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Wed Mar 26 2014: Breaking through the Equator

Riding south from Otavalo, I'm staring at my GPS instead of the winding road ahead of me. I'm watching the latitude count down and giving Neda a play-by-play over the comms: N 00°00.300, N 00°00.200, N 00°00.100, until finally... S 00°00.001! We've officially crossed the equator and we're now riding in the southern hemisphere! Whoohoo!

As always, Neda is waiting in the southern hemisphere while I take my time getting over the equator

There is a monument off the side of the road right at the equatorial line, so we pull off to take some pictures and celebrate. This is a pretty big moment for us, because we've ridden north of the Arctic Circle and now we're at the middle of the Earth! However, I just calculated and we've actually traveled further longitudinally: Anchorage, Alaska to St John's, Newfoundland is about 97°, while Deadhorse, Alaska to the Equator is only 70°!

All this travel over this quarter of the Earth really accentuates the fact that we're crawling across a humongous ball. Add to it that this ball is hurtling through space, and that just blows my mind and really puts into perspective where we are in this universe!

Equator monument is in the shape of a huge sundial

This monument was erected to show how the ancient civilizations in the area were aware that this was the centre of the Earth, and used the stars and landmarks on the horizon to map the passage of time. We spent a bit of time here celebrating our achievement of crossing into the southern hemisphere. We took some funny videos that when I review them now, aren't nearly as entertaining as we thought they would be and will probably never see the light of day.... :)

On a depressing note: We've been trying to chase warmer weather for months now, and the irony that we're crossing the equator on the day after the Northern Hemisphere's Spring Equinox is not lost on us. So as of now, we're celebrating the Southern Hemisphere's Fall Equinox and heading towards winter. Sheesh!

Traffic down the main street of historic Quito

Quito should only be about an hour south of the equator, but we encounter heavy traffic once we hit the centre of town which means that we are arriving late in the afternoon. The skies are darkening as rain clouds move in and we scurry from hostel to hostel trying to find suitable accommodations.

Kate and Ras join us on a whirlwind tour of Quito

We met Kate and Ras (from California) in our hostel back in Otavalo, where we realized that we had actually seen them way back in our hostel in Popayan in Colombia - they had the room across from ours. It was obvious they were on the same circuit as we were, except they were backpacking, so we kept in touch via the Internet and when they arrived in Quito, we arranged to meet up with them again.

Since they were traveling a bit faster than we were (who doesn't), we got a taste of what sightseeing was like when you're normal tourists. We joined them on their whirlwind one-day tour of Quito, seeing all the churches and squares in the area. It was exhausting! We weren't used to the pace and the high altitude of the city had all four of us short of breath, and huffing and puffing up all the hills

It was really good having someone to talk to in English. It made me feel more like myself again, if only for a little while before I had to put the No Fumar Espanol mask back on my face. :(

Basilica del Vota Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow), the largest church in Quito

Oh Boy... George...

I really love those hats that all the Ecuadorians are wearing, so I try one on. I don't think I have a head for hats... Too much hair...

Neda surveys the city from the top of the Basilica

Colonial buildings line the city plaza

Iglesia de la Compania (Church of the Society of Christ)

Selling shawls on the street. I love the traditional outfits!

Outside the church, rain clouds develop

Raining every day in Quito. Not surprising. I've been looking through all of our pictures on this trip and the last time we had a stretch of days of blue skies to ride under was back in Mexico about a year ago. :( All our pictures ever since have been under white or grey cloudy skies. *sigh*

Despite the weather, Quito is a very beautiful, colonial city. The capital city of Ecuador and the second largest in the country, it's got a nice mix of old and new and the streets are kept very clean. After Kate and Ras leave the day after, we're going to stick around a bit and see more of the city.

Inside the Iglesia de la Compania, everything sparkles in gold! Mesmerizing!

Statues inside the church keep watch wordlessly over the faithful

Instead of climbing the large hill (El Panecillo) where the giant statue of the Virgin Mary stands overlooking the city, all four of us cram into a cab and try to get some pictures from the top of the hill before the imminent rains fall on Quito.

45-metre tall Virgin Mary

Lots of other people at the top of the hill enjoying the view

We said our sad goodbyes to Kate and Ras and spent the rest of the week exploring Quito at our own pace.

This is more Neda's pace...

Watching the birds dive around the town square

Tipico (local) food are a nice cheap sustenance, about $2 for a full meal including drink. However, we're craving a bit more variety

Strolling down the historical streets of Quito

One afternoon, we hop on the bikes, ride to the modern part of the city and splurge on sushi!
Best that we've had on this trip so far! Words can't describe how happy we are!!!

Hanging out at the shoe-shine bench in the main square

Pensive in Quito

We've spent four days in Quito trying to figure out where to go next. I think we just may have a plan to escape this dreary cold and wet weather...

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