Monday, April 11: Quito and Equator w

Breakfast buffet at Hotel Quito
Monday morning began with a breakfast buffet at the Hotel Quito.
View from dining room

Since the Hotel Quito is built on the edge of a deep valley, the view from the 7th floor dining room is quite spectacular despite the clouds.
Morning talk by Jorge

After breakfast our tour guide, Jorge, outlined the day’s activities. The day would begin with a brief tour of the old part of Quito.

The first stop in our tour of the old part of Quito was at the Cathedral that was quite close to the hostel in which we had stayed during our first two days in Ecuador. We did not have the opportunity to go inside the church this time. However, Jorge pointed out that although the basic design was European, some of the decorations were depictions of local animals such as iguanas and tortoises.

Basilica in old Quito
Basilica in old Quito
Iguanas
Iguanas
Galapagos tortoises
Galapagos tortoises

In the square in front of the church were the usual ladies selling shawls and this gentleman selling paintings done on sheepskin. The square also provides a good view of the Crystal Palace. It was originally a covering for a market but has been moved to the top of a hill and glassed in. It is now used as a cultural center. As we trvelled on to the main plaza, there was this small shrine on the corner of one of the buildings.

Paintings on sheepskin
Paintings on sheepskin
Crystal palace cultural center
Crystal palace cultural center
Corner shrine
Corner shrine

This is the Presidential Palace that is on the North side of the Central palza. Since there will be a large ceremony in this area in at 11:00 am, the police were out in force to provide protection for the President and the other dignitaries.

Presidential Palace
Presidential Palace
Riot police at the ready
Riot police at the ready

In the center of the plaza is a statue that commemorates those who died in the battle for the independence of Quito in 1809. This battle did not result in permanent independance because Spanish soldiers retook the city and it wasn’t until later that Ecuador gained its independence from Spain due to the actions of Simon Bolivar and his second in command General Sucre. The bottom of the statue shows a lion (representing Spain) wounded with an arrow moving away from the Ecuadorian condor.

Top of the monument
Top of the monument
Honoring the fallen of 1809
Honoring the fallen of 1809
Spanish lion retreats from condor
Spanish lion retreats from condor

Quito cathedral
On the West side of the Plaza Grande there is the Quito cathedral.
Guards at the NW corner of the plaza

There were some rather stern-faced guards at the North-West corner of the plaza as we crossed the street to the Centro Cultural Metropolitano. This is a large area with several exhibition halls for displaying traveling exhibitions or holding public performances. One of the halls was being prepared for an Art Exhibition with the paintings laid out on the floor in preparation for hanging. In addition, the center contains a library.

Large exhibition hall
Large exhibition hall
Setting up an art display
Setting up an art display
Public library
Public library

We then walked West along the street in front of the palace towards the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus (The Jesuit church or the Gold Church). The church is ornate on the outside, but it is the interior that give it the name of the Gold Church. The interior has the largest concentration of gold decoration of any church in the world. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos inside the church. However, I did purchase some pictures that I will scan later and insert into this post.

Overview of the exterior
Overview of the exterior
Name of the church
Name of the church
Detail of entrance
Detail of entrance

After visiting the church, it was getting close to 11:00 am so we walked back towards the Presidential Palace for the Changing of the guard. Along the way we passed the main entrance to the Quito cathedral and a street musician.

View towards the Palace
View towards the Palace
Entrance to Quito Cathedral
Entrance to Quito Cathedral
Street musician
Street musician

Once we got back to the main plaza, it was just about time for the ceremony to begin. There were three groups of school stuidents in front of the palace. President Rafael Correa appeared with his entourage on the balcony. A military brass band played stirring martial music. Then everyone stood at attention as the Ecuadorian flag was raised and the national anthem was sung.

School children in front of the palace
School children in front of the palace
President Rafael Correa
President Rafael Correa
Military brass band
Military brass band
Standing at attention
Standing at attention
Raising the flag
Raising the flag
Singing the national anthem
Singing the national anthem
The mounted troops return to the palace
The mounted troops return to the palace
Presidential guard returns to the palace
Presidential guard returns to the palace
The military band retreats
The military band retreats

Once the changing of the guard ceremony was over, the Gate 1 group went to San Francisco square to meet the bus. From here we had a good view of El Panecillo, the huge statue of Mary on the top of the hill that marks the end of old Quito. The last photo is of the Iglesia de la Compana de Jesus as seen from San Francisco square.

San Francisco church
San Francisco church
El Panecillo
El Panecillo
La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús
La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús

Once back on the bus we drove to the official site that marks the equator. La Mitad del Mundo. Finding the Equator has been the object of a number of studies attempting to measure the exact shape of the Earth. The first result was obtained in 1743 by a Geodesic Mission of the French Academy of Sciences, led by Louis Godin, Pierre Bouguer and Charles Marie de La Condamine. From 1899-1906, General Georges Perrier, also with the backing of the French Academy of Sciences, was sent to lead a mission to verify that result. A 30 meter tall monument that marks the site was built in this location from 1979-82. The busts along the path leading to the monument honor the Frenchmen in the early scientific groups.

Walkway to the monument
Walkway to the monument
The official equator
The official equator
Latitude 0° 0' 0"
Latitude 0° 0′ 0″

Nan and I had lunch at a nice restaurant and then explored some of the shops selling souvenirs and handicrafts.

Restaurant for lunch
Restaurant for lunch
Artisan shop
Artisan shop
Hammocks and hanging chairs
Hammocks and hanging chairs

We then drove to the site about 800 ft away where GPS measurements indicate that the true equator is. There is a private company that runs this site. Besides marking the location they conduct an “activity” for tourists that purports to show how water rotates clockwise on one side of the equator and counter-clockwise on the other side. It has much more to do with how they pour water into the sink than Coriolis forces.

The "true" equator
The “true” equator
Bridging the equator
Bridging the equator
Water rotation activity
Water rotation activity

We then drove North to our lodging near Otavalo. As we drove North we passed through the area where roses are grown in greenhouses for the flower trade. You can purchase a bunch of 25 roses that don’t meet export standards in the market for $1 to $1.50. We stayed at Cabanas del Lago on a lake. Our cabin had a balcony overlooking the lake.

Rose growing greenhouses
Rose growing greenhouses
The resort where we stayed
The resort where we stayed
Our cabin
Our cabin