quito - Mitad del Mundo

  • the basilica
  • view from the top
  • virgin mary statue in the distance
  • very sketchy floor
  • mitad del mundo
  • feet on either side of the world
  • giant leap into the other side
  • shrunken human head
  • sun clock
  • toria and i on the line
  • concentrating on balancing the egg
  • success and the cheesiest grin ever

On August 17th, I boarded a flight at San Cristobal airport, and headed for Quito, where I would be spending one and a half days.  There aren't really many things I wanted to see in Quito, so I figured a day and a half would be ennough. Also, I'm meeting Tav in Bogota on the 19th, so I needed to move a bit quicker. I had enough time to see the 2 things I came here for - the Basilica and the Mitad del Mundo (qhere the equatorial line is).

Quito is much like any other big South American city - pretty dirty, quite smelly and polluted and there's the risk of being mugged or worse. I checked in to the Colonial Hostel which is in a bit of a questionable are in the old town. The crowd there were pretty cool. I met Toria, a schoolteacher from Sydney, and Max, and English dude, who are both also headed to Colombia.

The afternoon I arrived I was aboslutely shattered, so after having dinner for a dollar fifty in a small dodgy eatery where the only customers were me and a crazy old dude who was talking to himself, I headed back to the hostel, watched a cartoon on my latpto and fell asleep by about 9. I wanted to get up early to make the most of my 1 full day in Qiuto.

During breakfast I got chatting to Toria, who was also keen on seeing the Mitad del Mundo that day, so we decided to head out together. I first wanted to go see the Basilica and she wanted to go see some music musuem. I headed out to the Basilica, which was pretty impressive, albeit similar to most European basilicas. I'm not at all religious, and for the most part don't really believe in much, but I'm always fascinated by these buildings. Being in there you can tell how the Catholic church really wanted to show power, with the high cloisters, huge glass stained windows and enormous pillars. This basilica has one particular attraction, in that you can walk up to the top of the clock towers, where the views across the city are quite spectacular. The final part of the climb is on some pretty dodgy ladders which I doubt would pass any sort of safety standards anywhere else in the world. And when you get to the top of the tower, the "floor" you walk on is made of some steel tubes and some dodgy looking fencing. Still, the views were pretty impressive, and it was good work out climbing the stairs.

After the basilica, I met Toria back at the hostel and we headed out to Mitad del Mundo - or middle of the earth. Toria was great company. She was absolutely hilarious, although at times she said some pretty crewd things, that embarrassed even me. I won't share too much detail about what she said cause I told her I wouldn't embarrass her too much on here, but one particular moment involved her getting pretty graphic about a certain time of the month. I almost pissed myself laughing at what she said. It was great to have such a good laugh after mostly being alone on the Galapagos.

We arrived at Mitad del Mundo. There are actually 2 places that lay clame to being on the equatorial line. The first is a town called Mitad del Mundo, which has a massive monument where the line is, and is surrounded by a very Disneyland/Themepark area consisting mostly of souvenier shops. They also have some cheesy mystical music playing throughout the place. A French scientist back in the 1700s through whatever means, discovered that this was where the equator was - he was wrong.  Toria didn't come in with me as she had been to this one before. So, I went in and just got the cheesy photos everybody gets, standing on the line, crossing over the line etc.

As I said before the Mitad del Mundo has recently, through GPS, been proven to be slightly off, and a few hundred meters up the road, the "real" equatorial line crosses through the Intinan Museu - a much more authentic sort of place. We headed up to this place and had an excellent time there. Our guide was a really funny local guy who spoke great English. He had loads of little wisecracks throughout the tour. The tour, although a bit touristy, was really interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed it. After finding out loads about the culture of the Amazonian indians, which included being shown a specimen of a parasite in the Amazon that swims up the Urethera and then "barbs" itself in the penis, we headed for the equatorial line. This was the really fun and even more interesting part of the tour, which included loads of experiments to prove legends we've all heard about the equator. The first being that water escaping in a drain, swirls anti-clockwise in the southern hemisphere, clockwise in the northern, and doesn't spin at all on the equator - the experiment worked!

Then came the whole balancing an egg on the equator experiment. Supposedly because there are no centrifugol forces on the equator, balancing becomes an issue, so the experiment is to try balance an egg on a nail head. The guide, got it right and then the only other people in a group of about 12, to get it right was a lady from Bermuda (loads of other forces to worry about out there), Toria and me. The 3 of us received a certificate for the accomplishment. Then there was the strength experiment, which I didn't totally get because Toria seemed to kick my ass in both of these, regardless of standing on the equatorial line or not. It involved pushing people's fingers apart and preventing them from pushing their arms down - I'm such a weakling. Toria was loving all this stuff and getting really excitable, 'cause she's a teacher and was looking forward to showing the kids in her class the videos I had taken of people trying the various stuff. At the end of the trip we were both a little pissed off because we didn't have our passports on us and we could have gotten a middle of the earth stamp on our visa pages. I got the guide to stamp a piece of paper for me and I'll stick that into the passport.

After a really cool day, we headed out to a little eatery close to the hostel where dinner for 2 set us back a whopping $3.50. Then headed back to the hostel where a few of us watched a movie - I wasn't really keen on going boozing considering I had a pretty early flight the next day.

Speaking of the flight, the day of the flight was probably one of the most infuriating days I've had on this trip so far. After checking in my luggage, including my surfboard, I was told I had to go pay the airport departure fee before going through security. I figured airport departure fee would be a couple of dollars....how wrong I was. They charge $40.80 for no apparent reason. I asked the guy what the hell that was for and he said it's for maintenace of the airport. I told him in no uncertain words that I thought it was a "f*cking joke" and nowhere in the world had I had to pay such an enormous fee. Anybody reading this who works in airlines, can you please tell me what the hell the airport tax the airlines charge is for then?!? Anyway, the worst was still to come. While I was sitting in the departure lounge, using as much bandwidth in the free wi-fi provided (whooopie doo, they have free wi-fi once you've paid 40 dollars - hell, for 40 dollars you'd think there would be a massage parlour with a happy ending), the guy who checked me in came up to me and told me I had to pay $85 dollars for carrying my board with the airline. I absolutely threw my toys over this! I immediately raised my voice (never a good thing) then proceeded to tell him I thought his airport was "f*cking joke" charging ridiculous fees for things that should just be included. I argued endlessly, and refused to pay the amount, and evetnually he told me I would pay the fee or I would not be allowed to board. Bastard! So I did.

I hatched a little plan though. I figured I would make back my 80 dollars back, by consuming 80 dollars worth of the free alcohol on board the flight. Unfortunately though, the flight was only an hour long, but I know that that one beer I had set them back at least a dollar! Also, I tried scamming them at Bogota airport by saying that the new fresh dings on my board (caused by my last session) happened during the flight, so now I'm waiting to hear back from them.