After visiting Pululahua, just north of the equator, I take a bus back to Mitad del Mundo, but leave the touristy monument and museum dedicated to the equator aside - not only to avoid the inevitable crowds, but also because it is not precisely at the equator. Instead, I get off, walk down to the Monjas river and climb again until I reach the end of the outskirts of Mitad del Mundo. I take a turn, and start walking up a dusty road. Far ahead, I see a pillar on top of a mountain: it marks Cerro Catequilla, the destination of the afternoon. The road climbs gently, Mitad del Mundo now appears below me, and I can see across the plains towards the edge of the Pululahua caldera and beyond. In the distance behind me: the outskirts of Quito. Unlike the crowds at Mitad del Mundo, this dirt roads is completely empty.
At a crossroads below the final stretch of the climb, I get a preview of the panoramas that await me at the top. When I get close to the pillar, the mountain suddenly flattens out, and then, I have reached Catequilla, and the equator. I check on my smartphone, and its GPS indicates 0˚0'0". The Quitu-Cara, a pre-Incan peoples that lived in this area and founded the capital Quito, established Catequilla here, at the 2638m high mountain, because it marks the equator. It is the only known pre-Inca culture to have done so. There is no information whatsoever: a wind sweeps across the Cerro, and I walk around, looking for clues. There is a sturdy monument, which definitely does not look pre-Incan, and which seems to be the centre of things. It is still at precisely 0 degrees, and several paths fan out from here.
A circular wall runs around the site, and at the northwestern side, I find a circular stone platform, a lithic disk, next to the wall. It supposedly has to do with the June solstice. Catequilla is also associated with the moon: in Quechua, it means "follower of the moon". When I look towards the north, I see the ruins of Rumicucho, an Incan fortress, on the top of a lower mountain. What a pity that Catequilla is not at all developed, that it is unprotected, and there is nothing to enlighten the visitor about its importance, the meaning of the holes in the ground, the monument, the lithic disks, and the wall surrounding it. After crossing the equator yet another time, I start walking down, and when I arrive at the main road, I am just in time to catch a bus in the direction of Quito. I am back at the southern hemisphere.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Catequilla (Ecuador). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Catequilla. Read more about this site.