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The Middle of the World...I think

This will probably come as a surprise to few people, but Ecuador is a country that wears its equatorial location on its sleeve more than most. While Quito is technically not on this imaginary (and magical) line that intersects the world, it sure is not far away. Go just about 16 miles north of the city, and you will find not just one, but two testaments to this line that dictates exactly what season we’re living in (and which way the water flows).

Welcome to the Equator
Welcome to the Equator (Jeff Rottschafer)

So why are there two equators? It comes down to technology. The original location of the equator (way back in the 1700s) ended up being about 200 meters off, so with the advent of GPS that was remedied, and the “Museo de Sitio Intiran” was born on the actual Middle of the World. What happened to the first monument? It’s still there, serving as a testament to a pretty good “guess” nearly 300 years ago. But, I spent most of my time on the “real” equator.

What you will find at the Museo de Sitio Intiran (or Museum Intinan in English) is a bizarre mix of Ecuadorian history, pseudo-science experiments and other curios such as a real shrunken head and the actual skin of an anaconda. Sound kitschy? Oh, it definitely is. But, it’s also not a bad way to spend a few hours in Quito while also checking off a bucket list “accomplishment” (you even get a stamp in your passport).

A horrifying mural depicting the process of shrinking a head. Yep, really.
A horrifying mural depicting the process of shrinking a head. Yep, really. (Jeff Rottschafer)

The charms are due in no small part to the extremely enthusiastic guide who told the tales of some Ecuadorian oddities with gusto. These ranged from horrors like an Amazonian fish that makes its home in your urethra (why it’s a good idea to not relieve yourself in jungle waters) to getting our group to do stupid human tricks that showcased the odd energy that can occur when two hemispheres meet. So, while I cannot explicitly endorse the veracity of "it is easier to balance an egg on a nail on the equator", or "whether or not we lose much of our strength while standing on this imaginary line", both of these phenomenons were definitely something that I experienced. And if you’re skeptical, I guess you will just have to come here as well to see for yourself.

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