We felt that our journey up much of the length of South America would be incomplete without crossing the Equator. That’s why we set Quito as our end goal. The Equator is actually about 25 kilometers north of town, so it took us an extra day to ride through the city, but we’re glad we did!
The “Mitad del Mundo” (Middle of the World) Monument stands where French scientist Charles-Marie de la Condamine made the measurements in 1736 to mark the Equator. However, since that time, more accurate measurements have been made via GPS, showing that the actual Equator is about 300 yards away. Even though it’s a bit humorous that the giant monument isn’t quite on the right spot, we thought that Charles-Marie got pretty close… not bad!
On the “real” Equator, there’s a museum where they perform several experiments demonstrating different gravitational forces that are in effect at the Equator. For example, you can supposedly balance an egg on the head of a nail more easily if it’s on the Equator. Our guide was able to do it in about five seconds. We’re not sure if that’s because it is on the Equator or just because he practices everyday.
We also did an experiment where they demonstrated the forces of the different hemispheres and how those affect your balance. You had to close your eyes and walk, arms extended, down the equatorial line. You can feel the force pulling you in each direction as you take a step forward… quite difficult to keep balance! But again, we’re not sure if that’s because you’re on the Equator, or just because you’re trying to walk in a straight line with your eyes closed!
And of course, the best, and perhaps only authentic, experiment was the water demonstration. Most people have heard that water drains in one direction (counter-clockwise) in the northern hemisphere, and the other way (clockwise) in the southern hemisphere. Well, our guide demonstrated this by pouring water down a sink just a few yards on either side of the Equator. It actually drained different ways! On the Equator, it basically didn’t swirl at all–it went straight down. Just a hoax or the real deal? We’re not sure, but it was fun to watch!