Saturday, Aug 20, 2016
We all enjoyed a free walking tour of Old Town Quito this morning by the Community Hostel at Pedro Fermin Cevallos N6-78. It sits diagonal from the Mercado in Old Town. A very chill and intelligent dude named Beto was our guide. He created a very interesting tour for us with his combination of historical knowledge and deep passion for what he was sharing. It was about a three hour tour where we saw many of the important sites and landmarks in Old Town, as well as learning a lot about ancient and modern history of Ecuador.
We spent time at Independence Plaza which is surrounded by the Presidential Palace, El Sangrario church which is known as the Cathedral of Quito, and local government offices. Over the years in modern times there have been raids by the people on the Presidential Palace and the Presidents have been murdered and dragged through the streets. The current president has chosen to live in a middle class neighborhood and skipped the palatial residence…can you blame him?
We walked by La Compania, a Jesuit Church, on our tour. This cathedral is covered with gold overlay throughout the inside. We stepped inside and saw the light reflected off the gold covered intricate carvings and inlays. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside so I grabbed one off the internet so you can see what I was seeing.
We entered San Francisco plaza and saw the Church and Monestary of San Francisco that stood over it. The construction of this church occurred over 150 years beginning in the early 1500’s. From the plaza we had a good view of Winged Virgin which sits a top El Panecillo looking over Old Town. We could also see the domes and steeples of other churches close by.
Our tour guide Beto told us how this same area, long before the church was there, was the meeting place of the Cañaris and Incas. These ancient people had figured out from the stars, that in this area they were at the middle of the earth. Without technology or GPS, they knew their location on the planet because of what they could see in the night skies and fixed points around them.
The equator is the only place one can see both the southern constellation, the Southern Cross, and northern constellation, the Big Dipper, simultaneously. What makes Quito unique is that it sits at the top of the Andes and is surrounded by fixed mountain points. Unlike other places along the equator where the skies are covered by jungle canopies, or the surrounding reference points are not fixed due to the shifting of sand dunes, Quito’s mountain points are fixed and the sight of its skies are unimpeded, so the middle earth point could be determined by these intelligent ancestral people.
After our walking tour we were headed to Mitad Del Mundo, or Middle of the Earth, monument which was at the north end of Quito. It was about a 30 minute bus ride to get there from where we started our walking tour in Old Town. The location of this monument was determined by the French and is supposed to be at zero degrees latitude…but it’s not! Oops.
Mitad Del Mundo is a big tourist center with lots of bells and whistles. In addition to the monument they have many shops and a large theater that puts on performances of Indigenous dances. The problem is that “the line” isn’t at zero degrees latitude. It’s off some. But immediately around the bend on the road is the Intiñan Museum where the actually zero degrees latitude line is. It was determined by the US Military. Needless to say there are feelings about the “two” lines by people in both areas. Still we had a good time standing and jumping over the bright yellow line that denoted the two sides our planet.
Going to visit the equatorial “line” we knew there were two. We knew the second line, the truer line, was in a museum. I asked someone in Mitad Del Mundo where this line was and I received a discourse on how there is only one line and this is it. Touchy.
We walked outside Mitad Del Mundo to the road and followed it around the bend. There we found the Intiñan Museum which also has an equatorial line…and we discovered it was the more accurate line. This museum was incredible. We had a tour guide walk us through the open, outdoor area and explain the many displays showing the way of life of the ancient people who lived in the area. He also had us participate in great science experiments dealing with the centripetal and centrifugal gravitational forces at the midline of the earth and on either side of it. This is the equatorial line location to visit for anyone truly interested in history and science!
I asked our guide about the two different locations for the line. He explained that the US military used its equipment to determine zero degrees latitude and it is about 240 meters away from the monument at Mitad Del Mundo. My son Chase used his GPS locator on his phone to get a pic of Latitude 0:0:0 but at the monument point in the Intiñan museum it was 4 minutes off. I asked the guide why this is and he said that the military’s GPS equipment is more precise than the google apps we have on our phones. Eh, close enough for me.
We all had a great day at the Equator…or close to it. We hopped the first bus headed back toward our section of Quito where we are staying, and lucky enough after one long bus ride and a short taxi ride, we made it!
It’s always an adventure in most everything we do here!