I left you with a cliffhanger on Wednesday. The Directrice and The Photographer touch the equator!
As you see below.
The Equator does seem central to Ecuadorean identity. I read an essay by a travel blogger who noted this point of pride; she suggested that even though the Equator passes through thirteen countries, if passion were enough to establish possession, Ecuador would own the equator.
The Photographer, as a man of Science and Astronomy (I know astronomy is a science) was particularly keen to mark our passage over the Equator with a special stop.+
We took photos to establish proof of latitude.
Note: The Photographer stopped shaving a few days before we left D.C. and has not shaven (yet) on this trip. He offered two sketchy rationales — more protection from the Equatorial sun? less time potentially ingesting water in the shower? — but since the stubble phase passed, I keep catching him petting his beard affectionately. I tell him, “Don’t get too attached.”
We stopped on the Equator at a beautiful visitor’s center called Quitsato. If we hadn’t gotten a late start at the hotel in Quito, we would have been on this plaza at high noon and our shadows would have vanished completely.
At roughly 12:30 local time, here are our tiny shadows, which seem unusually small to me.
The core of the Quitsato visitor complex is a giant sundial made of cobblestones. The red tower shown above is at the center of the sundial. In addition to the sundial, there are several low-slung buildings that blend beautifully into the landscape. These contain exhibits providing background on the Equator: the 18th century measuring of it (accurate), its significance in shipping and commerce (great), and its relationship with the sun and stars (positive).
The most interesting exhibit offered a different perspective on the globe, with a giant map on the floor of one gallery. The map was oriented with the Equator as a central vertical line or, put another way, a world map rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise. It was a little hard to get one’s mind around, but that’s the point. The docent challenged us to think about a world in which there were no hemispheres, but rather all continents and countries taking turns “on top” as the word turns.
In addition to challenging the politics of map-making, Quitsato supports archeological heritage and cultural preservation projects. These include a beautiful agave garden.
The Directrice does love a succulent and these were extraordinary. This particular one made me think of The Little Shop of Horrors.
Shortly after leaving the Quitsato site, we stopped for lunch and a tour of a rose farm. Sounds idyllic, right?
Subtracted from the long list of things I do not know — because now I know — is this fact: Ecuador is a leading grower and exporter of roses. According to a random website that popped up in a Google search, Ecuador is the third largest exporter of cut flowers globally.
Roses thrive in certain parts of Ecuador because of the moderate temperature (we are still at elevation — maybe 5,500-6,000 ft.). The cut flower industry thrives in Ecuador because farmers are able to grow roses year-round (not just in one or two seasons) and — brace yourself, because this fact is a mind-blower — the roses grow on long, straight stems because of Ecuador’s position vis-a-vis THE SUN.
We were escorted on our tour of the farm by Martin (pronounced Martine), who was quick to tell us that the property came from his wife’s family and later mentioned that he pays his male and female workers equal wages.
He was one of the most suave men I’ve ever met.++
The greenhouses are not glass houses. They are massive tents. The covering helps to keep the temperature stable 24 hours/day.
This farm grew more than 30 varieties of roses — various shapes (number/placement of petals and petal edges) and colors. The color preferences can change with fashion — both interior design and clothing. The Chinese, it seems, like roses dyed colors that do not occur in nature (like blue), multi-colored dyed roses (achieved by splitting the bottom of the stems and inserting the sections in different colors of dyed water), and glitter roses (I . . . can’t).
The roses are harvested at different degrees of maturation — rated 1 to 4 — from buds just starting to open to full open flowers. In one day, a rose is cut, packed, trucked to an airport, and flown to its overseas destination.
Different countries and regions have different preferences for stem length, too. Canada and the United States like stems of roughly 14-16″, Europeans like something closer to 20-24″ for taller arrangements, and Russians like 30″-36″ inch stems for creating arrangements that look like rose bushes.
I hope I am conveying at least one-tenth of my enjoyment. It was so interesting to see how the flowers go from a field in Ecuador to a table-top in my apartment.
No travel photo album would be complete without a few photos of me petting local animals. This chubby, dusty fellow lives at the rose farm.
+ That’s not a euphemism or entendre. I really do mean he wanted to stop and take it in.
++ Did you see Inside Out? Do you remember the question (and memory) inside female characters’ heads — “For this, I gave up the Brazilian helicopter pilot?” and then an image of a suave man saying, “Come. Fly away with me, gatinha.” Martin made me think of that.