ONE ECUADOR … TWO EQUATORS?

Ecuador is the Spanish word for Equator, but does this explain why Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, is privileged enough to have two Equators? Ciudad Mitad del Mundo lies 25 kilometres North of Quito, and is the official governmental monument for the Equator determined by French geographers on a 1936 expedition. With cloud covered Andes Mountains as a backdrop, I walked the path dedicated to Charles Marie De La Condamine and others, who led the mission.

A yellow line marks their calculations, East to West – West to East, through this Monument to the Equator. A museum shows the history of Ecuadorian ethnic groups within the tower.

It is my travelling duty to pose, straddling the Equator with one foot in the Northern Hemisphere, and one in the South, with 30 metres of brick tower and globe rising behind me. I also have the opportunity to join a short queue to have my passport stamped Ciudad Mitad del Mundo Quito Ecuador LAT: 0°-0'-0°…..

My guide then informs me that Ciudad Mitad del Mundo Quito Ecuador is not exactly the Equator LAT: 0°-0'-0°, there has recently been a latitude discrepancy.

According to modern GPS systems, the Equator actually lies 240 metres north of this marked yellow line. We will drive two minutes, and visit Intinan Solar Museum. A public museum created where modern GPS units show 0°-0'-0°.

Here I am shown another line, this time red, to mark the true Ecuadorian Equator. From this red line, I see the globe atop The Middle of the World Monument sitting 240 metres south, nestled into the Andes.

Instead of the stony faced official pathway of Ecuador’s first Equator, I am entertained by guides showing quirky experiments that are possible “only on the Equator” …. Like balancing an egg on the end of a nail, and seeing a leaf floating in a sink of water drain straight down the plug on the red line – then clockwise and anti-clockwise a metre either side of the red line.

I pose for another photo on the Ecuadorian Equator, this time straddling a red line. I wander towards the exit through a museum of shrunken heads, and creepy snakes in jars, followed by a small shop where I have my passport stamped again, this time with Museo Intinan LAT: 0°-0'-0° … “calculated with G.P.S”.

My passport shows two Ecuadorian Equator stamps lying peacefully side by side on the page… just like the two Equator lines of Quito, Ecuador.