Ecuador is a country that I don’t think I would have visited if it was not on my way to Mexico. It is the most Americanized country in South America and it is missing that unique thing to impress me. It is also eclipsed by its neighbours, Peru and Colombia, which are two of the most popular countries in the area. The only thing that is better here is surfing. With good weather all year round, the Pacific coast is perfect for learning to surf and enjoy some sun. Galápagos is actually part of Ecuador, but I think that’s a different story. I am not that big of a fan of turtles to burn 1000$ on a 5 days trip.
It is a bit sad to say, but my biggest adventures in Ecuador were the border crossings from Peru and to Colombia. When I entered the country I ended up in a bus full of smugglers and when I left the country took me 5 hours to pass emigration. South and Central America have some of the worst borders in the world and unexpected is to be expected.
Cuenca is a nice city in Ecuador situated at around 2500m altitude. If it doesn’t rain, the weather will be quite enjoyable with good temperatures and low humidity. It is smaller than Quito, but very popular among expats and digital nomads. The country is cheap, internet is good, low crime rate and very Americanized. It all makes sense. You can usually find them working and enjoying a good coffee in the cool cafes around the city centre.
The Pacific coast
The Pacific coast of Ecuador has some very cool surfing places. One of them is Montanita, a super busy party place where a lot of Ecuadorians spend their weekend. This town gave me the feeling of being in one of the party places in Thailand, like Khao San Road or Phuket. The main street is full of clubs, loud music, street food, drugs and a lot of drunk tourists. Surfing here is good, but the beach is too crowded and dirty to enjoy it.
Further north, a more quiet place is Canoa. This fisherman village is still recovering after the 7.8 scale earthquake that hit Ecuador in April 2016. Canoa was the most affected town with than 85% of the buildings destroyed and many casualties. Since then, many hostels and hotels reopened and now Canoa is a good alternative for surfing instead of crazy Montanita.
Quito is the capital of Ecuador, located a few km south of the Equator. Like everywhere in South America, the biggest attractions here are the churches and cathedrals. It’s like temples in Asia. Since I’ve seen way to many of these, the only thing that I wanted to see was Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), an open air museum located exactly on the Equator line.
Almost Middle of the Earth
My excitement about this place was ignited by a video I’ve seen a while ago. The video presented Middle of the World as such a cool place, where you can find all these cool experiments with two sinks on the different hemispheres proving the Coriolis effect or the perfectly balanced egg on a pin. The kid inside me wanted to see all these and have that moment: Science, bitch!
The biggest disappointment was when I found out that the drawn line on the ground is not even on the Equator line. I was sitting there, with my phone in hand and the latitude was not 0 0′ 0″. What the heck? It is off by 240m! After some research online it seems like the scientists of the 70’s where not very precise and screwed up the Equator line. This meant that all the other experiments where fake or could not be proven which added more disappointment. That video I watched was actually filmed at Intinan Museum, 200m away from Middle of the Earth. I haven’t visited this museum, but according to Google Maps and Wikipedia, it is still not on the Equator line. What’s is the trick then?
Interestingly, the only place build exactly on the Equator line is the pre-Inca astronomical observatory in Catequilla, a few km away from Middle of the World. Was this civilisation smarter than us or it was just luck? We will probably never find out…
Crossing into Colombia
The border crossing from Ecuador to Colombia it’s well known to be a bit problematic in the past few months because all the Venezuelan refugees fleeing the country. There are huge queues for passing emigration and the normal wait time is 4-5 hours. Some people online said that it is possible to skip the queue if you are a tourist, but when I arrived there I was sent at the end of the queue.
What I saw there was like one of the images you see on the refugee camps. People and kids sleeping on the floor, young families with big suitcases, people with a lot of documents in hand and a lot of people waiting to enter a small immigration office.
In the end, it took me 4 hours to get an exit stamp of Ecuador and only one hour for the Colombian entry stamp. From the border I took a night bus to Cali and I arrived next day early morning, almost 24h after I left Quito. Hola Colombia!
The Venezuelan crisis
If you are not following the news, you should know that Venezuela is going through very difficult times. The situation is as bad as in Syria or other countries affected by war. Thousands of people fled the country that is facing inflation of over one million percent. Basically money is worth nothing there. People are short on food and essentials, crime rate is very high and the president Mauro and his wife continue to lead this country into disaster. Just for you to make an idea, the largest amount you can withdraw from an ATM is the equivalent of 25 cents.
I’ll spend around one month in Colombia, my last stop in South America.