Yes, the ‘Middle of the World’! The day had come when we would be entering the northern hemisphere for the first time on this trip! We would be returning back to the southern hemisphere to spend the night though – so nothing to get TOO excited about I suppose… 🙂
‘Mitad del Mundo‘ means ‘Middle of the World’ – and it’s a tourist attraction that has been built on the equator. The equator of course runs through the middle of Ecuador – hence the name ‘Ecuador’…
It can be reached by metro and public bus from Quito, so we decided to venture out on a day trip. We weren’t expecting much, apart from a giant tourist trap – but as long as there was a great big sign saying ‘EQUATOR’ or something, and a white line for us to stand in both hemispheres at the same time – then that would do for us!
Yes, we’re suckers for artificial lines on the earth – and having stood on the Tropic of Capricorn, we surely couldn’t miss out on the equator! 🙂
Upon arrival we were pretty thirsty – so we headed straight to a shop to buy a drink. After our drink we went to find the equator, and imagine our surprise when we realised that we had ALREADY CROSSED into the northern hemisphere to buy our drinks??! WHAT! We crossed the equator without evening knowing it?! That sucks… they should make the big white line clearer….
Anyway, we had arrived pretty early – so it wasn’t very crowded. We decided to take all the obligatory tourist photos as quickly as possible – before all the tour groups arrived.
OK… so that’s enough of those… 🙂
Besides a line marking the equator for people to take selfies on, there is also a monument. Although the place is a bit touristy – full of overpriced gift shops and so on – the monument does actually have a historical purpose. Back in 1736, some French scientists came to Ecuador on the ‘The French Geodesic Mission‘. This mission was to establish where the equator actually was, and to work out the precise size and shape of the earth.
A monument on the equator was built by the Ecuadorian government in 1935 to honour this work. This monument remained there until 1972, when it was relocated to a small town down the road (also on the equator!). In its place they built a GREAT BIG new monument that could be used as a tourist attraction. This big monument has a museum inside, and you can go to the top for a birdseye view of the area.
So, what do we know about the equator? It’s about 40,000km long. On the equator, day and night are always about the same length. It passes through 11 countries – 3 of them in South America (the other two besides Ecuador are Brazil and Colombia). It’s hot at the equator?
Well… USUALLY it’s hot at the equator – but it’s not very hot at Mitad del Mundo. This is because of the altitude – Mitad del Mundo is located at 2483m above sea level – which keeps the temparature down a bit (Quito is higher at around 2850m)
However…. Mitad del Mundo is still a quite pleasant temperature, and not as cold as Cayambe volcano. Cayambe volcano is the highest point on the equator – and the ONLY place on the whole equator that has snow on it. Where the equator crosses the volcano it is 4690m above sea level (the top of the volcano is at 5790m). But best of all…. you can see it from the top of the monument! 🙂 🙂 🙂
We spent around 30 minutes at the top of the monument – checking out the snowy volcano and the views in other directions.
Interestingly, while we were up there a solar phenomenon occured! Yes, a thing called a ‘halo‘ appeared in the sky around the sun. It’s caused by sunlight interacting with ice crystals in the atmosphere. Apparently it’s not too uncommon. Clearly it was here to mark the auspicious occasion of our crossing into the northern hemisphere…
Apart from the monument – which we really liked – the rest of Mitad del Mundo was filled with not very exciting touristy stuff and overpriced food. But we do find it hard not to be fans of those signposts with the distances to other cities in world on them! Yes – like GOOD tourists, we love those… 🙂
We had enjoyed our morning at Mitad del Mundo, but it was time to return to the southern hemisphere for just a little while longer before our journey northwards crossed the equator for good.