Friday, February 04, 2011

The Ecuator - Mitad del Mundo

El Mitad del Mundo.

Tina and my original plan was to take a bus back into Quito and then back up to Otavalo. However, our hosts said they could arrange direct transport for us and that we could get two free stops on the way, including one at the Equator. It cost quite a bit more than the buses, but it would save us a lot of time to not cut through Quito. With limited time, we opted to spend the extra money again.

Mountains on our drive.

I love how the mountains tower over the populated valley.

We were supposed to stop at a crater overlook and the actual Equator. While our hosts did a great job making sure our driver would not give us another white knuckled experience, they did not convey that we were supposed to stop. By the time we asked our driver about stopping, we had already missed the first stop. Then, he took us to the Equator monument called Mitad del Mundo. However, this isn't where we wanted to go. That amazing monument and its surrounding tourist infrastructure went up in 1979, but is built on the spot where the French said the Equator was located in the 1700s. They were off by 600m.

Cuy - guinea pig.

The monument at the Mitad del Mundo.

We wanted to visit the actual Equator. Near the Mitad del Mundo, there is a museum supposedly on the actual line. You can balance an egg. You can see water drain both clockwise and counterclockwise. The museum is apparently a bunch of tricks that can actually be replicated at any latitude, but people love it anyway. However, this was not where we, really I, wanted to go. We wanted to go to another monument that was on the main road to Otavalo. We thought no problem.

I love that these kids have, what I think, are FC Barcelona jerseys for their cement soccer match.

Our driver thought otherwise which led into a frustration that I knew well from the Middle East. I felt like the guy was trying to take advantage of us, but he said that we were taking a different road up to Otavalo which was fair. We called our hostel who had arranged the ride and talked to them. Our host said to choose somewhere else to stop. We chose Cuicocha Lake, a crater lake just past Otavalo. At first out driver agreed and then an hour later, he changed his mind. He explained that it was also too far. A little bit later, we saw the a sign saying that the town where we wanted to go originally was only 6km from where we were. We asked our driver about it and told him we didn't think 12-20km round trip was too far out of the way. He still didn't want to, but we called our hostel again and they righted the ship. We were off to the actual Equator line.

The actual center of the world.

The battle to get what we were promised drives me crazy. I get way to caught up in the principle of the matter. Tina was willing to do whatever. I definitely admire her ability to just let it go. On the positive side, I could not understand our driver's English very well so we eventually switched to my broken Spanish which actually worked out alright.

Me at the Quitsato sundial, the actual Equator.

Quitsato sundial.

The Equator monument we went to, the Quitsato sundial, had two guides and two people selling stuff. It was super quiet. It wasn't flashy. I loved it. It reminded me of something like Stonehenge even though they have no relation and this monument was built with in the last 25 years. The monument was a huge area of smooth stones. They had different colored stones in a line to indicate this or that line. They had other boulders to indicate other stuff as well. In the middle, they had a huge gaudy orange needle to create the shadows for the sundial. The whole scene worked for me. At the beginning our driver was even interested, but he soon got distracted by his cell phone.

After our quick pit stop, we were finally off to the Northern Hemisphere and the famous Otavalo market in the Plaza de los Ponchos.

Me at Mitad del Mundo.

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