After a few lazy days, Kirsten and I decided that we needed to get out of the hostel. Our excuses for altitude exhaustion were no longer valid and we now qualified as lazy. Our time to be tourists was now, before our busy lives as teachers got in the way of our Quito explorations. We decided to visit the Mitad del Mundo and Pululahua volcano crater.
With a quick $2.50 breakfast of freshly squeezed fruit juice smoothie, a mini grilled cheese “tostada” and a coffee we were ready to venture to the Mitad del Mundo: the Middle of the World.
The Mitad del Mundo is also known as the equator line. Standing on this line you are directly between the Northern and the Southern hemispheres—pretty cool! There is a giant monument built to this phenomenon.
It is said that at the middle of the earth you weigh less than anywhere else. You can balance an egg on a nail, unlike anywhere else in the world. If you straddle the line and close your eyes you should be able to feel two distinct forces pulling you.
Awkwardly enough we did not experience these phenomenons because with GPS technology the real equator line is a few hundred meters away.
We snapped a few pictures with the massive monument (because how cool that prior to our incredible modern technology, the equator line was only a few hundred meters off!) Then we attempted to find the REAL middle of the earth. Evidentially, it was very close—just around the corner! Every guidebook, blog, and tourist that we had seen had told us so.
The problem was, nobody in the area seemed to have any idea what we were talking about! We flagged down random people in the street, security guards, shopkeepers, and all of them told us that this was the real middle of the earth. Well yes, we understood their pride in their huge cement block monument that happened to be built in the wrong spot, but we wanted the real deal.
After walking around a few very sketchy construction zones outside of the complex we gave up our hopes of truly straddling the earth, preferring the days prior to GPS.
Surprisingly enough, there were not many tourists at this monument. Ecuador is increasing its tourism industry. But, this equator line is arguably one of Quito’s largest tourist sites and there were only a few groups there.
Deciding to salvage the day, we finally flagged down a taxi drive who said he would bring us to Pululahua volcano crater. Right outside of Quito there are many volcanoes. Pululahua is a dormant volcano with lush green vegetation, and a rural community thriving RIGHT IN THE CENTER OF THE CRATER. It was incredible to see that such a harsh geographic setting such as a volcano could yield to such a calm civilization. The population looked like it relied mostly on agriculture, as most of the crater was comprised of various farms. The view was absolutely beautiful and it was nice to be outside of the city for a while. Staring into this farming community it was difficult to believe that I was also staring into the crater of a volcano.
Upon our return to the city we relaxed, grabbed a coffee and a good book, and when we felt up to it we ventured out for our first real Ecuadorian cuisine.
Just to preface this—I am a huge foodie. Learning about a new destination or culture always begins with its cuisine. Ever since we arrived I have been itching to try an almuerzo or lunch with a fixed menu. These usually entail a soup, fruit juice, main course and a side for a mere $3.00. Today we went for merienda which is the same thing, except with dinner.
For $4 we had an incredible chicken soup (I think it was chicken… please nobody tell me otherwise), a salad that entailed some type of picked potato if there is such thing, chicken, rice, beans, and French fries. Everything was muy rica—very good!
Stay tuned for more culinary adventures as I ease my way into my new life on the equator.. or at least life on the fake equator.