Ecuador // The northern sierra //

Quitsato equator monument

Seven kilometres south of Cayambe, just before the turning to Cangahua and Hacienda Guachalá, at Km70 on the Panamericana, is the Quitsato equator monument (w, taking the form of a giant sundial (reloj solar), spanning 54 metres across with a ten-metre-high cylinder, placed exactly on the equator, as its gnomon to cast a shadow. From this huge clock face, a compass rose of light stones inlaid into dark allows you (or one of the guides on hand, at least), not only to read the time, but also the month, while other features indicate the solstices and equinoxes. The words “quitsa to” mean “centre of the world” in the language of the Tsáchila people, and one of the goals of the monument is to link Ecuador’s modern identity as an equatorial nation to the ancient cultures of the region, who well understood these techniques of charting celestial movements and knew the position of the equator to a degree (pardon the pun) that is only just becoming clear. The on-site Museo Cultura Solar explains in fascinating detail these links to the past, including good coverage of La Condamine’s geodesic mission to Ecuador in 1743, and encourages the reappraisal and rescue of the region’s many languishing and under-researched archeological sites

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