Quito (2/4/07 – 5/4/07)

Quito is one of the few places in the world where the pilot actually has to *decompress* the cabin prior to landing. Most of the time, the plane takes off and the cabin pressure slowly drops as the plane reaches it’s cruising altitude. When the plane lands, the cabin is repressurized so that, when they open the doors, the pressure is about the same on both the inside and the outside of the plane. Consider the alternative – that there was a substantial pressure difference between the inside and the outsude – like a balloon… anyway, Quito’s airport being the second highest in the world (the highest is La Paz, Bolivia… we’ll get there eventually) is high enough that the air pressure on the ground is actually lower than the standard pressure that the plane’s cabin is set to for cruising at 35,000 feet. (My plane was delayed in Miami because one of the passengers got lost in the terminal so I had a bit of a chat to the pilot).

Quito was intended to be nothing more than a slow stopover so that I could catch my breath after tripping around New York at a frantic pace. As such, I did a minimum of sightseeing. A friend at MIT asked me to confirm the existence of a “thin red line” on the ground at the equator. Well… here it is. The equator passes to within about 20km of Quito, but you’ll notice that I’m wearing long sleeves. The altitude here means that it never really gets very hot.

If one is so inclined, one may ascend the monument that marks the equator. I was so inclined, and here is the view from the top. (Clever isn’t it how the symbols for North – N and South – S are the same when viewed facing East, as I am here, or when facing West)

Ha! And I thought I was the only one who did this sort of thing…

Nearby, there is a very large volcanic crater. It is difficult to make out, but we’re actually looking into the centre of it.

Not quite a tortoise, or a hare…

The old city sits amongst some very nice hills. Atop one of these hill is this rather interesting angel-thing. Very nice… but after the statue of liberty, anything short of absolutely spectacular was going to be a let-down.

Quito’s “centro historico” is very much like Guanajuato – UNESCO heritage listed, colonial architecture… but those traffic lights really spoil things.

In the centre of town, is the Basillica of San Francisco – the patron saint of Quito. (In fact, Quito’s full, official name is San Francisco de Quito)

On another one of those hills overlooking the city, was a very unusual building, the style of which was vaguely reminicent of many a Norman Foster creation. It was the display case for a very lacklustre art exhibition… which perhaps would’ve done better if the building it was housed in wasn’t so much more interesting to look at.

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