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World's Zero point- Ecuador - La Tal del Mundo
La Tal del Mundo means World’s Zero point in Spanish. It stands for a point in Ecuador that has been marked to represent the equator. And it’s the equator that gives this country its name. Its a corner of south America that’s about half the size of France that stammers the bulging belt right around the middle of the earth.
But there’s more to Ecuador than the equator. In fact, even the equator isn’t all it seems. All the tourists think they’ve got one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern, but they’re all wrong. The monument was built nearly forty years ago and thanks today to the magic of GPS we now know that the true equator is actually 240 Meters north of it.
The landscape that stretches the length of the central highlands known locally as the ‘Avenue of the volcanoes’ and the best way to get a glimpse of it is by train. There are 14 million people living in Ecuador. The majority of them are Mistitso. They’re half Spanish and half local, the result of the Spanish conquest of 1532.
There are also 10 different indigenous groups, each with its own distinct language and traditions. These make up only a quarter of the population. There’s virtually nothing left of the old Incan culture. Instead what you get is a staunchly catholic country proud of their churches.
Across the highlands there are Hacienda, the family ranches of the plantation owners and the wealthy elite. Nowadays these are popular home stays at the luxury end of the market where guests cans enjoy the home cooked food and the work in farm.
On the train Ecuador’s second most populous city emerges from the mist and this is the nation’s capitol Kieto. A maze of narrow lanes and colonial buildings that prompted UNESCO to add Kieto to its exclusive list of world heritage sites back when it exclusively was an exclusive list.
Recently a whopping two hundred million dollars have give the whole place a facelift. But despite the renovations it’s the stray dogs and ramshackle look that gives this place its charm. Around every corner of Kieto you’re more likely to find a church than any Incan remains. That’s because the city was razed by the Spanish as they advanced and with the blank canvas to build on there was no limit to the expansion. Nowadays there are no less than 40 churches dotted around.
Ninety minutes north of Kieto is Ottavallo nestled away in the heart of the Lake District and that means another chance to stay in Ecuadorian hacienda. This is Ecuador’s most famous market town.
In Europe, Asia or US, when you hear banana you probably think Banana shake, banana cake or even the famous banana splits but here they’re much more than that. Banana is the potato of the Ecuadorian world. They grill it, fry it, put it in a stew, throw them in the curry and they even make the chips out of them. Did you know that most bananas we eat are grown 10 degrees either side of the equator.
So whether you like bananas for food or just want to go bananas, you should definitely visit Ecuador.