"Mitad del Mundo" (Center of the World)

Day 2:
After 31 hours of traveling Jim and I woke up with the intention of spending the day relaxing and getting acclimated to the elevation of 9,350 feet.

The day started with an amazing Ecuadorian breakfast by our host Sofia, who spoke English as well as I speak Spanish. She recommended taking us on a walk along the old railroad tracks that used to connect the small town of Puembo to Quito. I looked at Jim with the hopes that he would kindly refuse so that I could curl back up in bed, but he happily accepted the invitation. I not so happily laced up my shoes.

We returned back to the house two hours and five miles later feeling even more exhausted. Just as I plopped down finally ready to relax, Sofia came out and suggested we take a ride to Las Termas De Papallacta, a natural hot springs. That sounded like the perfect way to relax!

Papallacta is in the Napo province about an hour drive from Puembo, the province of Pichincha, where we were staying. The drive was a windy road up the Andes mountains. It is one of the highest towns accessible by car on Earth at 10,827 feet in elevation with some of the mountain passes as high as 13,000 feet. 

Jim and I were expecting to hike to the springs, but instead we found ourselves pulling into a Spa. The resort is located in the Andean Cordillera at the entrance of the Amazon jungle. It lies between two volcanoes, Cayambe and Antisana. The water feeding into the pools comes from rain water that is heated by the magma, so there is no sulfur smell. The pools were surrounded by many beautiful flowers and green mountains that were barely visible through the fog and steam. The day was cold, the air was crisp and the water was hot. For $9.00 a person we spent a relaxing couple of hours rejuvenating our tired bodies.

Descending the two lane mountain road the fog was so dense there was little to no visibility and for some reason Sofia chose to hover close to the middle line of oncoming traffic. At one point she was driving in the wrong lane. Jim calmly said I think we need to get over, but she just scooted closer to the windshield and continued to share how scared she was. Jim’s voice increased in intensity as she continued driving in the wrong lane.  I couldn’t take it any longer and yelled from the back seat… Derecha, Derecha in hopes of avoiding a head on collision. 

Two hours later, exhausted and tense, we safely arrived home. During this trip Sofia gave Jim the nickname Ironman, due to him staying calm and only wearing a t-shirt and shorts in freezing cold weather. He actually just forgot to bring clothes and hypothermia slowed his reaction. 

Day 3:
The next day we spent all day exploring the province of Pichincha with Sofia as our personal tour guide.


Pululahua is one of the only two inhabited volcanic craters in the world. The Pululahua Volcano is inactive; its past activity caused the cone to collapse, leaving a crater full of very fertile volcanic soil. Today the crater is home to a handful of farms and small communities of people who tend them. 

The Ciudad Mitad del Mundo and Intiñan Solar Museum

There is confusion as to where the real center of the earth is. Technology revealed the monument, Mitad del Mundo, is in the wrong spot and the Intiñan Solar Museum a couple hundred meters away, is technically the center of the world. So just to be sure we visited both sites.  

Virgin of the Panecillo

The Panecillo is a hill that divides the city between north and south and at the top is the statue of the only winged virgin, also known as the Virgin of Quito. It is 148 feet high and composed of seven thousand pieces of aluminum. From here we had a view of the whole city. 

 lglesia Católica San Francisco

Iglesia San Francisco is a Catholic basilica that sits in the middle of the historic center of Quito.  It is the oldest and most significant religious site in Ecuador. The structure is the largest architectural complex within the historic centers of all of South America.  

Centro Historico 

In the historical center we spent time walking the streets and exploring the nooks and crannies of the neighborhood of the old city walking around and visiting shops. We walked the pedestrian street of La Ronda, where we stopped at Heladeria Restaurante San Agustin for a traditional Ecuadorian lunch of Chivo and Chicharones. For dessert we had Colada Morada, a traditional drink that consists of  typical fruits of Ecuador, spices and corn flour. We also tried Wawa, which is a type of sweet roll shaped and decorated in the form of a small child.

Catedral Metropolitana de Quito

The Quito Metropolitan Cathedral, known simply as la Catedral, is the Catholic cathedral in Quito, Ecuador. There is a small time frame each day, visitors can access the restricted areas of the building. We just happened to be there during this time. The entrance was a small door leading up a spiral stone staircase. Due to earthquakes there is rebar placed in-between the walls. So as you climb, you also duck, trip and contort your body all the way up to the top of the roof. Once there you're rewarded with a view of the plaza and the rest of the city.  Even our host who has lived in Quito her entire life has never been. Only around 1,000 people have had the opportunity. We also went into the library which stored ancient texts and finished with another walk upstairs to the pipe organs. 


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