September 8th 2003
Finally we manage to take an excursion outside of Quito. To give the shipping agent a chance to contact us, we decided to catch a local bus and travel to the Mitad del Mundo, the middle of the world, at the Equator. There appears to be no system in getting on and off buses - more like a free for all. Being a Monday morning the roads were absolute chaos and we wandered along the Avenue Americas looking at the signs in every bus we saw to find the one we wanted. Lucky for us that the traffic was all jammed; we saw the bus we needed, jumped out in the traffic and barely had time to get our seats before the bus took off. It took us about 30 minutes just to get out of Quito and it was an experience to say the least, buses cutting everyone up, no lane discipline whatsoever and then it was like being in whacky races once we reached the edge of Quito. All the buses went hell for leather trying to overtake each other, we guessed in an effort to be the first to arrive at the next bus stop and get all the people waiting..
We arrived at the Mitad del Mundo, just outside the village of San Antonio, after about 45 minutes. We took advantage of being early and wandered around before the crowds arrived. They have created a little white city around the monument and it is very much a tourist trap - lots of restaurants and souvenir type shops. The monument itself is 30m high and marks the spot which, in 1736, Charles-Marie de La Condamine and his expedition team determined as the exact location of the equator. You can take a lift up inside to a viewing platform at the top. On a clear day you can make out the volcano of Cotopaxi, but it was a little misty when we were there, so we didn't get to see it. Heading back down the monument there are various exhibitions on the numerous cultural groups to be found all over Ecuador.
There are various other museums tracing the history of the search for the equator and so forth, but the most interesting was the Solar Museum where the curator took time explaining to us that the monument we see today is actually in the wrong place; the true equator lies 300m away. An archeological site on top of Catequilla hill sits on the true equator. This site has a curved stone wall, one end of which sits exactly on the equator. If you sit at the end of the wall and look towards the other end, you will be looking exactly where the sun will set or rise during the solstices. (An angle of 23.5 degrees from the equator).
Tuesday 9th September
We have just found out that the landy will not arrive until Saturday 13th. We are hoping it will get unloaded over the weekend, the customs paperwork will get raised on Monday and we will open the container on Tuesday ready for the customs inspection. Fingers crossed, with any luck and a following wind, we might, just might, get it on Tuesday afternoon.
Can't wait for the Landy to arrive now. We have been hanging around in Quito long enough now and the worst bit is not being able to go too far as we have been waiting for the shipping agent to contact us at the hotel.
Out for a fish dinner with the rest of the Spanish Students.