I don’t know about any of you, but I’ve never really thought too much about the physics behind the wonderful planet we live on. Perhaps this is because I spent the entire physics semester turning my plasticine blob - that was meant to be thrown off the building to somehow prove the laws of physics - into a perfectly crafted man, complete with facial features, briefcase, and a suit. Physics never was my strong point.
So when it came to visiting Mitad del Mundo or “Middle of the World” in Ecuador, I was unsure what to expect other than an oversized monument, built by man to symbolise something that dumbfounded the human race for centuries…. The science and physics behind Planet Earth.
Now, it needs to be said, first and foremost, that Ecuador seems to be stealing the limelight here. Not only is Mitad Del Mundo one of the biggest Equator monuments in the world but the country’s name, Ecuador, comes from the mere fact that it straddles the Equator. Needless to say, the twelve other countries also along this fascinating invisible line had to come up with boring names such as Indonesia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Talk about shameless self-promotion!
Mitad del Mundo is both a town and a large park-like area where the exact latitude is 0°00’00”. . . . well that’s what the Ecuadorian government would like you to believe. This monument was constructed in 1936 based on coordinates determined by French explorers in the 17th century who officially declared this place as “The True Equator”. However in recent years, thanks to newer, more specific GPS technology it has been proven that the monument is in fact some 240m south of where it should actually sit! Awkward!
What’s even better is that the actual true Equator runs through a privately owned property whose owners have taken the initiative to build their own museum based on the culture of the indigenous populations in the area, while also honouring their location on the Equator. At this wonderful little outdoor museum, you can also take part in a series of fun “tests”, and see evidence such as historical sun dials that prove they are in fact on the real latitude of 0°00’00”.
This museum, Inti Ñan runs a guided tour for $4 per person and was probably one of the best museums we have visited so far! The interesting history of the many difference indigenous groups and cultures is explained through a series of models, thatched huts, historic artifacts and a few gruesome, yet awesome real life shrunken heads!
Yes, that’s right, an indigenous population of the Amazon in Ecuador used to practice the ritual of shrinking both human and animal heads.
Photo: In case you had any queries about how to shrink a human head, there is a lovely 4 metre wall mural depicting the entire process!
After a brief culture and history lesson, we moved onto the fun stuff. After a brief explanation of the Coriolis Effect, best explained by weather patterns in the northern and southern hemisphere (anticlockwise cyclones in the south, and clockwise hurricanes in the north), our guide produced a portable sink. He plugged the hole, filled the sink with water and then threw a few leaves in to demonstrate his point. We moved roughly 1m south of the equator and he pulled the plug. True to form, the leaves spun anticlockwise before draining from the sink. We then took the sink 1m north of the equator and did the same experiment again. Right on cue, the leaves drained from the sink in a clockwise direction. And if that wasn’t enough, we then stood directly on the painted “Equator” line, did the same again, and the water and leaves gurgled and bubbled as it drained directly down without any spinning whatsoever! Crazy! I said physics never interested me, but science experiments are damn cool!
We did a few more, less scientific experiments like jumping on the equator (and feeling like you weigh a tonne), then jumping off the equator and feeling normal, as well as struggling to walk exactly along the line, however these are obviously less measurable “proof”and more heresay.
The one experiment that everyone talks about was also the grand finale - balancing a raw egg on a nail. Sounds ridiculous, and the explanation only vaguely brushes over the science of why this should work, but who cares…. It’s good fun! We took turns trying to balance the egg on the head of the nail and within a few seconds, I had “nailed it” (see what I did there??). I shrugged and figured that there was obviously some sort of trick to it if it was that easy. Half an hour later and only one other girl in our group of 6 had managed to get the egg to sit unassisted on the nail! After almost 5 minutes straight of trying, Wade became super frustrated and insisted that there was no way I could do it again. So I stepped up to prove that he was right and it was probably just beginners luck. Now, I do hate to brag, but almost immediately, I managed to do it again! Hahaha Sorry Wade!
Once our tour was over and we felt adequately enlightened and educated for the afternoon, we left Mitad Del Mundo and caught a bus to the lush green mountain village of Mindo. I had booked us into a rainforest bungalow just out of town and although it was pitch black by the time we arrived, we already loved the place due to the cooler temperature and relaxed atmosphere of this cool little town.
We spent the following day Zip Lining through the jungle on a series of 13 wires that covered a distance of some 3.5km! Wade wasn’t initially sold on the fact that they advertise their safety by stating that the Zip Lines were all built by Costa Rican engineers – is that a good thing?? - however I wasn’t going to be swayed from a fun day out! After watching on as a few people successfully completed the course without dying, Wade and I signed away our lives and zoomed through the jungle at speeds of up to 120km/hr! It was absolutely exhilarating!
Photo: Zip Lining in Mindo was an absolute adrenalin rush and also gave us an incredible view of the rainforest below
Our visit to Mindo was short but sweet and we were now on a timeline to make our way south as we had finally booked our much-awaited Galapagos Islands cruise. We had one week to get to Guayquil from where our flights departed to the Galapagos and our short time in mainland Ecuador would more or less come to an end. So much to do… so little time!
Enthusiastic but Useless Traveler.