Wednesday in Quito!
Slept in til the alarm went off and dragged around my room for a few minutes. Then rejuvenated myself with a delicious banana (no GMO here, folks – bananas taste like their supposed to, still) and went to breakfast on the Terrace with my laptop (one egg scrambled, coffee or tea, on large croissant, and a small bowl of fresh cut fruit – $1.00). A lovely couple from Calgary shared my table as there were no other tables available, and we discovered that we were all going to the same place today – Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world)! We decided to go together, so after breakfast we rendezvoused down at the reception area of our hostel, and off we trekked to the appropriate bus stop – the Blue Line.
Caught the bus ($.25) which took us waaaay to the northern end of Quito to a major Bus Terminal, then transferred to another bus heading to Mitad del Mundo ($.10). We wondered whether we had boarded the correct bus as it made stops almost every 15’ picking up anybody and everybody alongside the road who was waiting for a bus! But finally, 1.5 hours after we left the Chicago Hostel, it dropped us at our destination and we entered the area said to be the equator’s dividing line between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere.
Mitad del Mundo is quite the tourist center ($2.00 adults, $1.00 seniors and children), with a large 8 story monument to the equator’s line, and within that building is quite an excellent Cultural Museum on each floor of the various indigenous cultures of Ecuador – I had no idea there were so many! The amazing thing is that many of them are still living the old way, though they have almost all been introduced to Christianity and much of current living trends. Some of them still live naked with the males tying their penises up with a string so they don’t get in the way of daily living – quite amazing to see the current photos! The basket work and weaving are highly talented, with one of the groups doing the weavings from the reverse side! Astonishing! I’ve never seen weaving done that way before.
After 8 floors of reading about the various cultures in Ecuador and seeing examples of the products and large color photos of them (we weren’t allowed to take pictures in that museum) I wandered out and looked for my friends, Rhonda and Mike, from Calgary. While looking for them I found the scales that you can put a quarter in and it will give you your weight at the equator, which is supposed to be a kilo less (about 2 pounds) than in either the Northern or Southern hemisphere. To me it seemed that my weight was the same as normal, and probably that is because it isn’t the true equator, as discussed below. Found my friends and visited for a few minutes, then we decided to both go our own ways, and rendezvous again once we’re back at the Chicago Hostel.
I was famished and went to a little restaurant in the tourist area and ordered a ¼ chicken, rice, potatoes (the potatoes and rice are excellent down here), salad and water – the whole lunch was huge and cost $4.00! I had about 1/3 of it left over so brought it home with me. There are many, many shops in the tourist village area with all types of souvenirs for the purchase, and several high end gorgeous restaurants.
Walked over to the western side of the exhibits and saw the Museum del Sol, then the Insect Exhibit which was nothing short of incredible with the most gorgeous and imaginative insects of every kind I’ve ever seen (again we weren’t allowed to take pictures), then the French Museum, then the Geological Museum, and then out the gate and north to the Museo de Sitio Inti-Nan – the REAL center of the world.
Now THAT was truly interesting. This place says IT is the true equatorial center, and it is 200 meters to the north of the first one. It’s equatorial line was determined using GPS when that technology was newly discovered, so it was learned after the Mitad del Mundo was built that the TRUE equator is actually a bit north of where the large monument and tourist villa now stand.
The tour at Inti-Nan cost $3.00, and a group of three others from Vancouver Island and myself had an English speaking guide. It was fascinating! We learned and saw some of the ways of the indigenous peoples used to live, their house styles, cooking ways, saddles, burial traditions, guinea pig raising (they eat guinea pigs here just like we eat chicken in the states), and even how they shrunk heads in certain areas in the past. We also got to see some skins and some very large stuffed Anacondas. You wouldn’t want one of these snakes to spy you when they’re hungry!
Finally we got to the fun stuff! We got to see how equatorial time is told with something similar to a sundial, but different since the sun is 6 months on one side of the stone dial, and 6 months on the other – the direction of the shadow changes depending whether it’s winter or summer. Then we got to see water drain from a portable sink – clockwise in the southern hemisphere, straight down directly on the equator, and counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere – and it was only 6 feet off either side of the equator, yet it made such a difference! Incredible! Then we tried to balance an egg on a nail – our guide could do it, but none of us could. Then we tried an exercise where kinesiology is at play – trying to pull a person’s thumb and forefinger apart while they tried to hold the connection of those fingers together. Supposedly it is difficult to pull them apart in either hemisphere, but easy to do on the equator, as there are opposing centrifugal forces which weaken a person’s strength. This exercise didn’t play terribly well, but it was fun. Then we tried to walk the equatorial line with arms outstretched, thumbs up, and eyes closed. This was supposed to be again difficult because of opposing centrifugal forces, which may be the case, but I challenge that it is difficult to walk a straight line anywhere when the eyes are closed and your arms up outstreched to either side and you’re having to heel-to-toe touch all the way. Try it – the difficulty has little to do with being on the equator.
Finally our guide showed us some more indigenous dwelling replicas, and some captive guinea pigs (poor sweet things – they were scared and squeeling when we looked at them – they are eaten like we eat chicken). He led us back to a woven wool shop for purchases of rugs, etc., and stamped our passports with the 0’0’0’’ mark which shows we’ve been to the center of the world – pretty cool!
The nice folks I took the tour with offered me a ride back to Quito in their taxi, and within minutes we were back in the city – so much different than the bus! I checked out about 4 more hostels in the vicinity of their hotel (nice area!) then headed over to the Tierra de Fuego Tourist Agency and got updated about my trip departing to the Galapagos Islands tomorrow, and started walking back home.
Along my return to Chicago Hostel there was an excellent coffee shop called “Ethnic Café” where I stopped and had my first Latte since I’ve been down here (it was superbly made) and a half beef and vegetable sandwich which arrived in a whole wheat pita pocket with side salad and miniature baked potatoes. Total bill, $5.48. And it was absolutely delicious and the place is the best I’ve been in since I’ve arrived in Ecuador – could’ve been in a swank part of San Diego!
Continued walking home and passed a couple musicians playing on the street – Andean music of wood flutes playing over pre-scored background music, speakers and all powered by a very quiet generator humming along right beside them – what a hoot! And they were good, so of course I had to buy one of their CDs – $5.00.
Finished walking home and now getting ready for the Galapagos Islands! The tour agency will pick me up tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. to take me to the airport and my flight departs at 9:45. I expect to arrive in the Galapagos around 1 p.m. I will not be able to access internet in the Galapagos, to my understanding. That’ll be different!