The “Other” Mitad del Mundo

The imaginary line of the equator is supposedly the only place in the world where an egg can balance.

The imaginary line of the equator is supposedly the only place in the world where an egg can balance.

Just outside of Quito there is a huge monument and museum that is heavily marketed as Mitad del Mundo or the Center of the World. It is a very popular tourist destination where people can take their pictures in front of a monument while one leg is planted in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the South. It’s so famous, in fact, people think it really is the center of the earth and sometimes forget that the Equator is a line and several places happen to fall on top of it.

Recently I was reading a copy √Ďan magazine while planning our trip to Otavalo and saw a marker on a map no where near the famous Mitad del Mundo but with the exact same name. I thought it must have been a typo. That’s how brainwashed all of us who live in Quito are. There can only be one, right?

Just in case, I told my husband to keep his eyes open as we drove the route. We came to the spot on the road where it was supposed to be and it wasn’t there. Aha! It was a mistake, I thought. We passed the tollbooth and were headed on our merry way and decided we would just stop at the next town to grab lunch. And, what do you know? The map had switched the toll booth and the “other” Mitad del Mundo. Because there it was, right before our eyes.

In many ways, it’s what we in the United States might call a wide spot on the road. There was a broad open space that looked like a makeshift parking lot. There were wooden stalls set up selling both food and tourist items. Across the street there was a stage and a crowd was slowly building for some event later that afternoon. There were also a few restaurants advertising Comida Tipica, meaning dishes local to the area. And in the center of a park-like plaza was a huge cement globe, positioned so that the slender arm of Central America ran dead center and we could easily see both our home state of California and our current home in Ecuador.

We can see both California, our home in the United States, and our current home here in Ecuador.

We can see both California, our home in the United States, and our current home here in Ecuador.

A delicious example of Llapingachos, a comida tipica of the Ecuadorian Sierra.

A delicious example of Llapingachos, a comida tipica of the Ecuadorian Sierra.

Hunger sent us onward before exploring the area and we chose to try one of the restaurants on the plaza. I ordered a dish of the best llapingachos I have ever eaten. High marks for the entire dish, from the presentation to the fresh salads, to the split sausages that looked like giant children’s jacks sitting on my plate, to the potato pancakes themselves. Next time I make llapingachos, I will add chopped parsley for that additional splash of color. They were fried to perfection, crispy on the outside and very tender and creamy in the center.

My men tried the fritada with sides of hominy, tomato and onion salad, and the corn called tostado which looks like raw popcorn toasted but not popped. Tostado taste like Fritos, chewy and crunchy bombs of corn chip flavor. The side dishes were tasty but the fritada itself was a disappointment. Fritada are cubes of pork, slowly cooked in liquid until the fat is rendered away. The liquid is then cooked off until the pork fries in its own lard. The process is slow and the pork should be very tender when finished. This fritada had been rushed and the pork was unfortunately chewy.

After lunch we ventured back outside. My eye caught a cement structure just next to the restaurant, practically hidden in the shadows. As we approached, we realized it was the original Mitad del Mundo monument and marked the equatorial line. The paint was wearing off and the age of the piece shows but I loved it nonetheless. We were looking at a piece of history and a geographical wonder.

The monument at the "other" Mitad del Mundo.

The monument at the “other” Mitad del Mundo.

As we were getting ready to leave, two gentlemen who had been watching us photograph all around them kindly waved and then asked if we had seen the egg. I honestly thought I hadn’t heard them correctly. Un huevo? Donde? Why would I need to see an egg? And then they pointed back towards the globe we had seen before. A few feet away was a pedestal with a single egg balanced in its center. One of the gentleman proudly told us that this near magical feat can only happen exactly on the Equator. We then proceeded to take more photos showing the equatorial line running from the egg to the globe with us standing on either side.

An egg balances perfectly but it is plain to see that not all eggs have survived the process.

An egg balances perfectly but it is plain to see that not all eggs have survived the process.

After more than a year in country I have yet to go to the more famous Mitad del Mundo. The crowds on the weekends scare us away. One day, I’ll visit and compare. But for now, I’m happy to say I’ve been to the center of the world and eaten lunch directly on the Equator. The “other” Mitad del Mundo is worth a visit.