Published: April 30th 2012April 28th 2012
Saturday was a trip to the Equator line, about an hour and a half outside of Quito, and vey crowded public buses.
The first bus we took was one of the extra long 'accordion' buses. According to the sign on the bus, it's capacity was 42 seated, 118 standing! Third World for you, everyone takes the bus, few get a seat. Did manage to get one on the second bus, though, as we got on on the first stop. A number of people got on and off again as the journey progressed, selling Catholic blessing cards, candies, snacks. There was also a blind beggar who was singing along to a portable radio, somewhat off-key. By far the nicest dressed gentleman on the bus, a businessman with a sharp suit and fancy watch, made a point to give a little money to everyone selling or begging. Seemed to be tacitly acknowledging the fact that he could afford NOT to take the bus, so might as well give back if he was going to.
Finally we arrived at La Mitad del Mundo, the middle of the world. A bit of a funny thing as there are two competing 'official' equator lines and museums, about 250 metres apart. One measured by GPS in the 80s, with a small, faintly tacky museum. The other, less accurate one in the early 1700s, with a grand monument , museum, and tourist complex. We went to the older one first, and had a bit of fun hopping back and forth over the line, and taking the requisite touristy shots.
Not too crowded, the most interesting person was a Catholic nun who was having a surprisingly amount of fun beaming and dancing down the equator line. How many people can say they've got a picture of a dancing nun, let alone a dancing nun at the Equator? The monument is a tallish building with a lookout point at the top, and an ethnographic museum inside detailing aspects of the lives if the major indigenas groups of Ecuador.
After a quick lunch (plantain and cheese empanada and some very good lemonade) we wandered around the compound a bit. Typical tourist stuff... Lots of little souvenir shops, including one where you can get your passport stamped with a 'hey look guys I've been to the equator' type thing. It was free, so I got stamped. Also bought some Ecuadorian candy to try it out, fudge and candied guava. Both tasty!
Will admit to buying a shawl while I was there, even knowing there was probably a bit of a markup. (did bargain a bit, though!) I couldn't resist, though, beautiful rich indigo colour, llama/alpaca type blend. Ridiculously soft, and eight dollars ?,isn't too exorbitant, I don't think.
Next was the more accurate equator line, a little down the road. The museum was largely open air, surrounded by nice plants and lots of busy huhummingbird feeders. It was a bit cheesy, with shrunken heads, and some fake demonstrations of the 'power of the equator' like balancing an egg on the head of a nail ('easier at the equator'!) the supposed difference in the direction of drains (also fake, the Coriolus effect only works on large bodies of water), that sort of thing. I mostly just wanted to hop the 'real' equator line. Whichever line you count, I probably hopped over it about 120 times or so? Something like that. I just wanted to beat my dad who said he'd hopped 'dozens' of times, so hopefully I did?
One the way back, we stopped by an wonderful open air market. I love them, between the produce, fish, animals, people... Easy to get good pictures! Though I did get a piece of fruit peel chucked at me by a grumpy old indigenous lady who did NOT wanted to be photographed. There were also some cute kids who I showed the photos I took of them and were delighted, so balances out I guess.
In the evening we wandered around the Old town a bit more. Some streets are blocked off at night to cars, and you get music, vendors, and some interesting stuff. Strong police presence, so felt pretty safe. Had non Ecuadorian food for dinner... Pesto fettuccini, yum! Also looked at a hatmaker shop.
I love hats, and these were all handmade bythe gebtleman in the shop. I admit to being horrible tempted by a number of beautiful felt cloche hats, but they would hardly travel well, so I bougt a cheaper cloth one that folds up well, and was still very nice looking.
Then it was back to our hotel, and on the Banos the next day.