They put the museum in the wrong spot

Mitad del Mundo Travel Blog

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The Basilica

Today was our day to see all of the touristy stuff in Ecuador that we've been avoiding thus far.  Daniela from Happy Gringo was our guide.  Our first stop was a city park in Quito.  It's way up on a hill with a nice view of the city.  The building itself is a recycled market pavilion that has been enclosed with glass walls.  It now houses an art exhibition.

Our next and most important stop was the Yachana chocolate factory.  Unfortunately, the factory is not like the one in Willy Wonka.  The Yachana chocolate factory was founded by a non-profit group.  The group runs a high school in the Ecuadorian rain forest to teach high schoolers about tourism and agriculture.

View of the old city
  The group also runs a lodge in the rain forest that is staffed by (former?) students.  Profits from the lodge go back into the high school.  The group also buys cacao beans (most likely grown by former agriculture students) at fair trade prices.  These beans are shelled and roasted in Quito at the chocolate factory.  Some of the resulting cacao nibs are mixed with dried fruit or chocolate to make a sort of dark chocolate trail mix.  Cacao nibs taste like unsweented chocolate but they don't melt.  The rest of the nibs are beaten and mixed with a bit of sugar to form bars of rough dark chocolate.  The factory doesn't have the equipment to make the very refined, smooth chocolate that most Americans are used to but their bars taste fantastic.
The equator!
  The products of the factory are mostly sold in America (Ecuadorians prefer their chocolate very sweet) and the profits are put back into the high school.

After the chocolate factory, we headed over to an art gallery created by Ecuador's most famous artist, Oswaldo Guayasamin (try saying that 3 times fast).  Oswaldo Guayasamin created the building and all the art within.  He is known for his dark paintings of suffering, despair, ect.  Most of his paintings commemorate some sort of tragedy or an abused group of people.  Another major theme of his work is mothers.  Many of his mothers are shown as being protective of their children or are distraught after their children have died.  Probably not the place I would have chosen to come after eating a bunch of chocolate.

Garrett with the blowgun

Ecuador is right on the equator as you may have guessed from the name.  After lunch we headed to the Mitad del Mundo (center of the world).  Quite some time ago they built a small city at Mitad del Mundo.  There's a big statue, shops, concert venues, etc.  Unfortunately in 1996, some researches used GPS to determine the equator is actually about 300 yards from Mitad del Mundo.  Stupid researchers.

It just so happens that the real location of the equator happened to fall inside the property of a museum of native Ecuadorian culture.  This museum was quickly 'upgraded' so that now it has exhibits on native cultures and a bunch of hokey 'science' experiments about the special powers you can receive by being at the equator (You can balance an egg on the head of a nail!).  We learned about some pretty cool things like the process some amazonian tribes use to shrink heads (hint, it involves removing the skull).  I also got a chance to shoot a blowgun at a cactus pad.  The blowgun was probably 10 ft long!  In the Amazonian jungle, hunters shoot poison tipped darts out of these blowguns to kill monkeys.

Nothing can top Mitad del Mundo, so we returned to our hotel to watch TV.

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The Basilica
The Basilica
View of the old city
View of the old city
The equator!
The equator!
Garrett with the blowgun
Garrett with the blowgun
The new, real equator
The new, real equator
The old, real equator
The old, real equator
Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador
One of Guayasamins paintings.  It…
One of Guayasamin's paintings. I…
One of Guayasamins sculptures.  T…
One of Guayasamin's sculptures. …
Mitad del Mundo
photo by: jendara