One doesn’t go to Quito without visiting the center of the Earth, or 000 degrees latitude. I am no exception… or so I think. Several sites claim they are THE official site, and that the others are fakes. Mine was complete with an official certification from German scientists in 2005 that declared this site to be at the correct latitude (although my iPhone’s GPS didn’t quite agree). Regardless, we listened to an impassioned young man talk about how world maps are wrong, and how Ecuador should be at the top of maps because it’s the closest to the sun. His organization had printed their version of world maps and will continue to fight the good fight, and even more so if you would like to contribute. The bathroom was mislabeled, confusingly, as a “Fake Equator Museum”. A bizarre design, painted on the walls were common myths, including the toilet bowl flushing thing.
After some bizcochos, an Ecuadorian light bread served hot with fresh cheese and a caramel dipping sauce, we continued on to Otavalo, a large market to which people all over Ecuador travel, especially when they are ready to purchase the finest handmade ponchos in the world. I was a few degrees away from making a very irrational purchase, but in the end I decided I’m not the right person to start a new fashion trend.
After the market, we hiked up to Cuycocha lake (cuy means guinea pig and cocha means lake, in Kichwa), a volcano that had collapsed and been filled with water. It was beautiful, and there were a few small islands to which the locals used to go to offer animals for good luck, especially for a young woman who was having a hard time getting pregnant. There are still animals on these little islands today from those old offerings.
Finally, we had a meal in Cotacachi, where a father and his three sons played Andean songs (South American mountain music) while we ate, then we walked down block after block of leather goods shops that had every imaginable product that could be made with leather.
Photos from this tour are here.