After finishing grad school, while working a job that I could not see myself at the future (one of those “kill me if I’m still here in a year” kind of jobs), I decided that I needed to shake the dust off my backpack and go see somewhere that wasn’t Missouri. Lucky for me, one of my friends Linzi was planning to leave on a trek through Ecuador in three weeks. I hopped on board the backpacking bandwagon and away we went!
Apparently the capital city, Quito, can be kind of sketch for tourists. My pre-departure research included several people warning of random stabbings, and campfire-worthy stories of criminal cab drivers who drive their passengers from ATM to ATM, forcing them to withdraw money, at gunpoint (oh how those cab drivers would have been disappointed with my lack of funds! I imagined myself trying to explain in Spanish my mounting student loan debts and how I’m sure a life of crime actually paid better than raising funds for nonprofits, but fortunately, the conversation never had to take place).
After a little drama getting there (I had to renew my passport in Miami during my 5 hour layover. They said no. I cried and begged. They relented. I’m not proud (i’m kind of proud)), we set off to see the Equator. After getting out of town, we were taken through the sprawling, green countryside.
We pulled up to the large Equator landmark and joined the other throngs of tourists that were milling about taking pictures. Here’s the thing: apparently there are TWO equators. The first, called Mitad del Mundo, is a big ass tourist destination with a massive stone monument declaring it’s middle-ness. There are a bunch of vendors and odd playground like structures. This place was built in the early 80s, the location based on maps. About 20 year later, GPS came along and apparently, the REAL equator is about a half mile away (how embarrassing!!).
We walked around the grounds, listening to different lectures about the importance and bermuda triangle-ness of the equator. I’m sure Bill Nye would not have approved of these experiments, but if a man in a poncho tells me to put an egg on top of a nail, I’m going to do it. Apparently this is the only place on Earth where an egg can be balanced on a nail.
Other greatest hits included balancing on one foot on the equator, arm wrestling and finally, the toilet bowl experiment. This one really drove it home for me. Our guide demonstrated that on the north side of the line, the water flushed clockwise, on the south, counter-clockwise. MIND BLOWN. Even though this was at the fake equator, and thus not really the actual center, I was impressed. Or maybe I was just jet lagged. Either way, not a bad afternoon.
Later we walked over to the true equator, which was oddly much less crowded, and took an awesome tour. Although there were no enormous monuments, there were some interactive exhibits (including a chance to feed guinea pigs, who the workers would later eat…not my favorite one).
Maybe it was all those years of watching videos in science class, but I really dug the equator (both of them). Eventually we made our way back into the city center and found a place to eat and spend the night. As I laid in bed later I felt calm, relaxed, and oddly centered (ha! I love equator humor).