Straddling the Equator at Mitad del Mundo

Ecuador, of course, is named after the equator, which passes more or less through the middle of it. So there was no way we could visit Quito, the closest major city to the equator, without paying our respects to this imaginary line that splits the globe in half. And that meant visiting Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world), an informative little park a few miles north of the city that commemorates the equator and the history and culture of the region around it. And the park features a conspicuous yellow line that you can stand on with one foot in each hemisphere. Well, sort of.

North, East, South and West

The thing is, the yellow line is not technically accurately precisely as such on the real equator. It was believed to be for many years, because it demarcates the coordinates established for the equator by a surveying party way back in 1736. So monuments and markers and tourist traps were built to capitalize on this location. More recently, GPS technology has determined that the real equator is 790 feet away. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. Mitad del Mundo is the official equatorial commemorative site, and we were determined to go there.

Our first trick was just getting up there without getting more lost than the surveyors were. We could have taken a taxi or Uber, of course, but being the penny-pinching explorers that we are, we decided to try to navigate the bus system. It required walking for almost a mile, and then jumping on a bus just in the nick of time for a 45-minute ride to the suburb where the park is located. (As usual, there were hustlers on the bus and at intersections openly selling trinkets and soliciting donations.)

Before entering Mitad del Mundo itself, we wanted to check out the actual location of the actual equator. So after a little sleuthing, we located it on a little dirt road behind the park. It’s inside another outdoor museum called Museo Intinan. We weren’t able to get to the exact place where we could stand on the equator without paying, but we could get close enough to see it from a few yards away. So there’s that.

Then it was back to Mitad del Mundo itself, which turned out to be even more worthwhile than we’d anticipated. There were some exhibits on the history and culture of Ecuador, including some huts with artifacts recreating the traditional lifestyle of various ethnic groups in the region. The tower in the center of the park offers a good overview; and while you can take an elevator up, the stairs are much more interesting, because each floor has a diorama depicting life in one of the country’s diverse ecological zones.

But above all, of course, there was the yellow stripe itself, stretching through the middle of the park. Right through the middle of an arena for special presentations. Through the middle of the sidewalk. Through the middle of the tower. Through the middle of the world. Sort of. And through the middle of the people who pose on it in all kinds of silly postures for photo ops.

And that, of course, included us. It was obligatory to do our signature handstands and backbends, while dividing ourselves between hemispheres. (Sort of.) And while we were doing so, we inspired a family of 4 to also engage in such antics. And they were just as adept at it as us. In fact, the dad was the most accomplished handstander of all.

Of course we had to get acquainted with them and even do a pose or two with them. They hail from Japan and, coincidentally, they are on a world tour as well. Even more coincidentally, they are an RV family like us. Only unlike us, they are doing their global tour in their RV, even having it shipped overseas. Their RV, which we saw in the parking lot, is a little camper; and we marvel at how 4 people can take such a lengthy voyage in it, even though the two boys are little. And this coming from a couple who survived travelling in vans, station wagons and RVs with their son in tow. Having been there we know it is not only possible but a fantastic opportunity. In any case, it was refreshing to meet kindred spirits. And what more appropriate place to do so than at what has long been considered the middle of the world!

February 8, 2022

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