As I straddle the equator line I discover I have a rare, utterly useless, talent.
Out of the 15 people taking the 4pm guided tour around the impressive Inti Ñan Solar Museum only one other shares my seemingly magical power to balance an egg on the tip of a nail.
According to our guide, the unique directly downward pull of gravity on the equator line enables a egg yolk to sit perfectly evenly in its shell.
This in turn makes it much easier to balance the egg on a small point, such as a nail head.
A centimetre either side of the equator line and apparently such a feat becomes much more difficult as the yolk is pulled to one side of the other.
I am blown away to be presented with a certificate which formally acknowledges me as an ‘Egg Balancing Master’. At last I feel like I have done my long -suffering parents proud.
Our host then grabs a bucket full of water and tips it into a sink situated a couple of metres into the northern hemisphere.
“Look familiar?” she says to the Europeans and North Americans in the group as a carefully tossed leaf illustrates the water spinning counter-clockwise down the plughole.
She then moves the sink across the equator line into the southern hemisphere.
Turning to Argentinians and Aussies in the party she says, “now time for you to feel at home,” This time the coriolis effect makes the water spiral in a clockwise direction.
“Now watch this,” she says with glee placing the plughole directly above the equator line. Whoosh! The water disappears straight down the little hole without a spiral in sight.”Pretty cool huh?!” she says. I’m inclined to agree.
Situated in the town of Mitad del Mundo (literally centre of the earth) the museum also boasts some interesting exhibits reflecting the history of the indigenous people who flourished here before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century.
We are treated to a life-sized waxwork model of a hunter with his todger strapped up against his chest.
Apparently this wasn’t just for fashion purposes.
No, the procedure was to try and prevent the infamous Amazonian candiru fish from swimming up the penis shaft…
However, looking at the excruciatingly painful technique required to avoid said fish I think I’d have taken my chances.
Shrunken heads are also available for viewing and we are treated to a pictorial description of the grizzly process which involves the de-skinning and boiling in water of the face until its size reduces to that of a fist.
We pose for very touristy, but fun, photos on the equator.
As it turns out it is the second time in the day we have looked at one another from different sides of a painted line.
If you hadn’t realised it, Ecuador is named after its central latitudinal position – Ecuador is Spanish for equator.
Of course the line passes through some 14 countries, but the ones on major land masses weren’t particularly appealing back when French scientists were setting out on an equator hunt in the 1700s (present day Uganda, Somalia, places like that).
The friendly Spanish-controlled territory of present day Ecuador was, however, a much more civilised and welcoming location.
The King of Spain had no problem with the French trampling across his land provided they take along a couple of Spanish scientists to share in the glory.
Ironically the glory has become mild embarrassment because the spot they identified has now be proved to be in the wrong place.
A huge monument marking the wrong spot still rises up from Mitad del Mundo.
To be fair, without the use of computers or the raft of other technologies we have today they got pretty close – the spot plumped for is only a couple of hundred metres from what has now been officially identified as the equator line using highly accurate GPS instruments.
As a Brit I can’t gloat to much. The spot marking the prime meridian in London is actually situated about 100 yards away from the official 0 degrees longitude.
Still, when we leave the real centre of the earth I feel like I’m on top of the World, because I balanced an egg on a nail head.