Monday, October 31st ~ Goodbye to The Galapagos, Hello to the High Andes, Ecuador
Today was primarily a transition day – going from the Galapagos Islands back to the mainland. The highlight of the morning before we disembarked was a half hour slide show that was presented by our very talented on-board photographer, Nicholas. He has promised to email us a link to the presentation and I am hopeful that I will be able to add it to a post in the future as I guarantee that it will encourage anyone with any interest in visiting here to get packing!
The flight to Quito went smoothly with a brief stop in Guayaquil, but no change of planes was needed. Upon arrival, we were met by Pablo and our driver who delivered us to the Hilton Hotel where we will meet up with the remainder of our group of 16 for part two of our tour.
Quito is a historic city in the high Andes at the base of the Pichincha Volcano.
I thought it might be helpful to give a little more information about Ecuador now that we are back on the continent.
First things first. Lets get you orientated on where we are. Ecuador is located in South America wedged between Columbia to the north, Peru to the east and south and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Plus of course The Galapagos Islands 620 miles west of the mainland.
Our first few days we were on our own in Guayaquil which you can see on the map below. We are now in Quito where the star is on the map.
Where did the name come from: Situated right on the equator, the country conveniently derived their name accordingly and in spanish became “República del Ecuador” which nicely translates to “Republic of the Equator” or Ecuador.
Ethnic History: Prior to and during the 15th century this area was part of the Inca empire and then colonized by Spain in the 16th century. Today they are an ethnically diverse population, with most of its 15.2 million people being mestizos. Spanish is the official language.
Currency and Plug in’s: The country uses the US dollar as the official currency. Power plugs and sockets are the same as in the USA so no converters needed.
Government and Cities: A democratic society, they elect their president every four years. Quito is the capital. Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador. The USA is approximately 35 times larger than Ecuador.
Tipping: Some of the better restaurants automatically will add both a 12% tax and a 10% service charge to the bill. In that case, if you are happy with the service, you can add 5% for the waiter. In more modest eateries, neither a tax or service charge is added and you can choose to leave an optional but appreciated small tip. Give the money directly to the server. Do not leave it on the table.
Biodiversity: This is where Ecuador really shines! They have the most biodiversity per square kilometer of any nation on the planet.
“Ecuador has 1,600 bird species (15% of the world’s known bird species) in the continental area and 38 more endemic in the Galápagos. In addition to over 16,000 species of plants, the country has 106 endemic reptiles, 138 endemic amphibians, and 6,000 species of butterfly.” ~ Wikipedia
Closer to the sun: Because the earth is not a perfect sphere and has an equatorial bulge, the highest point on the planet closest to the sun is Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador, not Mount Everest, which is merely the highest peak above sea level. Quito is the highest capital on Earth at 2,850m above sea level.
The Galapagos Islands and the city of Quito were the first 2 sites on the list of Unesco World Heritage sites.
We had a lovely dinner out this evening with Rica and Fred, but Tim got hit hard with another bad bout of MSG poisoning. It was a long rough night for him.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for having this amazing opportunity to learn and experience what many can only dream of. Feeling very blessed indeed!
Please join us as we continue to explore the country of Ecuador and the mysterious Amazon. You are welcome to share our post is you would like to.