Our group spent the first night in Quito, where I discovered that being at nearly 10,000 feet of altitude was not exactly my favourite place to be, then we left the next morning to head for our retreat headquarters, the El Encanto resort in the cloud forest.
The Shuar people from the High Andes used to shrink the heads of their war victims (photo right). The Shuar felt that the muisak, or soul of the victim was contained in the shrunken head (tsantsa) and because of this it became popular with the nobility as well.
Ironically, the French could have saved themselves a lot of time and money by just asking the Quechua, whose observations of the sun’s path gave a more accurate reading than the French instrumentation. Perhaps if we get out from behind our equipment, and use our senses to actually observe the world around us, we end up with a better idea of reality.
Our guide showed us a few displays and artifacts from the area’s ancient civilizations.
Except that it wasn’t true.
The Coriolis effect is, without a doubt, perfectly real. It explains the inertia effect that the earth’s rotation has on ocean currents, wind patterns, and hurricanes, causing counter-clockwise rotation in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. However, at a micro level the effect is so miniscule that it couldn’t possibly be measured, let alone observed with the naked eye without some crafty sleight-of-hand on the part of the guide. Still, it was fun to watch.
We were then challenged to walk along the equatorial line with our eyes closed and our arms outstretched
Can’t be done—at least not by me! The explanation was something about the Coriolis effect on the inner ear, but, quite frankly, I’m certain that it is almost impossible to walk a straight line under those conditions anywhere in the world without a great deal of practice.
I was a little saddened by the later debunking of the “special effects” that we had witnessed. It would have been nice to believe that there really are special, “magical” places in the world.
A five-star lunch at the El Crater Restaurant overlooking the Pululahua Crater cheered me up enormously.
The Pululahua crater, one of the largest craters in the world, is one of only two inhabited volcanic calderas and is believed to have first been settled by the Incas. The lava dome rises 500 metres above the crater floor and is covered by lush, cloud forest vegetation. Various crops grow in the rich soil on the floor.