Mugged in the middle of the world

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December 6th 2005
Published: May 28th 2006
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The Equator, EcuadorThe Equator, EcuadorThe Equator, Ecuador

Standing at the middle of the world
My friends and I continued north from Riobamba Ecuador to Banos, which is a picturesque town in the centre of the country surrounded by mountains and known for adventure activities. We spent a quiet day at the local pool in this lovely town and enjoyed good food, but had to press on north to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. We had a very bad experience within two hours of arrival despite being out early in the central tourist area, and being within a block of two security guards with dogs. Fortunately we weren't really hurt and my friend's possessions were quickly recovered by security.

We spent four nights in Quito, dear reader, and a definite highlight was the middle of the world with the equator only twenty two kilometres from the city. It's a highly recommended and unique travel experience. We visited the monument built on the equator then went on to the native museum. We enjoyed a fascinating guided tour right on the equator, which was given by a knowledgeable German volunteer. She demonstrated water flowing down a moveable sink from three positions. To the right was the southern hemisphere where the water drained clockwise, then right on the
The Equator monumentThe Equator monumentThe Equator monument

We pose at the monument in the middle of the world.
equator the water was sucked straight down the drain, and a few metres into the northern hemisphere the water drained anti-clockwise. This is apparently due to the coriolis effect based on the rotation of the earth, and it's an amazing phenomenon to witness. It's interesting to note the countries on the equator never experience hurricanes. We were also informed that your body mass is 10% lighter on the equator, and I could not resist having my arms pulled down by our guide when I was standing right on the equator. I think I need to do more push ups on the equator to avoid being a latitude zero pushover! We also saw excellent exhibits of astronomy and explored native buildings. The natives of the area correctly identified the exact position of the equator two hundred years ago, despite not having the benefit of western technology available at the time.

It was time for my friends to fly out to Mexico and I want to briefly take this chance to wish you both bon voyage. We had great fun and shared many wonderful travel experiences across three countries in the last month and a half, it was a pleasure travelling with you. I was fortunate to meet a Danish girl in my new Quito hostel on the first night, and we agreed to travel together north across the border into Colombia the next morning. The border crossing was uneventful and we rode in a supertaxi (minibus) through spectacular mountainous terrain to Pasto. This route on the carretera panamericana is known as one of the most famous roads in South America, and winds up and down the Andean chains. Pasto was a stopover for us to avoid travelling at night, and next morning we were up early again for the all day trip to Cali.

We arrived around 4:00pm and I was introduced to three travel friends of my new travel companion. They had been travelling together in Ecuador, and I was very grateful for the company in a new country. Cali is famous for beautiful girls and is also the salsa capital of Colombia. Salsa music and dancing is everywhere in this vibrant Latino city. There are some great clubs and thursday to saturday are the big nights for going out, and the people we met were friendly and seemed glad to have tourists in their country. They really
Shrunken headShrunken headShrunken head

Middle of the world museum. This is how the natives would cut their captured enemies down to size!
make an effort to make you feel welcome. We stayed in on the sunday, and traded travel stories at the hostel over a few drinks. People who have been travelling for a period of time in South America are always such a good laugh. Their travel stories can be amazing, they can be hilarious, they can be incredible, they can be frightening, they can be farcical, but they are never dull. It seems travellers in South America experience a life where truth really can be stranger than fiction!

In summary, my early impressions of Colombia have been very positive. The cities are nice and clean with friendly people in spite of the large military presence securing the main travel routes. The country seems to be on the up, with rising prices arising from a huge influx of new investment. There's also a stable and popular government at the moment so, basically all of you should be here now!

Nothing is harder than that uncertain, Martian-On-Earth feeling of being alone in the middle of nowhere." Paul Theroux

As I continue my travels, until next time it´s signing off for now


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Pan Americana sceneryPan Americana scenery
Pan Americana scenery

This is on the bus after entering Colombia

6th December 2005

Tom, great reading journals 6 & 7. Yup, the Oz-Uraguay win was sensational. It's the draw this week, so we'll see who is in what group. Hope you survived the "bad experience" in Quito OK. Enjoy Colombia, and all the natural beauty ;-)
7th December 2005

On the road in Columbia
My advice? Stay away from white powders and try not to become a shrunken head!

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