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Greetings from the Center of the World
Craig and Steph Explore the Cultures of Ecuador

Breakfast at Casa AlisoBreakfast at Casa Aliso (Stephanie Smith)
Hola from Quito, Ecuador!

We arrived last night and came straight to our boutique hotel, the beautiful and charming Casa Aliso. We were greeted by the friendly and helpful Patrick, who gave us some coca tea and cookies. After a day of plane travel, we pretty much went straight to bed.

This morning we had a delicious breakfast at the hotel, and then we were picked up by Gerardo, who would be our driver and companion for the day. We drove out of the city and our first stop was Pululahua Volcano. We had a nice view of the crater, where people now have farms. The volcano last erupted 2400 years ago. This is the 5th largest crater in the world, with a 6km diameter. Inca stonework was dismantled from the crater and used by the Spanish to build the San Francisco and La Compañia churches in Old Town Quito (which we visited last time we were in Quito).

After that we went to Museo Inti Ñan, which is located on the equator (verified via GPS). We had a guide there and we did many scientific demonstrations. We saw that on the equator line, water goes straight down a drain, whereas to the south it moves counterclockwise, and to the north it goes clockwise. We got to try to balance an egg on a nail on the equator line. I was not able to do it, but Craig was successful on his first attempt, and got a certificate for his awesomeness (his words) :^) We also saw some exhibits about native tribes such as the Huaorani, whom we will meet later in the trip. We also saw a real live shrunken head - creepy!

After that we went to the La Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), a tourist complex where there is a large monolithic monument signifying the equator´s position as calculated by the French in the1730's. It is only 215 meters away from the actual GPS-verified equator line at the Museo Inti Ñan, quite a feat for 18th century geography.

After that, Gerardo dropped us back at the hotel. We freshened up and then headed out for a walk. We walked to the Mariscal district. Two years ago, we had seen some very surreal paintings for sale, depicting a train in the sky raining down apples (or balloons or balls or eggs) on Quito. We have been thinking of them ever since then, and kicked ourselves for not having purchased one. Craig spotted one hanging outside a small gallery in Mariscal. We went inside and purchased a small one for $10. What a deal!

We continued walking around and stopped at La Boca del Lobo for dinner. It is a trendy, quirky restaurant with avant garde decor and delicious food. We had eaten here two years ago and it was my favorite restaurant on that trip. Craig had a local Club beer and I had a Vainilla Sunrise. We split two appetizers as our meals: the provocatively named F Word, which was a puff pastry covering a small casserole dish filled with calamari in a wine and black pepper sauce that was unlike anything we had ever tasted before. We also had Kong Sweet Plantain Tortillas, which were like pancakes made of plantains, cheese, and sweet onions served with peanut sauce. It was very much fusion Ecuadorian cuisine, and it was fantastic. Can't recommend that restaurant enough!

After a brisk walk, we are now back at Casa Aliso. We need to get our luggage together as tomorrow we will be meeting our guide Felipe and heading to Otavalo, where we wll stay for five nights with a local family. Tomorrow is market day in Otavalo, and we are looking forward to seeing a new place.

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