Monday, March 23, 2009

Museu de Sitio Intinan, Ecuador

High in the Andes mountains, a few kilometers north of Quito, Ecuador, visitors to the outdoor Museu de Sitio Intinan can stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern.

This is the exact site the Incas determined to be the Middle of the World in 1460 AD. Hundreds of years later, using sophisticated GPS equipment, scientists found their determination to be completely accurate.

Today, visitors can wander through a replica of an Inca village, led by a local guide who talks about the archaeology and culture of the native tribes. You can peer into an open Inca burial mound, or try your hand at using a real blowgun. (It’s heavier and harder than it looks).

There are several interactive displays lined up on the 3 inch wide red stripe that marks the location of the Equator. You can try to balance a raw egg on the head of nail – and receive a special certificate if you can do it.

Exactly on the Equator, water drains from a sink by falling straight down. In the northern hemisphere it drains counterclockwise. In the southern, it drains clockwise. The guide demonstrates this with just a bucket of water, a portable sink and a few green leaves.

At an altitude of over 7,000 feet the air is thin, cold and windy enough to whip a hat right off your head as you gaze at a display of a real shrunken head, or a preserved spider whose body is the size of a grown man’s hand.

Middle of the World City is not in many guidebooks. It’s not crowded so you can spend time admiring the wonders of this little-known part of the country. And if you feel hungry, try a bite of cuy, the local delicacy. What’s cuy? Cooked guinea pig.  

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