Saturday 5 April 2014
The Equator on the Amazon
Macapa is a real breath of fresh (though humid) air - we're finally a bit further off the beaten path... and it feels good. Though visiting places like Rio and BA can be fun, they really feel like big cities just about anywhere. Not so up here in the far north of Brazil - it's hot, and the opaque waters of the Amazon river delta lap at the shores, and there's no English to be heard anywhere.
The old Portuguese fort is great to explore - the "star" shape makes more sense when you consider that it allows every inch of the walls to be in the field of fire of weapons mounted on the rim. Apparently every stone was brought across from Portugal back in the 18th century.
The real neat draw for Macapa is its situation right on the Equator. Indeed, one of the major streets in town runs right along the line. There's also a huge obelisk/monument/sundial affair in the centre of a traffic roundabout so all the good fun of taking cheezy photos can be enjoyed. There's even a football stadium right there with the equator running along the midfield line. That's pretty cool.
The GPS in the phone, however disagreed with the alignments. At least according to the WGS84 model of the Earth's surface, the real 0 latitude point is about a hundred metres south of the marked line (around the point where I took the photo of the monument lit up by the sun). Oh well.
But that was a pretty minor disappointment - similar situations are evident at most equator tourist attractions I've visited. I was most bummed to see that there were no tacky shows set up with "scientific demonstrations" of the "coriolis effect" causing water to drain this way or that or eggs to stand on end or whatever. I love those shows, even though they are just tourist attractions, and have filmed ones in Ecuador and Uganda. So not to be daunted, I made my own! (with equally dubious scientific validity...)
Macapa is a cool (not in the literal sense-it's pretty steamy!) place to visit. After months in Argentina and Chile and a bit of time in Southern Brazil, which are all organised and quite European, it felt like we had arrived somewhere like Indonesia. I enjoyed sampling some of the local food like Carne do Sol (more meat!) and Acai, although I don't think Ty and I will be ordering the Acai again, it tastes pretty rank.