The first thing they tell you about La Mitad Del Mundo is that it is not actually situated in the correct place. It was erroneously calculated pre GPS by French scientists. The true Divide is located some 300 yards away. Except we were told that’s not really the right place either.
GPS or no GPS, no one knows the precise location of where the line should be drawn. The ancient people who once made this area their home, didn’t really consider the place an equatorial line but an entire area where the two sides of the world met.
We visited the Museo Solar Inti Nan, which was great fun. Our guide Ivan, was very knowledgable (as well as very cute). Here are some interesting things I learned:
- Shrunken heads are very cool once you get past the creepy weirdness. Tribesmen used to wear the miniaturised heads of their dead ancestors as necklaces. That way any left-behind knowledge was passed on directly to them.
- Ecuador has only one long season divided into two equinoxes. The sun rises at 6.00 and sets at 6.00. All year. None of this setting the clock forward business. It kind of makes sense when you think about it – at least more sense than the way we divide time up at home. There is one season for planting, another for harvesting. It is all about where the shadows fall.
- Gravity behaves strangely near the equatorial line – not only do you weigh less (yay) but if you close your eyes you feel as if you are being pulled in opposite directions at the same time.
- When important tribal men died, they were buried in enclaves, Egyptian style, along with their possessions, up to ten servants, and (get this) their still very much alive wife (??!!). The wife would be given some sort of heavy sedative so she would not panic when the enclave was sealed and she awoke to find herself buried alive. On the other hand, if an important wife died, her husband remarried and did not see the need to join her in eternal slumber. She went off to the afterworld all by herself, which let’s face it, is probably how she lived most her life.
- The name Quito literally means Middle Earth. How cool is that?
After some typical touristy fotos of us straddling the Divide, we headed off to the Teleferico which is like a combination of the London Eye and an Alpine lift, except with volcanos. There were too many clouds to take decent photos but we did get to see Pichincha smoking away in the distance. At roughly 12,000 feet above sea level, I sounded like a leaky helium balloon, trying to climb without passing out.
While we are lucky not to feel rundown with altitude sickness, which I’m told is like getting the flu, it was tough to catch a breath as everything tires you out. We had to stop to rest every few minutes, and now I know how other country’s football teams feel when they have to play in Quito.
The breathlessness was worth it though. Pichincha was majestic, if a little threatening.
Will write more after tomorrow, when we visit the Centro Historico to look at colonial cathedrals and museums. Happy New Year to all.