December 2, 2012 by jiejie768
Here’s the scoop from our second day in Quito (Monday, Nov. 26 — Happy Birthday, Heather and Marci!). Click here for Day 1.
The Mitad del Mundo is the faux-city built around Ecuador’s namesake — the Equator. It was surprisingly easy to get there on Quito’s public transportation and after an hour’s bus ride we spent the morning and early afternoon hopping back and forth from the Southern to Northern Hemisphere and back again. The official park dubbed Mitad del Mundo was formed more than 100 years ago and is the locale you’ll most likely find if you google Equator near Quito. It features a giant monument built by the French (not sure why, we didn’t go in that museum) and about 14-dozen stores selling llama sweaters, knick-knacks, and most importantly for my purposes, stickers.
However, the fairly recent advent of GPS and like devices has led to an interesting occurrence — a second, smaller museum about 200 meters north of Mitad del Mundo claiming to be the actual, GPS-confirmed location of the Equator.
Having come all this way, we figured it best to cross our t’s and make sure we actually crossed the Equator, so we hiked up the road after a quick lunch. Though much smaller and tucked away off the road, the second location — Inti N(y)am — featured much more information and a guided tour complete with Equator games such as “Which Way Does the Water Spin,” “Balancing the Egg on the Nail,” and “Equatorial Sobriety Test.”
As for the water question, the guide had a portable basin and drained it directly over the equator (no vortex), about six feet south of the Equator (clockwise vortex at the drain) and six feet north of the Equator (counter-clockwise vortex). I’m still a little skeptical that there wasn’t some sort of trickery going on to make this work, but I saw what I saw and it spun differently, just ten feet apart, on either side of the Equator.
Later that day, we met up with Stephen and his uncle Bladi. Sadly, Stephen is currently enrolled in a rather rigorous first semester of dentistry school, so these two hours were all the time he had to spare during our first leg in Quito. Fortunately, Stephen has an impressive reservoir of historical knowledge when it comes to Quito and Ecuador at large and these two hours were both fun and informative. Stephen and Bladi drove us all over the historical center and filled us in on the history behind such locales as the governmental palace, and a handful of gorgeous churches. They also took us to the top of the Panecillo, which is a large hill that sits at what used to be the southern edge of Quito (nowadays Quito stretches for miles to south) and features a massive statue of the Virgin Mary who is looking out over (what used to be) all of Quito watching over its citizens.
Though Stephen’s knowledge and company were welcome, his most important contribution to our Ecuadorian experience came during a brief coffee break at Cafe Modelo near the government palace. It was there that he declared Meg and I had to try humitas and quimbolitos, two staples of the typical Ecuadorian fare. Both were fantastic. The humito is essentially a tamale, but without any filling, that tastes like the best piece of cornbread you’ve ever had. Quimbolitos are similar in appearance and texture to the humita but are a sweet treat laced with a few raisins. I can’t explain exactly what it tastes like, but it was delicious with just a hint of the humita’s savory overtones. We returned the next day and enjoyed another humita and a delicious taco-like creation featuring tomatoes, guacamole, melted cheese and oregano. If in Quito, Cafeteria Modelo is a can’t-miss stop.
After bidding good bye to Stephen and thanking Bladi for driving us all over town — he even got a parking ticket one of our stops — we decided it was time to hit the rooftop bar. I’d be lying if I said I had vivid memories of what followed, but we passed the rest of the evening sipping glasses of wine (Meg) and big bottles of Ecuadorian beer (Ryan) while conversing with our fellow lodgers. We met a couple from Oregon — a corn-maze designer and a women’s lacrosse coach (Pacific) — a handful of Australians (because you know, it was a hostel, far from Australia and it had beer) and nice couple who volunteered at the hostel (he was from Uruguay, she was from Denmark).