Ecuador: Center / North – Dec 2017/Jan 2018

With 283,000 km2 and 16.4 Million inhabitants Ecuador is one of the smaller countries of South America. It nevertheless has a very divers landscape: The coastal area, the Cordilleras de los Andes and the Amazonas basin. Ursula and I travelled along the Pan-Americana highway northwards following the main mountain range. Pictures were taken by Ursula and myself.

The capital Quito, at 2,850 m, has 2.7 million inhabitants and is located close to the equator. Its historic center is considered one of the most beautiful city centers in Latin America and has been declared UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

Every Monday at 12.00 the Change-of-Guards of the Presidential Guard is performed in presence of the President and parts of the cabinet.

Built in the 16th century the Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus (Jesuits) and the Iglesia y Monesterio de San Francisco (Franciscan) are rivalling regarding which church is more splendidly and opulently equipped. As it is forbidden to take picture inside the churches I had to take them “from the hip”. A nearby banner (last picture) reads: “All this has been built with the blood of indigenous and African slaves”.

Paintings of an exhibition showing indigenous resistance and rebellion during 20th century.

Baños de Aqua Santa, renowned for its thermals springs, is Ecuador´s adrenalin and outdoor center No. 1. The active volcano Tungurahua (5,016m, last eruption was in 2014) dominates the valley.

The steep valleys and waterfalls are perfect for canyoning. It was not as cold or as dangerous as it looks like. One is always secured by a rope.

Zip-lining is another attraction. The longest one is 500m long.

Finally we conducted a rafting tour down the Rio Pastaza.

La Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the Earth) is located some 26 km north of Quito. A monument indicates the place where in the year 1736 a Franco-Spanish Geodesic Mission fixed the approximate location of the equator. However, modern research found out that the equator actually is located 240 m north of that point. Surprisingly, on a nearby mountain an old pre-Inka monument detected some years ago was more accurate than the 1736-expedition.

Inside the monument there is a small museum which displays some physics experiments. While the Coriolis force works for larger entities it is a myth that it is able to influence in which direction the water rotates in the sink. However, it is true that - due to the shape of earth (flattened at the poles) – one weighs less at the equator than one would on the pols. As you will see when comparing the figures the difference is quite substantive.

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is an intergovernmental regional organization comprising 12 South American countries. Its headquarter is located at the equator next to La Mitad del Mundo.

The town of Otavalo hosts a birds-of-pray sanctuary where orphaned birds are raised and flight performances are organized.

In Otavalo there also is Ecuador’s biggest market for handicraft – a paradise for shopping….

Fuel prices in Ecuador are among the lowest in Latin America. A gallon (3.785 liter) of Diesel costs 1.037 USD. One liter diesel therefor costs 0.22 EURO, one liter Super 0.32 EURO.

Guinee pigs on a spit are considered a delicacy in Ecuador.

Many muchileros / backpackers finance their travel by performing at traffic crossings in the hope to receive some money from drivers.

Some 10 km north of the town Ibarra located at a small lake there is beautiful camping ground, Finca Sommerwind run by the German couple Patricia and Hansjörg. It is an excellent place to chill out. On Saturday there always is a BBQ.

Around Ibarra there are several good paragliding and hang-gliding locations. As we had tailwind at the start we had to move to a take-off on the other side of the valley.

Finally something really romantic. At one of the flying spots I witnessed the following moving scene: A couple had booked two tandem flights and at the landing point the young man waited for his lady to ask whether she would marry him (including kneeling down and exchanging engagement rings). Of course, she said YES…