Standing on the Equator

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
Trip End Feb 01, 2005

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Saturday, May 8, 2004

The equator was a very fitting way to spend my quarter of a century birthday, jumping from one hemisphere to the other.

Saquilisi Market
The day before my birthday I went to the Saquilisi market, which is supposed to be the most indigenous market in Ecuador, with Lisa from my hostel. The indigenous people were dressed so amazingly. The women wore pleated kneelength skirts with long woolly socks pulled up to their knees and black slip on leather shoes. They wore cardigans and then pinned colourful shawls around their shoulders. Some had babies strapped to their backs and it was all topped off with a felt bowler hat. They looked awesome!!

It wasn`t very touristy and we wandered around the stalls selling everything from bits of rope, to vegetables, to live animals, hats and all sorts of things. I saw one woman picking rabbits up out of their cage by their ears. The rabbits would then kick and try and escape but she had them firmly grasped by their ears.

We had lunch in the dodgy looking food area of the market. We were surrounded by roasted pig heads and other strange looking bits of meat. I was a little bit worried about the quality of the food so decided against meat and went for a bit of salad with mashed potato and an egg. Lisa had finished her meal and this old lady came up and put the chicken bones and all the chicken scraps in a plastic bag and walked off.

I went back to Quito with a French couple we had met on the bus as Lisa was heading to Latacunga. While we were standing watching the roof of the bus get loaded up, we saw the conductor shucking a live sheep over his shoulders and climbing the ladder to the roof. He tied the sheep on and went to get the other one. I had to have a look at the sheep on the roof and couldn`t believe that they were just going to stand on the roof while the driver negotiated the potholes. I was surprised when the owners got off the bus and led both sheep away on a lead as I thought at least one sheep would end up with a broken leg.

I then had a look around the Old Town of Quito with Jonathon and Elise. There are stacks of churches and the Old Town was quite hilly, unlike the New Town which is pretty flat. I had to take the hills pretty slowly as they were hard. The centre is nice with lots of colonial buildings and plazas.

Hostel Party
Back at the hostel I arrived to the whole place covered with streamers. There was a party being thrown, although I still don`t know what it was in aid of (I`ll just pretend that it was a party to see my birthday in). The owner organised a whole heap of games and made everybody participate. I won a bottle of rum in the first one - although I donated it back to the communal pot of rum and coke. You had to put ski gloves on and then stand with your heels agains the wall. You then had to grasp a longneck beer bottle in each hand and walk along the floor with the bottles, reach out and leave a bottle as far away as possible, then grab the other bottle with both hands and work your way back to a standing position holding the one bottle. Obviously the push ups I had to do at kickboxing helped as I managed to get it about 40cm further than any other girl and further than most of the boys. It was very fun and I surprised myself and the others! It ended up being a late night so I saw my birthday in and partied for a couple of hours before collapsing in bed.

My Birthday
I slept until about 10:30am on my birthday and then went out for breakfast at the Magic Bean. I had a tortilla with eggs and beans and then headed to the internet cafe to pick up some birthday greetings. With a spring in my step I was off to the bus stop and on my way to Mitad del Mundo.

There are two museums and locations. One is the real one and is very small and the other is a massive monument built by the French in the incorrect position. I went to the real equator first, where the small museum tells you about indigenous people and is interactive. I saw a shrunken head of a 12 year old boy which was the size of my fist. Then I got use a blowpipe and aim for a cactus leaf. I was very excited when my dart was the only one out of the groups to hit the target. We then saw the water going down the plughole over the equator, it truly goes straight down, no swirls about it. And then 2 metres either side it went down clockwise in the southern hemisphere and anticlockwise in the northern. I got to balance an egg on a nail, and received a certificate for being able to do it. It was a fantastic little museum.

Next I went to the monument. It was $1 to get in and then to go to the planetarium and up the monument it cost extra so I didn`t bother with that. I went to the solar museum where I got a very interesting explanation about how for the indigenous people the sun was the most important god and they celebrated the equinox and had all these mathematical equations in their buildings. The guy also told me that the reason the Incas expanded their empire north was to be closer to the equator so they could worship the sun god. I`m doubtful that they expanded for religious reasons as from my readings so far, they were a violent, aggressive culture and they wanted to conquer other tribes to have their expertise and the produce available in other regions. And besides, how would they have known where the equator was, that the earth was round and there were other lands besides South America.

I was in the lounge room in the hostel when Kayte who I met in San Francisco came in. I had sent her an email and was glad to catch up with her before she left Quito that night. I then went out for dinner with 3 Australians, 1 English girl and an Irish guy to an Indian restaurant, which was followed by a divine chocolate cake at Papaya.Net. Quite tired, we went back to the hostel, which was unusually quiet, sat around in the lounge for a bit and headed to bed.

Things I learned
* I`m good at games
* The equator, tropics of Capricorn and Cancer and the equinox lines form a star shaped pattern used in a lot of weavings and other things
* The churches in Quito all lie on one of the equinox lines and some of them were designed to show light on certain things at different times of the day.
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