Took a quick day trip to the equator line today... both the "fake" one and the "real" one
Very cool and will update with photos etc once I'm settled on the Galapagos isles and sittin on a turtle's back
I took local transport out to visit the equator line today rather than the more expensive option most people take which is to share a taxi ride. It was fine, if rather crowded, and only cost about 50 cent for the whole trip one way, plus I got to mix with the locals. Took a while to get there though, as Quito is yet another huge sprawling South American city.
Located some 200km north of the city, you need to take a tram to the city limits, then get a transfer bus for the rest of the way (on the way back I hopped on a direct bus which brought me all the way back... for around 40 cent.. so that might be an option for getting out there too!)
Middle of the Earth...
The purpose of today's trip was of course to partake of kitsch tourist photography and get a picture of me straddling both sides of the equator with an expression of ill-deserved glee 'tween outspread arms.
"A short trip", I thought to myself, "...and then I'll get back around 2pm to explore the old town in Quito". As it happened, the Mitad del Mundo trip is anything but standard fare, and the extraordinary arrange of museums kept me occupied well past sunset...
As explained in one of the museum exhibits at the site, Ecuador was chosen as the best place to pinpoint the location of the equator back in the early 18th century by a group of French mathmaticians and thinkers. Ecuador (well it wasn't called "Ecuador" then obviously as it was part of a larger Spanish state) was chosen as it was geo-politically the most stable location at this latitude: Africa was at that stage virtually unexplored and Brazil was dangerous injun territory.
The Frenchies approximated the location using primitive tools, but they weren't far off!
Ground Zero at the...
Modern technology tells us that the equator line actually moves according to the rotation of the Earth, but it's more or less around this latitude give or take a few km. Pretty impressive achievement.
Nowadays a huge park has been built up around the site where they first pinpointed the location, along with a huge monument, through which runs the infamous red-painted line that marks the supposed exact equator (and where crowds of tourists clamber to get "that photo"). I of course obliged!
The park is pretty cool with lots of mini-museums randomly displaying everything from Ecuadorian indigenous history, to how the equator line was calculated, to an insect museum.. even down to a scale miniture of various Ecuadorian cities. On the weekend when I was there they had lots of live outdoor music to enjoy while scoffing back a sandwich (called a "sanduich" here... as I find they are in most of South America rather than the Spanish word bocadillo... Lord "Sanduich" must be rolling in his grave.)
I then ventured off to the nearby Intiñan Solar Museum which claims to have the REAL equator line!
Here I took a tour which included more interesting tidbits about Ecuador such as an array of huge rainfirst insect carcasses (Ecuador has a huge section of the Amazon basin) and even real-shrunken heads! Then we did more "Equator-line tourist kitsch" stuff which included a display of how water flows in opposite directions through a hole in a bucket when moved to either side of the "real" line. I took a video of this and will have to examine how it was done later. My mate Jonny reckons he was pulling the wool over my eyes, but I know what I saw
Large Ecuador rainforest...
They had a map here of the different indigenous groups in Ecuador. There are LOADS for such a small area. The first thing you notice about Ecuadorians, especially if you are arriving from Colombia or Brazil is how most of them look like they have some indigenous ancestry. Definately a lot of "Inca" blood in this place. The map in the Mitad del Mundo reinforced this concept for me, and showed that the entire land was populated quite densely by the time the Spanish arrived.
So very interesting day and would recommend a trip out there, whether or not you believe it's REALLY the actual Equator line or not.
Getting back to my hotel I got prepared for my trip to the Galapagos isles for the next day, but in the meantime I had to make sure to book my flight to Peru as I was going to have to leave as soon as I got back due to my tight itinerary (I estimate I'll get between 10-14 days in each of the remaining countries.. not a lot but a good taster!) so a bus to leave Ecuador wasn't gonna be an option
Taca had the cheapest flight: 520 dollars including all tax! AAARGH... that's the most expensive yet, and it wasn't even that much of a trip being only 2 hours long... grrr bastards.
I'm wondering if the high cost of the flight is related to the political tensions between Peru and Ecuador in the past (the south east of Ecuador is mined due to border disputes with Peru)... alas, as always, tourists stuck in the middle have to pay the price.