Published: February 26th 2007February 25th 2007
Well, it seems silly to have been in Ecuador for a week now and not have seen the equator (although we have crossed it several times without knowing!) so our Sunday trip is to Mitad del Mundo. Apparently it is completely ´touristic´ (have heard that word so much here I can´t even decide if it is real English or not!) but it has to be done. We´d seen the buses go from across the road form our house all week so we managed to get on one ok after stocking up at the bakery for the day. It was a lot easier going places with just the three of us instead of the whole group - less people to get lost! The bus was reasonable comfortable allowing for Ecuadorian roads and bus drivers that seem to think it´s the Grand Prix - no health and safety in this place. Arrived in one piece minus our eardrums from the salsa that had been blaring out the whole time and got literally dropped at the side of the road. Quite a long queue although mainly Ecuadorians and not tourists as it is a Sunday - there were even nuns queueing up! We got
inside and you really can´t miss the monument. We all had the requisite photo straddling the equator line although apparently it isn´t even the real one. The calculations made in 1736 were about 200metres off but still, who´s to know?! Managed to find our first post office since arriving in Ecuador within the site and so our postcards have ´Mitad del Mundo´postmarks. Very cool and I hope the recipients are suitably impressed. Also got our passports stamped to say we´d been there. There was a salsa band and traditional dancers in the main square which was good to see although we did abandon it in favour of lunch. I would like to say we braved ´Cuy´(guinea pig) but we had to go for comfort food in the form of burgers and chips in the end. Left the compound after lunch and found the outdoor museum next to the site which has the ´real´equator line as calculated by GPS seven years ago. It looked a bit like something out of Disneyland despite our guide´s insistence that one house was 170 years old (complete with the photo of the ówner´inside!) It even had a guinea pig pen with guinea pigs in it
Here I am with my balanced egg and looking very happy with myself!
although apparently in real houses they´re allowed to run loose - something to do with bringing good luck (right before they are eaten of course). Looked so cute I don´t know if I can bring myself to eat one while I´m out here. It was very good though despite the heat. We did the water test and true enough it does run straight down the plughole when the sink´s on the equator and opposite ways either side. Another test involved trying to balance an egg on the head of a nail exactly on the equator. Apparently it´s something to do with the gravitational force on the equator. Either way I managed to do it and got a certificate to prove it. The museum was a random mix of Quito indigenous history, equator gimicks (which are still really fun!) and the totally bizarre. We were shown burial pits from AD1400 where the wife of the chief was buried alive with him when he died. The guide seemed quite delighted with this and also with the shrunken head we were shown. Supposedly it was real and of a 12 year old child and she took great delight in describing the process to
Very glad these were neither alive nor out of the tanks!
us. Apparently, and quite disturbingly, the last known case of heads being shrunk (is that right?) was during the war with Peru only 25 years ago. Something to keep in mind if you annoy someone out here! They also had a huge tank and loads of jars with pickled snakes in including two giant pythons and the skin of a seven metre long anaconda on the wall (something to look forward to if we go to the jungle!)
The bus ride home was less fun. One bus roared past us with a guy hanging out yelling ´Quito, Quito, Quito´as they do so we thought why not and got on. We even checked it went past our street and he said yes so who are we to disbelieve?! Really uncomfortable and got slightly worried when we stopped after only 30 minutes (the journey out had taken an hour). He didn´t seem bothered at all about lying to us and said we had to get the metro which we did. Unfortunatley we had no idea where to get off so we took a chance and ended up somewhere in Quito. Not much help when it´s that huge. It took us forty minutes of walking and several consultations with the map before we finally got home. The only good news being in our travels we found the Banco el Pinchincha which is the one that doesn´t charge that we´ve been looking for all week. Still, home safe and sound and ready for another loooong day of school tomorrow.