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Take Your Kids to the Center of the World: Mitad Del Mundo (August 2010)

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Probably the cheesiest excursion in which we've participated so far was a daytrip from Quito to visit "the center of the world." Ecuador lies on the equator, and has been drumming up tourist revenue for decades by memorializing this fact at an exhibit called Mitad del Mundo. The revelation that this exhibit is erroneously placed did nothing to dampen the showman's spirit; instead, now there are two sites to visit as part of the standard tour if one wishes to see the equator: the original, traditional one and what claims to be the scientifically-accurate one.

The latter is the much goofier of the pair. Privately-run, it features various phenomena that the guides initially tell you are peculiar to being on the equator: eggs balancing on end; water flowing both clockwise and counter-clockwise; humans becoming suddenly weaker.

Mitad del Mundo

Tony and Pallavi stand in supposedly different hemispheres at the Intinan Museum.

Of course, these aren't truly things that can happen only at the equator -- something we know both because you can do these tricks elsewhere, and because this site isn't the "real" equator either. Still, it can make for an amusing excursion, complete with a Totemic Forest and exhibits of pre-Columbian Ecuadorean communities.

Guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are inevitable anywhere that purports to depict Andean Native life.

The earlier equatorial exhibit, which was created by a provincial government, is much more imposing and has a more serious ethnographic museum. Although we weren't present for them, there are supposed to be cultural shows with poetry, music and dance on weekends.

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The yellow sign and the gold engraving on the right both note that this stands at latitude zero; the engraving on the left notes Greenwich's coordinates.

There's also a planetarium, and a walking tour that leads one through historical efforts to locate the equator, which vaguely memorializes the cooperation of nations toward this goal.

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A bust of Jose Marti, the Latin American intellectual and revolutionary, recently added to the site and of no apparent relevance to the equator.

If you're killing some time in Quito with small people who are bored with churches, this isn't a bad or terribly expensive way to spend a day. Bring a modern GPS navigator for an illustration of how to make a tour guide squirm through the use of science!

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