mitad del mundo

One does not visit Quito without heading slightly north of the city to stand on the big red line that represents the GPS-confirmed location of the equator. After all, the country is named for it. The line is painted on the grounds of a quirky little “museum” and interpretation centre called Inti Nan (path of the sun). It’s a privately-run facility, complete with a cheesy display that describes how certain Amazonian tribes turned human heads into grotesque shrunken head pendants. The on-site guide seemed quite proud of this display but we’re sure any self-respecting anthropologist would have a fit at the way these ancient civilizations are depicted.

The walk along the big red line is the fun part. We had some vague idea about the balancing of eggs on the equator, and both of us did succeed in setting an egg on the head of a nail – apparently you can only do this on the equator, although we’ve never tried this at home. Three tourists from Holland were part of our tour group, but only one was able to get it right – Canada 2, Holland 1!

Our guide also demonstrated how water flows straight down a drain over the line, clockwise south of the equator, and counterclockwise north of the equator. Or so we thought. It was a quick but convincing demonstration, however science websites note that the Coriolis effect, which explains why cyclones rotate clockwise in the southern hemisphere, and counterclockwise in the northern, only works with huge amounts of moving air and water. Certainly not with water in a small basin, where they claim water flow is affected more by how the water enters the basin and the design of the drain. Oh well, it was fun to watch just the same.

It was too cloudy to fully appreciate how shadows behave at the equator (in fact, we experienced lightening and intense rain showers within the hour) – but we did try walking along the line with our eyes closed and arms outstretched – it can’t be done, we were told, because at the equator you are being pulled straight down, but on either side you are being pulled in opposite directions – extremely disorienting!

After the Inti Nan visit, we headed over to the public park and monument built on the site that French scientists, on expedition in 1736 to determine the diameter of the earth, believed was on the equator. They were only 150m off. The seven-story Mitad del Mundo  (middle of the world) monument that is there now was built in 1936 to replace a very small monument that was built many years earlier. There is a “colonial town” full of restaurants and gift shops and a covered stage and audience area near the monument. Apparently the place is extremely crowded with locals on weekends when live music is featured, although it was very quiet on the weekday we were there (other than the thunder).

On the way back to Quito we had a long conversation with our driver, Christian. We happened to mention that the streets and sidewalks in Quito were in much better condition that those in Buenos Aires, which were the worst we’d seen – full of holes with broken chunks of concrete heaved up in every direction, and covered with garbage and dog poop. He was happy to hear this and thanked us for saying so. He said Argentinians are always expressing superiority over Ecuador and the rest of South America, and now he had something to fire back.

We had a look at the stats for our blog and discovered that we’ve had over 6000 page views since we started this trip, with visitors from 49 countries. It was no surprise there were many visitors from Canada and the US, but not sure why New Zealand views come in third, followed by views from Bolivia. We have had visitors from many of the places we’ve visited throughout the Americas, but also from as far away as Turkey, Tunisia, Finland, Albania, Georgia, and the United Arab Emirates. Oh the mysteries of the internet!

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