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La Mitad del Mundo

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Fifteen kilometres (9.3mi) north of Quito, at an altitude of 2,483m (8,150ft), a little lane is bordered by busts of the European and Ecuadoran scientists who participated in the research and many expeditions undertaken to verify Newton's hypothesis regarding the flattening out of the earth at its poles. It leads to a commemorative, and not a little unusual, monument. For almost 20 years, La Mitad del Mundo ("the middle of the world") has stood here, marking the exact location of the equatorial line as calculated by Charles Marie de La Condamine and the members of the French geodesic mission in the middle of the 18th century. Visitors to this site can have the unique experience of placing one foot in the southern hemisphere and the other in the northern hemisphere.

Housed inside the monument is the Museo Etnográfico * ($0.50; Tue to Sun 10am to 5:30pm, tel. 527-077). Spanning three floors, this museum retraces the histories of the different ethnic groups that today make up the population of Ecuador. Many handicrafts, musical instruments and items of clothing may be viewed.

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