Myths from Middle Earth..
03.05.2008 - 03.05.2008 24 °C
Apparently (according to my Lonely Planet at least..), Ecuador's main claim to fame is the fact that it is located on the equator. In order to commemorate this momentous national achievement the Ecuadorians built a monument just outside Quito, which is now one of the key stops on the ´Gringo Trail'. With this in mind, Nicolas and I decided to make the trip (about 22km) out of Quito for the day. Somewhat naively, the pair of us assumed that it would be a short and stress-free trip..
To start with, it was all too easy. We simply jumped on a Metrobus and ended up at Cotocallao Bus Terminal, from where the shuttle buses go down to the monument. We boarded the correct bus pretty quickly and settled in for what we believed to be a 30 minute journey. As the bus struggled manfully to break the 20kph barrier, it became apparent that this would not be the case. Literally seconds after this realisation had dawned on me, a man hopped in, carrying about 5 live chickens. To my dismay, he decided that the best place to stow his cargo was directly under my seat. Then an urchin got on the bus and began to sing. Ah great I thought, a welcome distraction from the clucking. Error.
The boy proceeded to regale the bus with a series of appallingly tuneless ditties, most of which seemed to be about heartache (earache, more like). In response to this aural violation, the chap in front of me decided to start playing Cuban hip-hop on loudspeaker on his phone. This continued for some time.
Eventually, the monument hove into view and the conductor shouted 'Mitad del Mundo'. Excellent, I thought, the ordeal is over. I was sadly mistaken.
Inexplicably, Nicolas insisted that we stay on the bus, explaining that it would make a U-turn and drop us directly outside the entrance of the monument. Given that he had been to the monument before, I decided to defer to his better judgement. Error. The bus simply continued to motor along and the monument began to fade into the distance. About 15 minutes later, when we could no longer see the monument, it dawned on me that something might not be quite right. I raised my concern with Nicolas, who simply shrugged and continued to insist that it would eventually turn around. We began to argue. Mr Cuban hip-hop turned the volume up.
Picture the scene, if you will. Nicolas and I, bickering in Spanglish and German, 5 chickens squawking and flapping under the seat, Cuban hip-hop blaring out of a speakerphone and an urchin, wailing tunelessly. None of the Ecuadorians batted an eyelid.
After another half an hour or so, we reached the small town of Calacali and all the other passengers got off. Finally realising the error of his ways, Nicolas proposed that we cut our losses and get something to eat. I, starving, agreed. We found a restaurant and ordered two almuerzos, set lunches. Despite my doubts about the provenance of the chicken we were eating (the restaurant was situated right next to the town's ´Coliseo de Gallitos´- cock-fighting pit), the meal was excellent. After about 20 minutes, another bus turned up and we made our way back to the monument without further incident.
The monument itself is a 30m tall and incorporates a museum of ethnography. More interesting is the unofficial museum next door, which contains a number of quite interesting little exhibits, whose aim is to debunk the many myths about the mysterious power of the equator. These exhibits include a demonstration of how water drains in one direction in the northern hemisphere and in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere and one showing how you weigh about 2% less when you stand directly on the equator. These phenomenon (and others) are all apparently caused by mysterious gravitational forces, but I couldn't understand all of what the guide was saying, so that's about all I can tell you.
Thankfully, the return journey passed without incident and we got home at about 6 (having left at 10). Good times.