The journey to the Middle of the World starts on Google with me searching “How to get to Mitad del Mundo?” There seem to be many misleading posts about direct buses but eventually we find we can take a public bus from Avenida America to the bus terminal La Ofelia for $.25c and then change to a blue bus that takes us to the town of Mitad del Mundo for a further $.15c, bargain 40 cents for just over an hours bus journey!
While visiting Quito it’s one of those must do trips, after all who doesn’t want to straddle the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time!
Quitsato in Incan means middle of the earth, at 9,184 feet the city was well placed on high to assist the early cultures develop their astronomical knowledge by using landmarks such as the Pichincha and Chimborazo volcanos. The equator passes across the now extinct Chimborazo volcano, which is the highest point on the equatorial line and the only point on the equator where snow falls. Interestingly although the volcano is the 16th highest peak in the world, due to its location on the equator where the earth bulges like a grapefruit shape, it is actually the point furthest from the core of the earth and trumps Mount Everest.
There are 13 others countries on the rest of the earth where the equator passes through, but nearly 3/4 of the 24,901 equatorial miles are in the oceans. I think as humans we like lines, it gives us visual definition and sets out our own personal boundaries. So we have this imaginary 3 mile strip dividing north and south. Physical forces such as the earth’s rotation can alter the position of 0°0’0″ latitude throughout the year but on 21st June the position sits on the yellow line that runs throughout the site at Mitad del Mundo. On 21st March and 21st September the sun’s rays fall perpendicularly to the earth causing shadows to dissappear at midday. Those clever Inca’s knew this and built many solar clocks and monuments to the annual Path of the Sun.
The Mitad del Mundo centre is major tourist attraction for Ecuador and has a diluted theme park feeling with a planetarium video show, exhibition pavilions, ethnography museum and central plaza with gift stores. At the centre of the site is a large brick building with a model of the world topping it off that gives you 360-degree views.
There’s an interactive exhibition and obligatory gift shop inside also. It’s actually a monument to the French and Spanish Geodesic scientific mission that in 1736 set out to establish the location of the equatorial strip and to confirm the true shape of the world. These 18th century scientist guys in their powdered wigs with brass instruments did pretty good, as only in recent years with GPS technology has shown the actual 0° latitude line is just 250 yards from the Monument of the Equator.
As the sun dissapeared and the clouds rolled in all around us, we walked around the corner to have a look at the Inti-Nan Solar Museum actual GPS site also. This was a touristy fun guided tour through pretty Andean gardens with demonstrations of solar clocks minus the vital element of the sun and we took part in some fun experiments that supposedly are only possible at the middle of the world.
We balanced an egg on a nail, felt the loss of balance walking on the equator line and watched the Coriolis Effect where water turned clockwise in the north and anticlockwise in the south dropping through a sink! Of course it’s all nonsense as they are unrelated to the proximity of the equator but it was cheesy fun, especially watching a homeboy with jeans hanging below his bum, walk the line and topple over!
The experiment I like best, is the one where centrifugal forces on the equator mean you weigh 2lbs less…an order of salchipapas over here please!
Next up – getting muddy in Mindo