I returned to Quito after my little foray to Latacunga and I was as pleased as punch to see some familiar faces at the Minka Hostal.
Pedro and Josh are both working as volunteers there and are two of the loveliest men that you could ever hope to meet, along with Sandra who is the lady who owns the hostel.
The Minka is situated just half a block away from the imposing stone grey Basillica in the old part of Quito and hides behind an unimposing green garage door. I can vouch for the fact that no matter what time you ring the bell you are NOT left standing in the street – and I have witnessed Josh or Pedro actually sprinting for the door. The street outside is very quiet at night with little traffic noise.
Once upstairs, you go into large, open airy white spaces, decorated with really cool artwork and with walls made up of collages of travel pictures. Sandra explained to me that the building was owned by her family and it was used as a warehouse and storage space until she invested in it and converted it into the hostel.
The dorms are airy and comfortable with the most massive lockers that I have yet come across and they have the most comfortable bunk beds too. I was in the ten-bed dorm but I had the best nights sleep ever. We had a tiny little en-suite bathroom – and a complete bonus for a hostel – the beds were made up for us everyday.
A basic breakfast was also included in the very reasonable price up in the communal area on the top floor. This large open space contained a well equipped kitchen, beanbags and hammocks, a pool table a computer and access to a tiny little terrace.
I spent six nights here in total over two weekends and I just loved the chilled, laid back and very friendly atmosphere. Everybody worked together to create a homely feeling and socialised with the guests. I was to meet up again with two of the guests a few days later in Banos – H, the Australian with the impressive facial hair and L from the UK with her very funny paramedic stories, but all the guests that I met there were lovely.
On my second weekend in Quito I again met up with my Christmas and Carnival travel companion M as she had now left the NGO in Peru and we planned to travel together for a few weeks. We walked for what seemed like miles around Quito city centre as I tried to replicate some of the tour that my friends had given me the previous weekend and then later we caught a bus to the top of the hill above the city where there is a large glass exhibition centre set in some parkland. The late afternoon views as the sun dropped in the sky were amazing and we just sat quietly soaking up the views.
The following day we jumped on the Trole bus system and headed off for the Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the Earth).
This site which is dominated by a large monument was built to represent the highest point where the equator line runs around the planet, but in fact the French placed it a few hundred metres off course. All the guide books said that it is a bit of a disappointment – and it was – but to be honest, I am glad that we went there first. After our rapid visit to some less than average exhibitions we walked a few hundred metres up the main road to the correct place where the contrast between the two sites was massive. The first place was tacky and had the most boring exhibitions I have ever seen. I didn’t pay the extra to go into the small museum on site and that may have been amazing although I doubt it, but the proper equator venue was really good. There were exhibitions and displays of traditional indigenous homes and also some real-life, very old shrunken heads. The tribes people in the area used a technique to shrink the heads of their victims from war or they preserved the heads of their important leaders which they would either wear as a lucky necklace or stick on the end of their spears.
There were also some cool experiments on the equator line. We all know that water swirls down a plughole in the opposite direction depending on whether you are in the north or southern hemisphere, but did you know that it is almost impossible to balance on the actual line itself, and due to less gravity, you have less resistance to somebody pulling or pushing you around. Apparently you also weigh less too and this was a cue for most of us ladies to jump onto the line and pose.
After a tiring day out me and M made our way back to our respective hostels. The charming Pedro shared his home made soup with me whilst I had a bash at forcing everything back into my rucsack because me and M were once again moving on the following day.