An early wake up time made for a restless sleep. We are up before 5:30 showering, breakfasting and doing those last minute house items from the list. Locking windows, throwing out garbage, turning off taps.
There is a certain amount of anxiety this morning as we travel to the airport and proceed through check in, security and US customs. Murray wins the prize today and is chosen for a special screening. SSSS is on his boarding card. Unfortunately, no lollipop for the honor. Once we are at the gate, my anxiety subsides. Our Houston flight is on time, we are on our way. Murray’s anxiety lasts until we have taken off and are really on our way.
The flight is noisy. There is a group of young men in front of us drinking beer at 10 am. I wonder what is taking them to Houston, or beyond. There is also a group of students further back in the plane. Not many children but loads single travelers, probably businesspeople. I am always curious as to where everyone is going. Once we land in Houston we encounter the students again – looks like they are jetting off to Costa Rica.
The flight from Houston to Quito is uneventful and we arrive 25 minutes early. Finally in Quito after a long day in the air.
We try to go to sleep but we are both breathing rapidly and our hearts are working hard. The high altitude is affecting us. Each time we relax enough, our breathing slowing to fall asleep, we jerk awake due to lack of oxygen. We finally drift off into a fitful sleep and get enough of a rest to wake up ready to tour Quito. By morning our breathing and heart rates have normalized.
Murray had arranged with our airport pickup driver, Jose, to take us to the Equator. But at 9:00 Javier, one of three hotel drivers drives up, he has drawn the short straw and is to ferry us around today. R, K, Murray and I pile into his small taxi and we are off for a 45km drive through Quito and into the agricultural countryside. Our path takes us through a lush area that grows roses for export, past corn fields and orchards and bright green farmland. We drive up and down and around and up and down and around.
At “La Mitad del Mundo”, the middle of the world a conscientious, friendly young man explains the history of the area and the workings of the sundial. Ecuador was the perfect place to take initial readings for the equator as there were clear sight lines to the mountains and hills beyond. This wasn’t possible in other areas where the equator runs through, like the Amazon in Brazil. At the equator one can see the stars and constellations in both hemispheres. A fact I didn’t realize and I mention to my travel buddies that when we are on the dive boat in the Galapagos we will have to go on deck one clear night and do some star gazing.
Javier drops us off in Quito’s Old Town at the Basilica del Voto Nacional. A huge church that could be a sister to Notre Dame in Paris, except the gargoyles are animals indigenous to Ecuador – tortoises, iguanas and armadillos. We wander away from the Basilica amongst the Saturday crowds, stopping here and there to look at shops, more churches, squares and parks.
We heard so much about how dangerous Quito is. We were not once concerned for our safety and we walked from Old Town to New Town, about a 5 km distance. We were careful and watched our pockets and bags and Murray’s Spidey sense was on full alert. Our day spent in Quito was very enjoyable and we got a very good sense of what Quito is all about.
Tomorrow…on to the Galapagos.