The old city of Quito
To me, Quito was less than impressive, it seemed to be the charmless result of the aftermath of the collision between the old and the new. Don´t get me wrong, there are still plenty of cultural remnants relegated to the numerous museums. There are loads of tourists and foreigners, especially in the one district of the new city, Mariscal. I disliked the city a bit for this reason as it seems like it has allowed western culture to dominate the city. Fast food is everywhere, there is KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Papa Johns, even some local fast food chains, one was even advertising Texas fried rice, whatever that might be. It was all a little bit too much for me. Quito is beautifully set in the valley between several large mountains, filling up the basin with houses creeping up the mountainsides as if people were being poured into the valley.
The view from the top of the church tower
The main square of the old city is dominated by the Basilica, an immense gothic style church that is ornately decorated and allows for much exploring as you can climb to the tops of the towers through a series of stairs, spiral staircases, and ladders. You can even ring the church bells anytime you want. The public transportation is pretty good with three lines running north-south along different main streets and the city is narrow enough to walk east-west without much problem. The bus terminal is another matter. The Quito bus terminal is one of the more depressing places I have seen on my trip. The whole thing resembles a jail and I was very glad to be arriving in the late morning, that place at night would certainly give you nightmares, the guide book even says that the bus terminal is unsafe at all hours of the day.
The fake equator and monument
The Guayasamin museum was one of the highlights, with lots of interesting paintings from the artist. Another attraction is Mitad del Mundo, the town located on the equator. There is a really touristy theme park around the monument that was constructed at what they thought was the location of the equator. This is actually about 200 meters south of the real location as determined by military GPS. At the real equator there is a museum that demonstrates the effects in the different hemispheres, such as water swirling clockwise or counterclockwise and the path of the sun at different times of the year. You also get the chance to see if you can balance an egg on the head of a nail, something that you can suppsedly only do at the equator. I succeeded in doing this and received an official certificate signed by our tour guide and another witness attesting to my success.
Artwork from the Guayasamin Museum
Whether it is possible to do this away from the equator I don´t know since I have never tried. The only other thing that I wanted to do in Quito was to take the teleferico up to the top of the mountain but unfortunately the weather never cooperated and it was completely obscured by the clouds the day I intended to go and I wasn´t about to linger around for another day solely for that; I was looking forward to getting out of the city and seeing some more scenic parts of the country.