Last week, my brother Matthew, my sister Lisa, her husband (Tim), their two daughters (Evangeline and Audrey) and I were fortunate enough to visit my sister Michelle and her family in Quito, Ecuador. Quito is the world’s highest capital city, and you notice the altitude right off the bat – with an elevation of 9,350, it’s almost twice as high as Denver, CO. Simply walking up the stairs becomes no easy task, much less chasing the nieces and nephews up and down.
Though it’s on the equator, Quito’s temperature rarely ranges outside of a 70-50 degree zone, and its only seasons are “Dry” and “Rainy” (it rained nearly every day). That fact that they use a similar enough electrical voltage as the US was handy for charging mobile devices, as well as the fact they are also on the US dollar – though be aware that because of a “change shortage,” bills as large as a twenty were all but useless because many vendors would not accept them.
At any rate, the first day out and about was spent on a bus tour that took us through the city, it’s historical sector, and “el Panecillo”, a central hill at about the center of the city that sports a statue of the Blessed Mother and a 360° degree view of the city, its surrounding hills and dormant volcano.
Next stop was the remote town of Mindo, about 2 hours northeast of Quito – easily the most remote place I’ve ever been. While rumbling along the road of mud, you half expect a pack of Velociraptors to rush from the bush. Our destination was the Mariposas Butterfly Garden, where they raise over 40 species of butterfly within a netted, walking environment. After a long St. Patrick’s day lunch at El Quetzal De Mindo (where they make their own chocolate and beer amongst other things), we made our way back to casa Hilleary for dinner and a traditional viewing of “Darby O’Gill” via the projector.
There are two equator museums in proximity to Quito: one on the equator itself, and one – more picturesque – that sits about about 250 yards from 0’0″. Not exactly sure how they screwed that one up, but regardless we visited the former – and I’m glad we did. One of the features of the real museum is that there’s all sorts of cool experiments you can do such as balance eggs and drain water straight down (even six feet to the right or left causes the water to spiral). Also cool were the native american exhibits, specimen of the local fauna such as the “Goliath birdeater” tarantula, and even the ancient shrunken head of a 12 year old boy… hmm.
In between all the action out and about, hanging out with the fam at “Casa Hilleary” was a blast. The movie “Frozen” was definitely the feature of the week with two showings and daily soundtrack plays – I especially enjoyed screwing up the lyrics to annoy the kids. Shay was able to construct a Duplo tower to the ceiling of the play room, and the compound’s trampoline was a big hit for all, especially Evangeline. All in all, just a great country to visit, with such gracious and generous hosts.