At The Middle Of The Earth

Carla Sue admired a poster in the Quito town square.

Carla Sue admired a poster in the Quito town square.

Sailing on the Seven Seas Mariner, now one week into our journey, we awoke to a beautiful sunny day in Cartagena, Colombia and took a bus and walking tour of the city. The old part of town is charming. The new part is a smaller version of Miami. Naturally we stopped for the numerous street vendors. There were lots of natives in “Aunt Jemima” costumes with bowls of fresh fruit on their heads, all saying, “Take my picture for a dollah.”

We visited several areas of town that were historic and then the obligatory “tourist” stop to look at emeralds. The emeralds we saw were outrageous in price and did not compare to the ones for sale in Louisville at better prices.

The Cathedral of Cartagena has a massive exterior and a simple interior. It was built in 1586 and was partially destroyed by the pirate Sir Francis Drake. It was built to resist invaders and was recently restored and opened to the public. Obviously they were not in a hurry.

We came away with a feeling of a pleasant place but one that needs to pick up after itself. It is beautiful but slightly tacky. That has not changed since we were here 25 years ago. As we sat down to lunch on the sunny top deck, we set sail for the Panama Canal. We arrived at the canal the next morning at 6 a.m. to start across.

The crossing of the canal was interesting. They are always working on it and now a third channel is being built to accommodate larger ships. The first and second are side by side, one for traffic each way. You could see us on camera on a site that our girls found on the internet. You really could see Brad standing on the top deck waving a towel!

Louisvillians Prentice Brown and Joan Muir with Ray and Ann Lovelace on the Seven Seas Mariner cruising South America.

Louisvillians Prentice Brown and Joan Muir with Ray and Ann Lovelace on the Seven Seas Mariner cruising South America.

That night we had dinner with old Louisville friends. Ray and Ann Loveless were on board with Joan Muir and Prentice Brown. Brad and Ray have been friends since their teenage days and we loved his late parents.

Wednesday morning we docked at Manta, Ecuador and then some of us flew to Quito, Ecuador’s capitol and an official World Cultural site and Louisville Sister City. At the equator the weather is always springtime! It is over 9,000 feet above sea level and is the highest capitol city in the world.

We explored the historic center including the Cathedral, the church of La Compania de Jesus and walked the charming cobblestone street of Quito’s “Old Town.” Rich in art treasures, fine woodcarvings and altars of gold leaf, the historic center was the first location to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1978.

You can still see the foundations of Pre-colonial construction on many of its streets today. Quito also boasts the finest examples of Inca history
and architecture.

We checked into the Swiss’otel and had a lovely room on the concierge level complete with Limoges china.

We went to the Mindalae Museum for cocktails. It is shaped like a Mayan pot. We looked at the over 700 exhibits of the Amazon Region, Ethno-History and Ethnography, drank and watched native dances. From there we went to dinner at Theatrum, one of Quito’s most highly regarded and iconic restaurants. The Ecuadorian cuisine
was wonderful.

Carla Sue straddled the equator in Quito.

Carla Sue straddled the equator in Quito.

The next day we headed to the Middle of the World (the equator), whose exact location was determined by the scientists of the French Geodesic Mission. In the 18th century, there was significant debate in the scientific community as to whether the circumference of the world was greater around the equator or around the poles. Louis XV and the Academy of Sciences sent two expeditions to determine the answer: one was sent to Ecuador where they determined what we all know today – there is indeed an equatorial bulge which makes the earth’s circumference greater around the equator.

Later we visited the Intinan Museum, which has become a didactic center that promotes both the culture and the identity of Ecuador. In the museum village there is a line determining the equator. We have walked on both sides of the equator and also down the middle of the line.

Been there and done that! Then we went to the gift shop and bought sweaters from the Indians! From there we went to the airport and flew to Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, to meet the ship.

Our visit to Quito was followed by a “sea day,” which meant catching up on the laundry and hearing two wonderful lectures, one on geopolitics of the middle east and the other on the culture of Peru, where we are now headed. In the next few days we will have dinner with new friends, including a specially prepared Indian dinner just for our table. Salaverry and Lima are our two next stops, where Brad will get off and head to Machu Pichu for three days, Lima explorations and shopping for yours truly.