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The Middle of the World: Zero Degrees Latitude and Quito

Arriving in Quito
My second time in Quito started out a little rough, as did the first time when I puked all night.  This time, I arrived at the Quitumbe bus station from Banos.  I'd forgotten to check to see what the taxi fare to the Mariscal Sucre area of Quito should have been ($12) so when all these people ran up to me at the airport, yelling out, "where are you going?"  When I told them Mariscal they said $12! $12!  I said no, I want a taxi with a taximeter.  (This is what Lonely Planet insists you do.)

So I went outside to the taxi area and waited for an open taxi.  A family nearby asked if I needed a taxi and I said yes.  They flagged one down for me and let me have it.  They were being helpful, the guy calmly asked where I was going, and I told him.  I asked if he was using a taximeter and he said "of course, it's the law" like I was some kind of criminal.  I felt absolutely safe and secure.

A half hour into the ride, when the meter was at $15 I started to get nervous.  I asked where we were because we were up in the hills, like it looks on the other side of town, more near the airport.  He kept saying we're still in the south part of Quito.  Turns out he was lying because by the time he got to my street, the meter was at $28.  I was FURIOUS but thought it's best to go along with this and not cause any waves so he doesn't do something worse to me.  Right as he was turning into my street, we were rear-ended.  Not hard, but a car definitely hit us.  I wondered about my suitcases in the trunk.  The driver suddenly took off and chased the other guys.  He caught them at a stoplight, they all got out of their cars, and they started yelling at each other.  Then they started pushing and hitting my driver, five guys on one.  I got really nervous -- what if they beat my driver up?  What would I do, drive the taxi away and wait for the police?

Anyway, I wrote the bad guys' license plate number down, gave it to the driver, and asked for him to please take me to my hotel.  He did and I forked out the money, glad to just get the hell out of the car after about an hour and fifteen minutes (this after a 4 hour busride) with no bathroom.

Mital del Mundo
So anyway, the next day I went to Mitad del Mundo, or The Middle of the World.  Here are some pix

Being a dork at the equator
This is the equator line between my feet
Warrior pose at the middle of the world

It was all very interesting.  There's a museum inside the big square building with gravity and centrifugal force experiments and even how water in the southern hemisphere supposedly goes down drains counterclockwise.  Even if you're in Patagonia, this wouldn't happen in drains and toilets, but it will happen with large bodies of water (like hurricanes).  Interesting fact:  Northern hemisphere hurricanes are always clockwise.

The problem with this whole visitor's center is that it's not the true site of the equator.  A second site was found nearby some years ago and a second visitor's center set up, but when GPS came into being, it was determined that the second location wasn't correct either.  The correct location is 250 meters away from the here on an empty piece of land.  Interestingly, it is on a sacred indigenous site.  (Maybe they knew.)  

Another interesting fact: The equator itself is 5 meters wide, and it fluctuates with the earth's magnetic field.  It's not just a static, thin line.  I thought that fascinating.  This is what the land looks like around where the real GPS equator is.

Onto Quito

The Mariscal Sucre is the tourist area of Quito.  There are lots of foreign tourists, lots of restaurants, and lots of bars.  The main square is called Foch Square (pronounced just like it sounds, with a ch).  

The next day, from Foch Square, I took the Hop On Hop Off bus to see the full city.  It was a worthwhile tour.  

This is the Madonna at the El Panecillo lookout

This is a container that dates before the Incas.  The natives are supposed to have hidden a treasure at the bottom and then filled it with water and used as a water source.  

This is the La Ronda area of town, famous for artists and cafes.

I just loved this cloud formation taken from the top of the bus.  Quito was alright in the end.


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