for the whole journey, had a neat 15cm razor slash in it. My plastic wallet (hidden in a back compartment of the bag) containing $1300 in travellers cheques and $100 in cash was missing.

All I can think is that I fell asleep for a while, and the sprawling 9 year old took it. BUT I am totally amazed that anyone managed to enter my bag, with it sitting between my legs (whilst ignoring my laptop, two cameras and MP3 player) and go straight for the hidden compartment and extract the bag without me noticing.

The Police lady informed me that I am the 10th tourist in the last two months to have been robbed on the Quito – Cuenca bus, whether that’s cause for alarm or not I don’t know…?

Video: Quito – the most beautiful capital in South America

Quito is possibly the most beautiful capital in South America. Spread across a spectacular Andean valley with volcanic peaks in the background, Quito’s setting alone is enough to leave you speechless. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978 and is incredibly beautiful. All the churches and colonial buildings have been restored and is in use which makes the city come alive with the vibrant working class and indigenous character that has always defined it. Walking its narrow streets is to wander into another world. The old time is also the best place to find a guesthouse. It is both the cheatpest and safest place to stay in Quito (if you can call Quito safe :-/)

Merely a 20-minute walk from the old town, Quito’s ‘new town’ is a different world; a mixture of hotels, high-rises and government complexes. Many travelers head to Mariscal Sucre, which has trendy cafés, international restaurants, travel agencies, cybercafés, bars and small hotels. The area’s nickname is gringolandia (gringo land), but quiteños (people from Quito) like it too. It is, however, a lot more dangerous to walk here after dark than in the old part – so be aware.

The video above shows you a little bit of Quito’s splendor.

Mitad del Mundo (the Equator), Ecuador

Any visit to Quito would not be complete without a quick trip to Mitad del Mundo – the Equator line. Mitad del Mundo, for those of you that don’t know, translates as ‘Half the world’ in Spanish.

Located 23 kilometers North of Quito, getting there is as simple as jumping in a cab and paying $25 for a round trip with a one hour wait, whilst you jump out for photos. We however spent the best part of five hours fannying around on public transport and paid about $1 each.

Mitad del Mundo (the Equator), Ecuador

There’s not a whole lot to do there, except take photos like the one above of me – “one testicle in each hemisphere”. There are also a couple of tacky exhibitions, a planetarium and a big monument – shown behind me in the photo. What’s more, in one of the museums you reputedly get a prize if you balance an egg on a nail, and you can be thrilled by the sight of water flowing straight down a plug hole instead of it spinning clockwise or anti-clockwise (depending on whether you are in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere). Something, incidentally, that Wikipedia informed me was a load of rubbish when I checked afterwards. The Coriolis effect is far too weak for such displays.

Video: Being (in) the centre of the world “mitad del Mundo” in Ecuador

This video is filmed at Mitad del Mundo. I think it would correct to say that Ecuador is famous for mainly two things: the stunning Galapagos islands and the fact that the country is located on the equator.

We made an excursion from Quito to Mitad del Mundo. It is situated 22 km north of the city. It’s quite touristy, but some people feel quite a sensation hopping back and forth between hemispheres.

For me being there with Thomas, who I love, was a bigger sensation, because when you love someone and they love you back you always feel like the centre of the world – and nothing beats that feeling 🙂

Podcast: Colombia to Ecuador overland

[Download MP3 | Add to iTunes | Subscribe to Podcasts]

Join us on another travel podcast as we head south from Popayán & San Augustín’s “Valley of the Statues” in Colombia down to Ipiales on the border with Ecuador and the ‘miracle center’ of Santuario de Las Lajas.

Otavalo Market Ecuador

Following Colombia, we head to the famous indigeous artisans and livestock markets at Otavalo in the Ecuadorian Andes, listen to some indigenous bands, and finish the podcast off in Quito, the old colonial capital of Ecuador.

A few of the places mentioned in the podcast…

Quito, Ecuador Otavalo Market, Ecuador Santuario de Las Lajas, Colombia


Quito, Ecuador

Quito was a remarkable city. The second highest capital city in South America, after La Paz in Bolivia, it quite literally takes your breath away. I discovered this the hard way, leaning against a wall and seeing stars whilst running around town for an hour trying to find us a guest house before dark!

Plaza de San Francisco, Quito, Ecuador

At an altitude of 2,850 metres, the climate is relatively comfortable, with warm days and cool/cold nights.

The main attraction of Quito, providing it with its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the ‘Old City’. The heart of the old Spanish colonial centre is Plaza de la Independencia from here it is easy to wander through the many cobblestone streets and explore the rest of the old city on foot. The photo pictured above shows Plaza de San Francisco, and the famous church and monastery of the patron saint of Quito – San Francisco – constructed by the Spanish in 1553.

The new city, especially La Mariscal district on the other hand is not quite so pleasant, with frequent reports of pickpockets and robberies at night. I stayed there for a week whilst doing some work, and generally made sure I was back in the hostel before dark.

There are a few day trips you can make from Quito, including visiting Mitad Del Mundo – the Equator line, a couple of hours on a bus from the city centre.

Links

Photos of Quito
Warning – bagslash robberies on buses leaving Quito