May 2003

Summary of Ecuador:

Quito, Ecuador was one of the places I was looking forward to because it was supposed to be very nice and very cheap. Well, it least it was nice. Since they've converted to using the US dollar, prices have gone way up. But it was still a good time.

We took advantage of the cosmopolitan feel of the town and had great Indian and Sushi dinners. The Indian food was great, and for $2.00 you get get an appetizer, a main dish, and a drink. Not bad. Sushi was more of a budget buster... but very nice as well.

For exercise we walked all around the old town. It's got nice parks and cathedrals and old colonial buildings. Then we went mountain biking down Cotopaxi.

Old Town Quito streets Parque Central Parque Central with cathedral Stained glass in the basilica Inside the roof Matt climbing the basilica View between the two towers View from the highest bell tower Climbing in a park between the old and new towns Cuy (Guinea Pigs)

We even visited the actual equator. A french team calculated the location of the equator in 1736 and they constructed a big monument... but, unfortunately, they didn't quite get it right. With modern equipment the actual equator was pinpointed about 150 meters away. Doh! So there's another museum there too. Then again, 150 meters off isn't so bad for a bunch of Frenchies.

Standing on the equator (according to the French) Standing on the equator (according to GPS) Balancing an egg Balanced an egg

At 4600 meters above sea level we were further away from the center of the earth than the summit of Mt. Everest. The lack of oxygen made me slightly dizzy and the bitter wind was enough to knock you over, so I did then only reasonable thing: pointed the bike downward and set off at a terrifying speed. It was several hours of (mostly) downhill biking with only a few breaks. It was a mighty good time once I convinced myself that I probably wouldn't die.

Cotopaxi Slightly nervous at 4600 meters Biking down the mountain

Next we went off to the Galapagos Islands. I won't describe all of the wildlife--there are some good websites that do it better than I could. But here are a few of the highlights. I did lots of snorkeling and got to swim with sea lions, turtles, rays, and penguins. The sea lions and penguins were especially fun since they weren't afraid of people and were happy to swim all around us playing.

On land it was just as good getting to walk right up to lizards, iguanas, sea lions, blue footed boobies, and crabs. We could see rays, turtles, and lots of sharks in the shallow water as we walked on some of the beaches.

Galápagos Islands - Floreana
Crab caught out of his hole Pelican on the boat Stingrays in shallow water
Galápagos Islands - Española
Iguana Iguana (red from eating algae) Blue Footed Booby Mating dance More boobies Galapagos mockingbird Masked booby Masked booby profile Guide staying far ahead so he won't get questions Albatross Nesting albatrosses Male lava lizard Female lava lizard Angela relaxing with the sea lions Matt relaxing with the sea lions Our boat--the Pulsar
Galápagos Islands - Charles Darwin Center
Tortoises having breakfast Fighting tortoises Tortoise close up More tortoises Baby tortoises
Galápagos Islands - Rabida
Group shot Sea lion group shot
Galápagos Islands - Bartolomé
Pinnacle rock Galápagos Penguins Landscape White tipped sharks Top view of shark
Galápagos Islands - Santiago (Sullivan Bay)
Iguana stare down First lava cactus 100 years after lava flow Angela on lava Crabs on lava
Galápagos Islands - Seymour
Sea lion catalogue shot Frigate bird mating display Booby with egg Booby with two eggs Goodbye to the Blue Footed Boobies and the Galápagos

From Galapagos we headed down to the Peru border, stopping off at Banos and Cuenca. The bus journeys were nice - the scenery was absolutely stunning, endless mountains and valleys. And from Quito to Banos we finally got to see the snow capped Cotopaxi in its entirety! Banos and Cuenca were also really nice towns to visit. The town centres are kept so clean here.

Park in Baños--surrounded by mountains and waterfalls River next to Baños View of Baños from a nearby mirador Cuenca Cathedral seen from Parque Central River running through Cuenca Smaller church from the Las Vegas school of architecture on the edge of downtown Cuenca

Last modified: 14 September 2003