Even if you know hardly any Spanish at all, it’s fairly easy to work out that the etymology of ‘Ecuador’ has something to do with the equator upon which the country sits. And you’d be right: ‘ecuador‘ is in fact the Spanish for the English word equator.
So it seemed obvious to me that we just had to visit said ecuador/equator. If we didn’t, it’d be like going all the way to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower, or to London and not snapping Big Ben and the Thames, or to Moscow and not seeing the Kremlin and Red Square, to Rome without the Colosseum, Sydney – the Opera House, Kamchatka – grizzly bears; New York – the Empire State Building, and so on and on and on… (now there’s a list that could go on forever:). So that’s just what we did – we went to visit the equator and the ‘equator museum’, both of which are in suburban Quito.
All righty. Off we pop to Ciudad Mitad del Mundo – the Middle of the World City. And here it is – the middle of the world – painted as a line in yellow:
There’s also here a Monument to the Equator, which you can see in the pics. It goes without saying that tourists flock here (just like we did). I guess the attraction is similar to that of Greenwich in London (where Greenwich Mean Time is calculated from). To say you’ve been right in the middle of the world’s surface (0˚-0′-0”) – kinda cool.
Not to be outdone by the girls doing a ring-a-ring-of-roses there, Petrovich had the group line up for an equator-selfie:
Of course, we climbed to the top of the monument. Looking north – the northern hemisphere; south – the southern hemisphere. I noticed how some of the nearby residential blocks also sit right on the equator: the living room and dining room – northern hemisphere; the bedroom and bathroom – southern hemisphere!
The large ‘N’ and ‘S’ on the ground indicate which side’s north and which is south. Actually rather handy, as it’s quite tricky working it out based just on the location of the sun up in the sky.
Briefly, about one thing I didn’t like here – that white over the town over there is dust blown up by the wind. Grrr.
Next up, the equatorial museum next-door to the monument. Turns out it contains plenty of modern kunst…
The Museo Solar Intiñán…
Now, you won’t believe this, but… there’s a second equator here!
It’s like, if they get overloaded with tourists at the first equator, then there’s an ‘overflow’ equator, just 100 meters to the north! Here are the two equators marked in red:
From the second equator the ‘competitor’ can be observed:
After finding out about the second equator, the mood rather sharply turned to one of… ‘whatever’. Suddenly the momentousness of this fundamental geopolitical object all but vanished. Ah well, what’s it matter I suppose if there are two? Interestingly, the excursion became a bit more light-hearted, less serious. For example, here’s a sundial. But not just any old sundial. It’s an Ecuadorian equatorial sundial. It needs to be vertical and double-sided since the sun is always real high in the sky right above one’s head here. Or something like that, anyway. I just wonder – how can they tell the time when the sun’s directly up above during an equinox?
Further – cooler…
I didn’t manage to get a photo, but here they also explained and showed how water, when being, say, drained out of a bath once the plug’s been pulled, swirls (whirlpool-like) one way on one side of the equator, the other way on the other! Told you ‘cooler’!
And there we have it folks – the Coriolis force at work. Hmmm. I wonder. If you straddle the equator – one leg out into the northern hemisphere and one out into the southern, how would that affect… well, we each have plenty of… ‘fluids’ swirling around inside us… I’ll stop my musings there in the name of decency and decorum ). Actually, no, I’ll just redirect those musings: surely, tapping the Coriolis force on the equator could also give us an ‘eternal engine’; water going this way, then that, non-stop – forever, or at least while ever the planet keeps on spinning round. Equatorial nations needing boosts to their budgets – take note! ‘Feel the [Coriolis] Force, Luke’ 8-).
Ok, ok; that’s all just my imagination running away with me, as it often does. And anyway, the ‘equator’ isn’t really, erm, a real thing. There’s no physical line that runs round the globe in the middle. And this ‘conditional’ line is prone to movement up and down the globe for sure. Continents swim, bodies of water swirl, wind blows this way and that… And it all gently rocks the planet this way or that. I saw this once with my own eyes – at the South Pole on New Year’s Day 2010: they actually move the real South Pole marker every year (between 9 and 10am on New Year’s Day morning, New Zealand time)!
Anyway. Back to Ecuador… It also moves around on above the earth’s mass. And of course, there’s GLONASS, GPS on smartphones, and guess what – they inform us that the equator isn’t the one indicated by the yellow line that runs through the monument, nor the red one a little way away from it! It’s actually around here, a bit further north – along the E28 highway!! Even the internet agrees with such blasphemy: ‘the actual equator is some 240 metres north of the monument area‘ (Wikipedia).
So, the answer to the question given in the title of this blogpost is… (at least) three! One – the official one; two – the ‘alternative’ one; three – the actual one, as determined by electronic gadgets and the stars and the sun. Moreover, the latter is always moving about. Not that this fact made our excursion any less fun ).
The next attraction on our excursion was this here… egg. Apparently, it stands up vertically on that there thin stand only directly on the equator, which is precisely where it’s positioned, we were told. Is this the Coriolis force again at work? I don’t know, but the egg did indeed stand to attention… then a gust of wind blew up and knocked it over!
O.Z., one of our group, decided to check for any hocus-bogus… in doing so managing to get the egg to stand up herself! An equatorial miracle, after all!
Woah! She our egg-charmer did so well – she earned herself a certificate: she is now officially an ‘Egg Commander’!!
The equator is one of the country’s main national themes, so of course it is used as a tourist attractor; equator-themed souvenirs also feature big here, but less traditional ‘souvenirs’ make an appearance too:
So what else? Ah yes. Not far from the equators (!), there’s the voluptuous volcano named Pululahua. Most photogenic:
Unfortunately we didn’t get a closer look at the volcano. Access to the caldera is limited; there’s some kind of national park there. And you need to get a special permit to enter after filling in forms with passport details, etc. But there were 20 of us. It would have taken too long just getting there. Once we’d arrived we’d have had to turn back. So it wasn’t to be.
Handily, our guides knew of a volcano viewing hack: there’s a hotel-restaurant off to one side from the volcano from which the views thereof are… well – see for yourself:
And here’s the hotel on the edge of the caldera. Ah – if only we could have stayed for a few days…
…But no. We had a plane to catch tomorrow – to… the Galápagos Islands!
PS: A pic of the same caldera from up in the plane the next day (photo: DZ):
Update: Apparently, that pic isn’t of Pululahua. It’s of the neighboring crater – Casitahua. Thank you, commenters!
That’s all for today folks, but I’ll be back with tales from the Galápagos side tomorrow…
All the pics from our Ecuador-equator trip are here.