August 21, 2005 GMT

The buses here are a hoot.

They're frequent and very cheap, and extremely fast - I've already learned to keep well out of their way when on foot or on the bike as they give way to nothing and go flat out.

You have to lurk near (never, ever, at) a bus stop, then leap at the door of the bus you think may be going your way. There's a conductor who takes (not much) money but not in return for a ticket, and who usefully tells you that "This bus doesn't go there" or "You should have got off at the last stop".

The trolley buses (troles) aren't nearly so much fun because you know where they're going, but they're still very fast and have a flat fare of 25c.

Ecuatorian girls all wear tight, brightly-coloured polyester tops; quite an eyeful for the chaps sometimes. Unfortunately, many of them also wear very tight hipster jeans, which coupled with an big bum and a beer belly overhanging the "waist"-band constitute rather more of an eyeful than one really wants first thing in the morning.

I took the bus to El Mitad del Mundo on Friday to do a bit of equator crossing. Jolly interesting day out. I'm still not sure about this bathwater thing, but the weight thing postulated by Newton is certainly true.

The earth bulges at the equator; this was first established by a Frenchman called Condamine in the 18th century, here in Ecuador. In fact, it bulges so much that the summit of a local volcano is actually further from the centre of the earth than that of Everest, despite being around 8,000 feet lower.

Newton's umpteenth Law states that the force of gravity decreases in inverse proportion to the square of distance; thus the further you are from the centre of the earth the less you weigh.

So there's a weighing machine on the equator which prints out your weight at Lat. 0 deg 0' 0", and which apparently can be up to 10 pounds less than elsewhere on the planet. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when my ticket showed that I weighed 25 pounds less than I did in Newbury. This might also account for the fact that my grey cargo trousers keep falling down.

All of which reminds me of another altitude lesson I've learned in the Andes. When ascending to anything over 12,000 feet, make certain you've screwed the lid on your deodorant very tightly, as the ball pops out and it makes a terrible mess.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at August 21, 2005 06:31 PM GMT

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