Once again, an excerpt from the Lonely Planet - Ecuador chapter on Quito:
Ecuador’s biggest claim to fame (and name) is its location right on the equator. La Mitad del Mundo (The Middle Of The World) is the place where Charles Marie de La Condamine made the measurements in 1736 showing that this was indeed the equatorial line.
His expedition’s measurements gave rise to the metric system and proved that the world is not perfectly round, but that it bulges at the equator. At the center of La Mitad del Mundo stands a 30m-high, stone trapezoidal monument, topped by a brass globe. It is the centerpiece of the park.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We toyed with the idea of joining a tour or hiring a taxi to take us to La Mitad del Mundo, but when Anil read that we could get there by public transit, we decided that was more appealing to us. We felt that if we travelled on a Sunday, the buses wouldn’t be as crowded as they are during the week days, and we would get a chance to mingle with the local population, something we like to do where ever we travel.
Anil was convinced that most people in Quito treat Easter Sunday as a family holiday, and judging from the shopping carts crammed with foodstuffs at our local supermarket leading up to Easter, he felt all the women would be at home cooking a huge meal for the family. I thought we should go the following day, when all the museums in Quito are closed, and that if we travelled after the morning rush hour, the buses would be relatively crowded.
However, I didn’t push my case, and agreed to Anil’s plan. When we arrived at the Metrobus station, he was surprised to see how many families were on board the bus. It was clearly an opportunity for people to spend the day together, doing something out of the ordinary. We did come across a few foreign tourists like ourselves, but most of the people were locals.
The bus journey takes a total of about an hour and a half each way, and we had to transfer buses at the northern edge of Quito. It was great to see the well-organized transit depot, and to get a sense how people move around this sprawling city. Quito stretches along a high Andean valley, for nearly 40km in a north-south direction.
Our apartment is located in the New Town, in about the middle of the city. The historical centre is well south of where we stay, but is easily reached by taxi. We’re happy to be staying just on the edge of the district known as Mariscal Sucre, because we have great access to a wide assortment of cafés and restaurants, and it’s within walking distance of the English bookstores and the vibe of the backpacker hostels.
We arrived at El Mitad del Mundo in the late morning and people were just beginning to pour in. We had a chance to get a good look at the monument before there were too many people posing for photographs of themselves ‘holding’ the towering globe in their outstretched hands.
We wandered around the touristy ‘village’, filled with handicraft stalls and eateries, and even sat to watch some of the outdoor entertainment for a while. Unfortunately, we arrived just as a folkloric group was winding up their performance. I would have liked to have some photos of their beautiful costumes, but they hurried away before I got my camera out.
There were lots of activities and exhibits for visitors to explore, but nothing that really caught our fancy, so we decided to have a meal and then make our way back to the city. We chose a restaurant that had a balcony overlooking the courtyard where the entertainers were performing, and we had a great meal considering what a touristy place it was.
Anil ordered locro (a filling potato and cheese soup served with sliced avocado) and I ordered a more substantial lunch - llapingachos (fried potato and cheese pancakes) with a grilled pork cutlets and plantain. I was a little leery about the quality of food, but I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a more tender or delicious pork chop anywhere. I left the fresh salad on the plate, not wanting to take a chance of how well the lettuce or tomatoes had been washed.
As is usually the case, the journey back to our apartment seemed to take only half as long as it took to get to the equator. We were tired from the hustle and bustle, and chose to stay in for the remainder of the day. We couldn’t face going out for dinner, and I wasn’t especially hungry after that big lunch.
I was a bit worried that Anil would be hungry in the middle of the night, so we left some snacks out for him, but he slept straight through till morning without stirring. We’d read that some people believe there are mysterious energy forces near the equator, maybe they made him more tired that usual.
Apparently, there is something called the Coriolis Force, which causes weather systems to veer right in the Northern Hemisphere and left in the Southern Hemisphere. This seems to be the origin of the myth that drains swirl counterclockwise north of the equator, and clockwise a short distance away, south of the equator.
It’s all pseudo-science apparently; but as I write this entry, Anil is sprawled out on the sofa beside me for an afternoon nap despite the fact that he claims he had a great sleep last night. The tables have turned completely, because I’m full of vim and vigour today and that’s definitely not the norm for me on a cloudy Monday.