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Published: July 14th 2015
Mitad del Mundo, the Middle of the World
The Top of the World highway, in the Yukon, is an alternative route connecting Dawson City to Tok, Alaska. When I saw “The Top of the World” on our map, it drew me like the Pied Piper’s flute drew the children through the streets of Hamlin. In Hammerfest, Norway I had my photo taken standing next to the Struve Meridian marker that commemorates the first accurate measurement of a meridian. So, too, I felt compelled to get a photo of the monument at Mitad del Mundo, the Middle of the World in Quito, Ecuador.
I packed a snack, some water, and my Kindle so I could read during the hour and a half bus ride to Mitad del Mundo. I bought a ticket at the bus station I can see from my window. I waited with a crush of people and when I barely got on, I was crushed. People were packed in so tightly that when one person moved, we all moved. I was just inside the bus doors and managed to support my backpack on the hand rail while the bus
Fairy Tale Horse
Located in the shallow pools surrounding the Headquarters of the Union of South American Nations.
was moving. There was a charming little boy about two or three with his arm stretched high over his head, grasping his mother’s hand. Eduardo, his shirt said. The poor little guy would lurch whenever the bus stopped, or took a corner. His little eyelids would gradually drift shut, just to be awakened when the passengers shifted again. I changed places with the woman and she set the young child up on the rail and allowed him to lean onto her chest. He immediately fell fast asleep. Soon a seat opened up and she was able to sit and hold him on her lap. There were business men and women, country men and women, school children, and a few tourists and expats. It was an interesting way to see the city. Luckily I had a strap to grasp, and I wrapped my leg around a pole to keep from being knocked off my feet on steep climbs, or descents, absorbing the weight of all the other people leaning against me.
When we exited for the transfer at Ophelia, I fell in step with a very nice young women named Mari. She asked the ticket taker to tell
me where to exit the bus for the monument. The bus drove on and on, finally stopping in the middle of the street. The driver told me to get off. The dust blew so thick you had to cover your eyes. I looked around. There was no monument in sight. Just chain link fencing and emptiness. The conductor had forgotten to tell me when to get off the bus. I was in the outskirts of a small village named, you guessed it, Mitad del Mundo. Luckily for me, a young woman waiting for the return bus called to me from the sidewalk and told me to wait with her. Another bus going back the way I came, was imminent. We got on; at least we had seats. Soon the bus was full again, but this time the woman told me when to get off.
I saw a huge modern building with lots of tourists pouring in and out. When I got closer I saw it was surrounded by immense shallow multilevel pools giving the appearance that the building was floating. I am always drawn to ponds and waterfalls because my oldest son has a nursery and landscape
This fanciful bird is perched on a curling leaf.
business, Falling Water Gardens, in my home town, Monroe, Washington. Check out his website at fallingwatergardens.com.
I learned that this was the new headquarters for the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). It houses the offices of the governing body of South America. I wandered around, and then found the ticket office where I bought a ticket to the park. The museum and the planetarium were closed, but there was still plenty to see.
The monument is the central point, but as I walked up the wide avenue toward it I noticed hummingbird sculptures lined each side, spaced about half a block apart. There must have been at least thirty of them and each was painted in different palettes of color. The hummingbird stood on a curled leaf and inside each leaf was a mural with a different theme. I was intrigued so I asked a lovely young lady dressed in national costume what the birds signified. She told me it was a traveling exhibition and was only there for a short time.
In addition, or as part of the same art exhibit were several colorful large flower blossoms, a gigantic
Quantity and Color
Hummingbirds line the avenue.
many colored corn on the cob sculpture and draped fabric of brilliant hues hanging over a central plaza. It looked much like the inner side of a hot air balloon or a hip sultan’s tent.
Finally I turned my attention to the monument itself. It marks the general location of the equator. The four sides are labeled North, South, East and West and there is a large globe on the top. As with most tall monuments, it is hard to get a good photo. You are either too close, or too far away. A wide angle lens is essential. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo straddling the equatorial line, with one foot in the western hemisphere and one in the eastern hemisphere.
The grounds are extensive and there are large numbers of uniformed groundskeepers, continually sweeping, washing and taking care of the plantings, buildings, etc. The place is very, very clean. It is obviously a favorite for Ecuadorians, too. Families are picnicking, children play on the swings or pet the llamas. There is a small village of craftsmen working and selling their wares. I bought enough small souvenirs to necessitate a trip to
Fanciful Corn Cob
I love corn on the cob.
the post office to mail home a package.
After shopping I thought about eating and I stopped at a charming small café with two outdoor tables. I ordered tea and a green banana empanada. I dusted it with sugar and it was delicious. The small patio provided a perfect respite, after walking for a couple of hours.
The park was closing so I caught a return bus to Quito, and found seating because it was at the beginning of the run. A woman took me in tow at the transfer station and I also got a seat, but there was no relaxing with the Kindle. It was much more fun to look at the other passengers. I found the men’s hair styles interesting – some of them have the side hair cut quite short and the center, oval shaped, looks like the two or three inch long hair has been permed. One young man had his rather long locks brushed up and back from his forehead a la Elvis Presley. Clothing is a surprise; some people seem overdressed with padded or wool coats, sweaters and wool hats, and some are dressed for sunny warm
weather. I wonder if they would rather be too warm than cold?
Everyone had to get off the bus at the terminal. Since it was the last stop, I knew I was in the right place but it took me some time to get oriented. Then I saw the exit from the motorway that I see every day from my window, and directly in front of it was the little plaza outside my hotel.
Mitad del Mundo was an enchanting equatorial excursion.
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