Mitad del Mundo is a monument marking where the Equator crosses through Equador. It is a must see for anyone who visits Quito, and lots of tour operators will try to sell you guided day trips there, but these tours are less flexible and usually much more expensive than doing it on your own.
The cheapest way to go there is by public bus from Los Rios, where you would pay 50 cents per bus ride and transfer just once. The easiest way, is just by getting a taxi which has a flat rate of 20 US dollars each way when travelling from the old city. I got a taxi there together with a Canadian student and a German guy with a Phd in Physics very eager to see the physics experiments at the Equator, and since we did not keep the taxi driver waiting for more than two hours he agreed to wait for us for free.
To get into Mitad del Mundo you have to pay three dollars at the entrance, and that is just to see a park with the monument, and if you want to go into the monument for a tour of the cultural museum inside it you need to pay anothe three dollars.
The Mitad del Mundo was where the old explorers figured that the Equator had to be, according to their old measuring instruments. Now the actual Equator has been found with modern GPS equipment to be around 250 meters south of the monument. And that is where you will find the most fun part about the Middle of the Earth: the Intinian Solar Museum. You have to pay four dollars to get in, but that includes a guided 45 minute tour with an English speaking guide which is the best guided tour I have ever done. The tour explains a lot about Equatorian culture such as how Cuy (Guinea pig) came to be such an expensive dish and how the natives used to shrink human heads. There ever was an actual shrunken head with a size of a golf ball that was over a hundred years old, and a more recent shrunken sloth head to show that the natives could still do it. The tour also explained a lot about the animals you can find in the Amazon such as the snakes (15m boa constrictors), spiders (huge tarantulas) and Candirus fish (that swims through your urine and bites on to the wall of your bladder to suck blood and grow inside you). The absolute highlight of the day was to do the experiments that can only be done on the exact equatorial line such as:
- placing an egg on its top or bottom, to see it standing up perfectly by itself
- trying to balance on the equatorial line, which was much harder than other places
- Holding up something heavy two meters from the equatorial line, and right on it: you are actually lighter when standing on the equatorial line than anywhere else so it will be harder to hold something up in front of you there
- The best of all was the water swirl experiment where we had a bowl of water that was let out on the equator where it fell down perfectly without creating a swirl. Doint the same just two meters North of the line it created a swirl counterclockwise and two meters south it created a swirl clockwise meaning that if you are anywhere on the Northern Hemisphere and flush a toilet the water will swirl the other way that it would if you were somewhere south of the Equator.
Less than two hours before we arrived at The Middle of the Earth we were ready to head home. All in all it was a pretty awesome museum to visit, and really easy to just do on your own, without any tour booked in advance. We spent less than 20 dollars total for the hald day tour, also leaving us plenty of time to do other things that day.