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The Centre of the World and Otavalo

Updated: 3 days ago

There are lots of countries lying across the equator, around the world, so it was fun to find out today why Ecuador has a special claim to be named after this invisible line.  Becoming independent in 1830 it took the name Republica del Ecuador / Republic of the Equator, to celebrate one of the biggest experiments the world had ever seen.  Almost 100 years earlier, in 1736, a French mission arrived in Quito, to resolve the great debate of the day: was the circumference of the earth greater when measured round the equator, or through the poles?  The scientists used sophisticated triangulation methods to show that the earth is oblate – or flattened at the poles.  And they determined the location of the equator, in San Antonio de Pinchincha, about 16 miles outside Quito.

The monument there straddles the yellow line, which represents the equator separating South from North. I was a proper tourist, getting my passport stamped for visiting the centre of the world

250 years later, with a little help from GPS, they found the equatorial line actually runs through the province about 200 metres further North.  So there are now two museums and two tourist attractions 200 metres apart.  One has all the history and the other has quirky experiments with eggs and the way water flows down the plughole. Kudos to the initial expedition though – it’s incredible how accurate they were with their modest instrumentation.  As a bonus - they also developed the concept of the metre as an international measurement, based on the dimensions of the earth. 😊

Travelling a little further north, we followed the contours of the mountains on one side of a north / south valley.  Rather like the avenue of the volcanoes, but not so grand.  Catching sight of the active volcano Cotopaxi was a real treat in the rainy season, so we stopped for the obligatory photo – and the not-so-obligatory boiled pork and corn offered at the roadside (which did smell delicious!).

The landscape was amazing – though, on a misty day, the photos don’t really do it justice. As the valley opened up, it cradled shimmering streaks of silver which were either lakes - or regimented lines of polytunnel greenhouses full of flowers. Roses and sunflowers are on sale on every street corner and you can have 75 full-headed, long-stemmed roses for $5 😊

Eucalyptus trees lined the pathway up to the Pequche waterfall and I took this picture to show how incredibly tall and straight they are – at least 7 x as tall as Roberto, who has been so kind and thoughtful in sharing the sights of Quito with me.

Nearby was the market town of Otavalo, where you can buy textiles, leather and silver directly from the local craftspeople.  I was so distracted, collecting mementoes for friends and family, that I hardly took any photos!

In one of the local workshops, I saw alpaca being spun, woven and dyed with natural plants, including walnuts and indigo .....

In another workshop a local musician turned the bamboo you can see stacked up in the corner into bird whistles and pan pipes, whilst we were chatting ...

I was less keen on the armadillo guitar – although this is an historic instrument, they don’t make them like this any more. 

Fun fact – Taita Gundo’s son has a stall in Spitalfields market selling these traditional Andean instruments – so you needn’t go all the way to Ecuador to hear the sounds – or pick one up 😊

To wrap up – I wanted to share a couple of photos for Rose, who introduced me to the concept of Pinata, which was part of growing up in Laguna Beach.  It’s a HUGE thing here and all the local shops are full of papier-mâché sweetie carriers of all shapes and sizes, for birthday party bashing to release the treats ....

Off to the Galapagos in the morning - more from there soon!

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