A day trip to Ecuador17th January 2012
My coaster enthusiasm has brought me to many places that I'd never have contemplated visiting otherwise. San Francisco de Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, is one such location. With an elevation of almost three thousand metres, Quito is the second highest capital city in the world. It's airport, Mariscal Sucre, is located right in the middle of the city with large mountains on all sides, making it rather dangerous to operate from. A replacement outside the city was due to open two months ago, though this has been delayed as the required access road has yet to be built.
One of the main attractions in the city for the average tourist is Mitad del Mundo, the middle of the world, located at an approximate latitude of 0°0'0". There is a painted yellow line which is supposed to mark the equator, and countless tourists (including me) have had their photograph taken there. Having said that, the line is actually almost a quarter of a kilometre away from where it should be, as the geodetic datum in use worldwide today is not the same as that that Ecuador used in the 1970s when the monument was built. It's still worth a visit though, and the thirty-five kilometre taxi journey from the airport costs just sixteen US dollars. Ecuador phased out its own currency in favour of the dollar during the year 2000.
VulQano Park17th January 2012
VulQano Park is a small amusement park built at the base of Cruz Loma, one of the many hills that make up the Pichincha volcano range. It is a particularly nice place with friendly staff, though I came away with the distinct impression that it is operating on borrowed time; there were several abandoned buildings near the entrance, and parts of it looked distinctly shabby. Two escalators were not working, and a further two were actually missing. More to the point, we were the only three visitors for the majority of our stay despite there being no admission fee.
The staff were happy to allow us to ride the powered Truck Race, albeit one at a time, and likewise there was no issue with the Mini Montaña Rusa (#1708), though they did wonder why we wanted to spend our money on rides clearly designed for children. The full size Montaña Rusa (#1709) was one of the smoother versions of this genre, though still not something I'd choose to repeat. We also tried the Torre, a cable-driven drop ride from Zamperla that was good fun as well as being an excellent location to take photos from. We decided to support the park by buying lunch there, and while the catering wasn't Michelin star level it was above average for theme park food.
Outside the park is the TeleferiQo, a cable car ride to the top of the mountain. This is well worth doing even for those who wouldn't normally bother with such things, as the view of Quito from the peak is fabulous. Those in good physical shape can hike across a trail with several other observation points, but be aware that the thin air at the 4100m altitude makes this a real challenge!