At the time, we didn’t realize it, but we were so lucky that this trip was actually able to happen!
As I’m writing this, we’re on day 12 of nationwide protests in Ecuador. Probably, you haven’t heard about this because the international news coverage has been strikingly thin.
In short, CONAIE, the organization representing all indigenous groups in Ecuador, started protesting on June 13. They have ten demands, the top priority being gas prices, which have nearly doubled. The others included more time to pay back loans, more money for education, and stopping mining (the mining issue directly affects the Napo region, where Tena is).
Also, side note, yes. Gas prices have risen globally. However, I think a key difference here is the average income in Ecuador versus the United States or Europe. Especially for those living in more remote communities, a nearly double price in gas hurts a lot more than in other places. That’s not to discount those struggling elsewhere, only to say that everyday life here can be very different than everyday life in the US or Europe.
Anyway, here we are. Most of the protests have been concentrated in Quito or the surrounding towns and communities in the Andes mountains. As of today, many roads leading out of Quito have been blocked with rocks, cars, or burning tires. As expected, with a crowd of 10,000+ in the capital city, there have been some reports of violence, but the majority has been peaceful. Given its proximity to the Amazon region, Tena also has a large indigenous population and has become more active in the past few days with local protests.
However, what you notice the most is the food and gas shortage. Locally, the road blockades have stopped trucks from entering Tena. Nationally, the major distributors have been blocked; food and produce have been unable to make it to the distributors, so (obviously) it’s not being distributed. So, according to reports, food has just been left to spoil.
The same is true for gas. Trucks have been unable to restock the gas stations and the propane tanks for cooking. So, fewer taxis have been running, and the buses and trash service have also stopped. So, shops and restaurants are generally closed, and Tena feels like a quiet Sunday morning but it’s a Friday afternoon.
So, how does it end? Both sides keep calling for negotiations. The government has conceded some smaller demands, but they haven’t budged on the gas prices, saying it will cost too much to lower them (gas is government-subsidized here). The CONAIE says that they will keep up the protests until the gas prices are reduced. Now, people are starting to get annoyed that the country has been forced to a standstill, and counter-protesting has begun in some places. So, I guess only time will tell!
The point of all this was to say that Mary Beth and I were extremely lucky that we could visit everywhere we wanted without issue because the protests started on the third day of our trip!
We bookended our trip in Quito with a stopover in Mitad del Mundo, aka the equator!
With only one full day in Quito, we did some wandering through the historic center, went to the La Compañía de Jesús (the golden church), and stopped at Jimmy’s in the Mercado Central for lunch. However, the day’s highlight was definitely the Basílica del Voto Nacional!
Basílica del Voto Nacional
Supposedly, you can see several volcanoes from the tower. Naturally, it was cloudy that day, so we saw zero, but the views were still spectacular.
And, I hope you’re ready to climb some steep stairs. My second trip up did not make it better! 😆 But, they did make some improvements since Shane and I first visited some months earlier. Their new stairs included a glass platform (😬), and the entryway ramp got an extreme makeover!
And speaking of views in Quito…
Several people recommended Cafe Mosaico, which was a perfect spot for our final night. I mean, these views. 😍 They also have canelazo, a warm, spiced orange apple cider-like (alcoholic) drink that just topped off these views.
El Mitad del Mundo
The middle of the world!
Visiting the equator is something we just HAD to do! But, I didn’t expect to enjoy the Intiñan Site Museum as much as I did. The equator is about 40 minutes north of Quito, so on our way back from Mindo, we stopped for about an hour to check out the middle of the earth.
There is another (and probably more famous) monument at the Mitad del Mundo, but, fun fact, it’s not actually on the equator! However, the equator line at the Intiñan Museum is the real-deal (proven by our tour guide’s GPS).
We were led on a guided tour through the museum, which was much more informative than I anticipated. And, of course, you got to take the typical-tourist-but-I-gotta-have-it-anyway picture!
A quick little story about the next picture. Our tour group included two delightful older couples who, when asked, “Do you want to take a romantic photo?” jumped at the chance for a picture kissing across the equator. So, when it was our turn, I asked Mary Beth, “Do you want to take a romantic photo?!”
She said no. 😐
So, I made her hold hands anyway and we ended up with this. 💗
Finally, the tour ends with some REALLY FUN experiments involving the equator. For example, everyone had a chance to try and balance an egg on a nail.
My recommendation? If you’re short on time, choose the Intiñan Museum over the main monument!
Next up, our trip to Quilotoa Lagoon!