Seeing double in Ecuador

By Contributor

Pat loves to travel with her daughter and has most recently done it like a local in Peru, Ecuador and Thailand. When she's not traveling you'll likely find her out on the golf course.

Monday, Oct 14, 2013

The meaning of Ecuador in english is equator. To avoid confusion, locals refer to the location of the equator as la mitad del mundo - the middle of the world.  The equator is located just north of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. Surprisingly, our tour of the city didn't include a stop there, but a 30 minute cab ride did.

Visiting 0⁰0'0" - The Equator

Our first stop was Museo de Sitio Intiñan where the official, GPS located, Latitude 0⁰0'0" is demarked by a red line and sign.  


GPS located, Latitude 0⁰0'0"

There are a number of interesting phenomena that can only be observed at the equator. Our museum guide led us through a number of these demonstrations such as a vertical sundial where the sun shines on each side for 6 months of the year and on both sides during the spring equinox and autumnal solstice, balancing an egg on a nail head, difficulty balancing and loss of strength.
My favourite was the Coriolis effect demonstration. On north side of the equator, the water drained counterclockwise, on the south side it drained clockwise and when the sink was positioned on top of the equatorial line, the water drained straight down.  Whether you believe the demonstrations it or not, they were all quite entertaining.  Other highlights of the museum were its gardens and sculptures, native dance performances and a variety of exhibits showing indigenous life, including live guinea pigs and a shrunken human head.

Could you repeat that, please?

Next we were asked if we wanted to go to the other equator. The other equator? We were intrigued so off we went to El Mitad del Mundo, which is approximately five minutes drive from the museum. At the park is a monument marking the location of the equator as measured by the French in the 18th century, in the dark ages before GPS.  As it turns out the location and the monument constructed there are about 100 meters off the mark, hence the two equators. While at the park we also visited an insectarium and snacked at a cafe while watching performances by local musicians. 

All in all, the best part was having our pictures taken at both equators to prove that we were there.


The Monument at El Mitad del Mundo

Local facts about Quito

  • Quito was named as the first UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. The city was built on the ruins of an Inca city and has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America.
  • When shopping for souvenirs, beware of the prices for alpaca wool clothing -- if it is incredibly inexpensive, the item is probably a wool blend with very little alpaca wool. 
  • Expect to see popcorn in your soup instead of crackers. Unexpected perhaps, tasty definitely.
  • Cuy is a local delicacy.  In case there isn’t a translation available on the menu, it’s roasted guinea pig.
  • The statue of the Virgin Mary on Mirador de Panecillo is unusual as it is the only known statue of Mary in the world to depict her with wings.


Virgin Mary on Mirador de Panecillo

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