Tuesday 30 November
Even with an afternoon flight, there seemed to be much to do before leaving Santiago. We got packed and went for a relatively short wander through the area around the Presidential Palace, before heading back to Casa Moro from where Walter and Marcelo drove us to the airport. After check in (no upgrade this time!), we ate some basic, blah salad bar fare at one of the usual unexciting airport cafés/restaurants, which was expensive for what we had (must be an international airport rule), but was still reasonably priced compared to home.
The flight to Quito was quite tedious. We were crammed in 3 each side of the aisle, which meant, as we had the window and centre seats, we had to clamber over the guy nearest the aisle to go to the toilet. Six hours is a long time when your butt goes to sleep and you need to keep your legs crossed for a good fraction of that time. Will definitely ask for aisle next time – would rather vacate my seat for someone else than have to ask them to move.
After researching on the net at home, we had made the decision to use our altitude sickness medication as a prophylactic (one of the suggested uses). Not sure it was such a good idea. We both had intermittent tingling hands and feet and both felt a little lacking in energy, and we have no idea if it was the medication or the altitude. When we return to Quito, we will take our chances and wait and see if we actually need the stuff.
By the time we got to the stunning Casa Aliso (see Casa Aliso) in the La Floresta area of Quito, it was 9:45pm, and all we really wanted to do was sleep. So we sort of unpacked, and hit the sack.
Wednesday 1 December
We had a good night’s sleep in our lovely room and a very nice ‘brekky’ of fruit, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, onions and capsicums, and various juices (many other things on offer, but didn’t appeal that morning). The manager had lined up a driver for us, Heraro (positive this is NOT how it’s spelt, but it’s how it sounds), from Mexico. Our first stop was the Museo de Sitio Intinan which, as per military GPS, is the location of the true 00°00”00’ of Latitude (unlike the much larger, less indigenous-looking, more Americanised museum next door…but more of that anon). We partook in a number of ‘scientific experiments’ to prove that we were, in fact, on the very line of the equator (some more ‘scientific’ than others!): a strength test (which showed we were stronger off the zero degrees line); a drunk driving test (where we found it very difficult to walk exactly on the line); balancing an egg on the head of a nail (which we did skilfully, and not all of our group could manage); and most impressive, and convincing, was the ‘sink hole’ test – they had the sink positioned with the hole directly on the zero degrees line, and the water and leaves went straight down. When the sink was moved 2 metres south of the equator, the water and leaves went down anti-clockwise, and when they moved the sink 2 metres north of the equator, they went clockwise. That one was cool, and even if it was all smoke and mirrors, it was very impressive.
They also had a number of exhibits showing various amphibians, arachnids and others preserved in formaldehyde. The tarantulas were interesting, and the boa constrictors looked uncomfortable, all squashed into their tank-tombs, but the fish (whose name escapes me) that can, if you pee in the water, follow your urine and swim up into your urethra and hook on with barbs was still a little scary. Only way to remove one of those little beasts once ensconced, is surgery.
From there we went to the much larger and touristy Museo Ethnografico. It had a large monolith at the centre making the same claims as the previous museum about being the true zero degrees latitude, but none of the little activities proving it. It was a place that families gravitated to on weekends; it was really the size of a small village, with a central square with musicians playing, artisan shops, and a large American style avenue/boulevard lined with statues and trees.
Having exhausted our morning time, we decided lunch was in order. Our guide asked whether we liked ceviche, we asked what it was, his answer was ‘fish,’ so we said, ‘sure’. He wanted to take us to a restaurant where they served the ‘best ceviche,’ so off we go to El Panecillo – a large hill, technically out of Quito (although only just), with an imposing statue of the Virgin, that you can ascend for fantastic views over Quito. The climbing and photographing we did after lunch, but for our actual meal we visited ‘Pim’s’, the only restaurant in the vicinity. We ordered 2 ceviche entrées to share plus a salad. Our guide/guest ordered fillet mignon. Now, the problem with the ceviche, is that it is fish or shellfish that has been MARINATED. Yes, that means the fish would have been raw and soaked overnight in the marinade (based on WATER) to ‘cook’ it, AND it’s served COLD. So, basically, we gave ourselves a handy little dose of…um…’upset tummy.’ Luckily, it was not accompanied by cramps, nausea or vomiting, so we got off rather lightly! Moral of the story, steer clear of ceviche in countries where you can’t drink the water!
After our lunch adventures, we requested to be taken back to Casa Aliso. Heraro chose to do this through the Old Town, even though we said we would rather do that tomorrow and go straight back to the B&B instead. Problem was, it was peak hour, which made our journey back over an hour (and it should’ve been 15 minutes). Nic was more than a tad peeved, because it was her mum’s birthday and she wanted to get back in time to skype her before she went to work, but we just had to sit in the car, in traffic, while he insisted on showing us the sites!
The highlight of the day was a visit to a music club called ‘El Pobre Diablo.’ We ordered some traditional fare of broad beans, roasted corn and peppers, with a Chilean cabernet sauvignon while we listened contentedly. A margarita for Nic and a tequila gold for John were a lovely way to finish the evening.
How does an altitude sickness pill double as a prophylactic?? Weird! Sounds like the ceviche could have done the job by itself.xc
Sorry for the late reply – have been incommunicado in Galapagos! Some advice was to take the altitude sickness medication before arrival to prevent getting it, rather than waiting till you had the altitude sickness and THEN taking it. And, yes, haven't touched ceviche again!xN