Sure it sounds exciting. Like maybe something out of a Jules Verne book or an out take from the movie Journey II (Kongo has only watched the trailer for this production when he was trying to stay up late enough to go to sleep and get back on a correct time zone). But the reality is not filled with smoking lava trails or Hollywood dinosaurs. It’s actually a sleepy little collection of brightly colored huts selling postcards, Ecuador hats, and alpaca shawls 45-minutes from downtown Quito on a bumpy bus.
Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City) is a small tourist village north of Quito that marks the equator line through this country’s namesake and recognizes a geodesic survey carried out by the French Academy of Science in 1736 to measure the flattening of the poles and fix the position of the equator, thus proving that the earth isn’t perfectly round after all.
Tourists flock to this site so they can have a foot in both the northern and southern hemisphere at the same time. They also run back and forth to see if water really does drain in opposite directions on either side of the line. Middle school science students will recall that water drains clockwise in northern hemisphere sinks while south of the equator it drains in the opposite direction. This is caused by the Coriolis effect. Aside from the physics associated with the deflection of moving objects and considering that this is South America, Kongo was happy just to see the sinks drain. And given that flushing toilets in this part of the world is a crap shoot, literally, the monkey did not actually test this theory. He did, however, straddle the hemisphere by standing on the yellow line that leads from the monument and got more than a few stares from other tourists who thought it was really cute that a monkey would be here on the equator in Ecuador so plenty of traveling baboons now also have pictures of Kongo on the line. This phenomena often happens when Kongo is getting his picture taken at various monuments around the world. Grandmothers from Indiana have a thing about taking pictures of monkeys having their picture taken. Seriously.
In the post trip replays for the bridge club Kongo is sure there are plenty of conversations that go something like: “Oh, and here’s this cute little monkey that was having its picture taken at the equator…” followed by appropriate oohs and aahs.
Now it might look like Kongo could be sitting in the center of almost any road in Southern California playing daredevil but you have to trust me on this one. It really was the equator.
Mrs. Kongo loves this type of thing. She’s also had her photo taken at the prime meridian in Greenwich, England so this was like a culmination of geographical highlights in her travel career.
The monument itself (first photo in this post) is a pyramid-shaped construction about 90-feet high and topped by a 5-ton globe. It is oriented so that each cardinal point — north, east, south, and west — are exactly aligned and that by walking completely around the pyramid you can claim to have “been around the world.” Well, not really, but another popular tourist attraction at this amazing place is positioning yourself to have your picture taken so that you appear to be holding up the world. So, as you walk around the monument you see dozens of would be Atlases with their hands up in the air.
Now this was another one of those things that Mrs. Kongo loves to do. Imagine holding up the world! Betty, her good friend and travel agent, immediately wanted her photo taken.
Betty, who is a bit taller than Mrs. Kongo got it right almost immediately. Mrs. Kongo not so fast.
As she positioned herself she kept asking, “Did I get it? Am I holding the world up?”
Kongo kept saying, “Perfect, baby, you got it. That’s it.” Then he began laughing so hard that he gave it away. Mrs. Kongo had failed to hold the world up.
Finally, Kongo got lower, backed up a bit, and took the correct picture, setting the world properly on its axis again because if Mrs. Kongo didn’t get the whole wide world in her newly manicured hands pretty soon it was going to be a long, long lonely sea voyage to the Galapagos.
So it turns out that the Center of the World is a pretty popular place. There are lots of little plaques and markers scattered around the site attesting to various luminaries who have made this journey.
Here Kongo stands on the exact spot that President Clinton visited 10 years previously. Now there was somebody who at one time actually did have the whole world in his hands but the monkey can’t recall any pictures of the president with his arms held up. Hmmm.
It turns out that the monument is off a bit. The true equator is actually 240 feet north of the marked line. Mrs. Kongo is sure that is why the water in the sink at the ladies restroom didn’t drain the right way. Go figure.
Travel safe. Have fun.