Ok, ok, so the timing of this isn’t great, coming as it is right on the tail of part 2, but hey, my degree’s not in marketing you know? Besides, I would have been thrilled if all the Harry Potter books came out at once….and this tale is at least as epic as that one.
Just across the southern hemisphere line we waited, still full of appreciation for the greatness of the equator of course. And waited. Finally, a van full of schoolchildren and their teachers stopped by us, asking if we needed a ride back. Seemingly they desperately wanted to practice English with *Native Speakers*. Regrettably, as their van was already packed and as there were 4 of us, we had to decline. But consider this scenario, possibly mirrored in the northern hemisphere. Say in the US an elementary school Spanish class is on a field trip and sees a native speaker (employment and character completely unknown) standing by the road. Say they then offer a ride to said person, no questions asked, so that the students may practice their Spanish. Lawsuit!
I think the southern hemisphere just won any contest it and the northern hemisphere were having that day. At least at our tiny section of the equator.
The drizzle turned to rain and we moved to huddle under the massive metal equator land bridge with some of the local staff. Conversation covered the usual chit-chat and then….behold….a bus! Huge and luxurious looking, it approached and we stuck out our hands in the usual waving down a bus motion. As the bus slowed to a stop we moved to alight but…what? What do you mean no space? I don’t see anyone standing! Nobody is standing yet so there must be space! But no, the driver would not budge. Seemed that, despite the promise of receiving an inflated bule rate, the bus had a certain luxurious image to uphold and bedraggled us standing in the aisles wouldn’t cut it.
We were, at this point, noticeably worried about catching a bus, as well as wet, hungry, and sting-itching slightly from the bites of giant equatorial ants. Perhaps sensing our impatience, one of the local staff members changed the topic to questions about whether you spin faster at the equator than at the poles. And which way water would swirl when you flush at the equator. THIS was fascinating stuff! We didn’t come to any earth-shattering conclusions, but it was pretty cool just to be talking about this in Indonesian.
In the distance, a van approached, going absolutely 100% the wrong direction. As it got closer, we could see that its windshield said “Golden Boy” in ridiculously large, view-obstructing letters. I thought that was cool, given that it’s the name of Seinfeld’s favourite t-shirt, but didn’t think much more of it until the van pulled a quick u-turn when it got to us and offered to take us back to town for the same overprice we were charged on the bus. Of course, we agreed.
Once inside the van, we sadly waved farewell to the equator, then laughed and sprawled, thrilled with our luxury. This lasted for 5-10 minutes before we started picking up passengers. Lots of them. The van had seats for 7, plus a little stool to make 8, but we had 11. And then a 12th wanted to join, but after taking a quick glance inside, he opted to ride hanging off the back instead. In the drizzly rain and (by this time) dark, twisting and bumping over the mountainous roads. Occasionally we would hear him tapping on the top or back of the van, possibly due to an emergency, though the driver seemed to think it was just a reassuring tap and acted accordingly (ie ignored it). It’s hard to say who had the better deal, as we were mashed together on the inside for the whole 2 hour ride, a kind of mashing that makes you think you’re paralyzed, as you go numb from the waist down. During the ride we were informed by the other passengers that we had paid too much. They all laughed, as did the driver, but nobody offered us any money back. I guess that’s the price you pay when you visit the equator, but really, the whole experience is priceless. THE EQUATOR IS AWESOME!