Go to the end of the line on Quito’s city buses and you will get a ride to Mitad del Mundo, where it’s a forty cent bargain to put a foot on each side of the equator and walk on the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time. An hour and a half on a bus with locals popping on and off gives you time to practice a little Spanish especially if their children smile and play for your attention. I asked Ben to look up in his trusty Spainish/English Dictionary what the word for “cute” is. According to the book, it’s “mono”. Now that I was armed with this word, I thought I could try it out on the precious, rosey cheeked kids on our bus. A little boy across from me stared and smiled at me as did his parents. We exchanged a few words and I was trying to remember the word for cute so I mumbled something about “mono” and the parents kinda chuckled. I thought, “success, I used a new Spanish word properly!
We jumped off when a kind stranger told us that this was the stop for Mitad Del Mundo. It was an arrid uneventful place to be dropped off at, with shanty towns burrowed in the distant mountainside, and a quiet so errie, I could not even hear the hum of powerlines. With no one to ask where this elusive equator was, we swung ourselves around 360 degrees, and found a few local families trudging toward a gate, emblazoned with gleaming white stones: “Mitad Del Mundo”. Eureka!
My pulse quickened because I have always had a fascination with maps, and I was about to see the equator! After buying tickets, we entered the sprawling amusement park-like grounds, complete with colorful cottage shops, and a row of austere head statues lining the walkway. Little patches of well kept gardens spaced out the little shops selling bright souvenirs. I so wanted a llama sweater, but decided to hold off until Peru.
I finally found the equator clearly labled with a bright orange line under bundles of tourists. The four of us balanced ourselves gingerly on it, singing the Johnny Cash classic, “I walk the line”! An Ecuadorian man nearby took a picture of us all, and showed us how you could balance an egg on the head of a nail, where the Equator ran through.
The Museo Etnográfico Mitad del Mundo, the museum of indigenous cultures loomed under a giant bronze globe laying on its side. Thantcyn, walking in the northern hemisphere, Deenaree, in the southern hemisphere, and Ben and I walking on the equator approached this massive structure. We were ushered into an elevator at the equator (I thought that was so funny for some reason) and came out at the top of the pedestal holding the giant globe. It had the same feeling as going into the pedestal of the Statue of Libery. It was a vast panorama of life at the equator – an amusement park, shanty towns, desert plants crawling up the Andes Mountains, and a smiling me in the middle!
All this excitement made for hungry stomachs. Fearing amusement park prices, we compared a few restaurants before settling on one that offered something for everyone – that means I could eat a vegetarian, wheat-free, no sugar meal and still be satisfied. It was a meal of visual wonderment. Deenaree and I ordered the same thing: huge lima beans, a thick cut of cheese, a cob of fat corn, and potatoes served on a teracotta plate with ancient animals chasing each other around its rim.
Ben brought his GPS to mark the exact location of the equator, but the apparently the magnetic equator is a little different, so we hiked along the road outside the equator museum, and counted down the approach to where the GPS truely picked up the equator’s location. It took us through an area where stray dogs and bits of garbage floated, across from an old run-down tire company. We got a few strange looks when we put our four feet together and took a picture of the spot. After we satisfied our quest for the equator, we hopped on a bus bound back to Quito, and nestled into the four seats lining the back. On the return, I flipped through Ben’s English/Spanish dictionary to find out that the word I believed to be “cute” was also the word for “monkey”. So we couldn’t contain ourselves and howled wildly when I realized that I probably called the little boy on the bus to Mitad Del Mundo a monkey.