The Middle of the World
“Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador!” Says the Colombian border crossing official as I inform him that, yes, I intend to cross into Ecuador. Perhaps he has had too much time of hearing about Ecuador everyday, or maybe he is mocking me stating the only option available. Either way, the Colombia / Ecuador border crossing on the South American Epic was a smooth affair. Unlike many border crossings on TDA tours, where the culture and landscape immediately changes, this transition is almost invisible. The mountainous Andean terrain and latin culture remained almost exactly the same. The biggest difference we have noticed is the use of the US Dollar as currency in Ecuador!
Our journey from Bogota to Quito has taken us through the blazing hot Tatacoa desert in central Colombia, through the remote Purace national park in the south, and down into more indigenous regions of northern Ecuador. We have seen a lot of climbing, to the extent that 2,000+ meter days are no longer a surprise and come to be expected. Days begin freezing cold, but end scorching hot as we reach lower elevations – or vice versa – the temperature changes are constant and severe. Fortunately for us we have been met with warm hospitality everywhere we go. Whether it’s having a ‘tinto’ at the side of the road, or a warm bowl of soup at the end of a long riding day, the Colombians have certainly treated us well!
It is not every day that you get to cross the equator on a bicycle, but the day riding into Quito, the South American Epic riders got to do just that. We stopped by the Quitsato Sundial and heard about why Ecuador has advantage over all the other equator straddling nations in the world – mountains. Apparently Ecuador’s mountainous terrain allows for unique readings and observations of the sun as it rises and sets at different times of the year. Other equator countries, such as Brazil, Congo, or Kenya are either too flat or overgrown with jungle to make accurate readings from the sun. At different times of the year at the Quitsato Sundial, the sun will rise and fall over specific points on the mountain range. At which there have been discovered thousand year old monuments to the sun. Clearly the movement of the sun has been closely watched in Ecuador for a very long time, and they take pride in their place at ‘The Middle of the World’.
Now the South American Epic is truly in the Southern Hemisphere, and from the vantage point of 0° Latitude, Ushuaia still seems a very long way down!