September 17th, 2009 – by: Sads79
The statue at Mitad del Mundo, I am at the centre of the world!
So I left Pasto to make my way down on another border run - this one apparently one of the worst due to the drug situation in Colombia, so I wondered what lay ahead when I took the 2 hour bus from Pasto to Ipiales (CP$6,000/£1.80/US$3), the largest town near the border. From there, there were loads of collectivos waiting to do the short 2km road down to the border (CP$1,500/50p/75c), although it would have actually been quicker to walk because the queue of traffic trying to get into Ecuador was enormous! It took about half an hour to get down the hill to the frontier. Eventually we got to the drop off point where I was immediately harrassed by the ubiquitous money changers - one even walked me all the way the Colombian immigration office in the hope that I might use his services.
View from museum tower, M-D-M
...no can do amigo! The border crossing turned out to yet another easy one (touch wood, this continues!) with none of the bag searches I expected - the officers were more concerned with the locals and seemed to give them quite a hard time, poor fellows. Before I knew it, I was in another collectivo
to take me into Tulcan (US$1/£0.60), the first town on the Ecuadorian side. As had become a theme recently, there was a bus waiting to leave almost immediately as I turned up at the bus terminal, desination Quito
...$4.80 later and I was in my seat with a bag full of empanadas (4 for a dollar was too good to turn down, especially on an empty stomach!). I had slightly underestimated the journey time to Quito, so 5 and half hours later I arrived at the new bus terminal and it was already dark, and not wanting to try the multiple bus combinations required to get to the hostel, I took an expensive $6 cab to Hostel Revolution and found the welcoming Matt there to check me in, show me round and tell me where the local ching-chong was so I could get myself fed - job done!
Up early the following day, I took Matt directions to go and see Mitad del Mundo (the 'Centre of the world') - it was easy taking the Metro bus to the last stop (Ofelia) and then changing for the sppecial M-D-M bus, all for the princely sum of 45c.
View from TeleferiQo over Quito
The transport system in Quito is pretty damn good I have to say, its so easy and pretty quick to get anywhere. M-D-M itself is a touristy park (entrance $2 for foreigners....god, its annoying how blatant the two-tier pricing is here!) where there are some nice exhibits on the Earth and seasons and everything else you need to know about being in the middle of the world. I went to the overpriced museum ($3), but anyone else going...I wouldn't bother, its pretty crap to be honest. After jumping back and forth between the northern and southern hemispheres, I indulged in the most touristy activity here...getting my passport stamped with 'Mitad del Mundo' at the post office there...quite good, they actually do it for free....YES, that's something someone will do for free in South America.
at the top of the TeleferiQo, looking towards the peak (which you can climb if you want!)
...'oh my god', I hear you say.
There wasn't much else to do, so I decided to head back into town and go to the TeleferiQo to see Quito from up a high. Its a bizarre place - about 4-5 years ago they spent millions of dollars building the cable car to go up Volcan Pichincha, including all sorts of gordy things like nightclubs, shops, restaurants and an amusement park. The amusement park is all thats left open other than the cable car itself, everything has shut down and gone to rack and ruin...some really poor planning and ideas here! So to make up for their misguided expenditure, they now charge foreigners $8 for the cable car ride (locals pay $4) - but it is still something worth doing, as the views down over Quito are pretty spectaular.
San Francisco monastery
It was a tad chilly at the top as by then its 4100m above sea level, and I was just glad that I wasn't getting altitude sickness! After coming down, I decided (maybe stupidly) to walk all the way back to my hostel on the edge of the old town - it took me a good hour and a half (which takes it out of you at this altitude!), but I got to see some of the Mariscal Sucre area on the way, which was cool. I would've gone out for a few drinks to see some Quito nightlife, but the hostel was dead and Quito isn't a place to wandering round after dark on your own...so I called it a night.
I spent a morning looking round for tours (for Cotapaxi and Galapagos) and got a few decent prices, but unfortunately the only biking trip to Cotapaxi/Quilotoa was leaving tomorrow, which meant I'd have to cut short my time in Quito by a day.
So I rushed round in the afternoon doing a quick tour of the Old Town - and a beautiful Old Town it is too - loads of fantastic old monastaries like San Francisco and San Domingo and some great plazas to people watch. I wished I had been staying longer, Quito's yet another city that had some bad reports, but which for me turned out to be a great place to spend a few days. But with Volcan Cotapaxi to look forward, it was onwards and upwards....