The Equilibrium Equator is the dividing line between the two mirror-image hemispheres of the planet. The hemispheres are identical in every way, except reversed. This applies to all things. Most obviously, of course, the land masses, which exist in mirror image of the ones on the other side. Less obviously, but equally important, there is believed to be an equilibrium of all chemical elements on each side of the line, maintained by poorly-understood forces, similar to gravity, that attempt to enforce this equilibrium whenever it is broken.
It is for this reason that sailing across the Equator has such strange effects on the contents of the ship, and on the people sailing these ships. The people will eventually mostly return to normal upon sailing back across the Equator, although there are lasting psychological effects in some individual. However, the contents of the ships are often irreversibly changed, and not always for the better.
Eggs are said to turn foul almost immediately upon crossing the line. Drinking water becomes gradually less palatable - water supplies are said to last at most 3 weeks on the other side before becoming completely undrinkable. (As with all information about The Other Side, we view it with great suspicion, as the travelers themselves are almost all morons after a trip or two.)
Two Year, 200 Klick Moratorium
Extensive experimentation, particularly during the barbaric 1200's, led to the declaration of the so-called '2 year, 200 klick moratorium', which states that you shouldn't cross the Equator more than once every 2 years, and that you should never venture more than 200 klicks past the Equator.
The Moratorium is not a law, just a generally-accepted truism. However, in the case of Color Rum, it is part of the definition - that is, it must not cross the Equator more than once every 2 years if it is to ever be certifies as D'Equatore Especial.
Anecdotally, it is believed that people (and animals) will literally explode beyond the 200 klick boundary. Here, again, reports are suspect, since they are delivered by lunatics, but the consistency of the reports across multiple centuries would seem to support either the truth of the assertion, or the uniformity of the madness created by the equilibrium forces.
The 2 year figure is more of a recommendation, based on averages. Most sailors seem to return to their old selves after about 2 years of being back on the right side of the Equator. However, some recover faster, and others never do recover. And the more times one travels across the line, the more eccentric one becomes, and the less likely one is to ever fully recover.
Most Colourbeards, and other people who cross the Equator more than a time or two, start to lose their mental capacities, and become obsessed with ponies, among other bizarre personality traits.
Effects on Color Rum
The very rare counterexample to the deleterious effects of crossing the Equator is, of course, Colour Rum, which improves dramatically in depth and flavor whenever it crosses the Equator, provided it also crosses back. There are reports that while it is on the other side, it turns into the most horrendous undrinkable sludge imaginable. However, these reports are very unreliable, because persons who drink it on the other side seldom return sane to tell the tale. There are a handful of treatises, written by Colourbeards while they were on the other side, which describe the changes to the rum. However, there's a lot of skepticism as to whether they were, in fact, in their right mind when they wrote it.
Moreover, the effects of crossing the Equator are compounded across multiple visits, with the rum continuing to improve with each voyage across the line. It is for this reason that D'Equatore Especial is so sought after, and that Colourbeards are willing to undergo the extreme danger of producing it, even though many of them never recover, and practically all of them are doddering idiots in their later years.
There have been a number of experiments into producing rum by crossing back and forth across the Equator as many times as possible in as short a time as possible, sailing a zigzag course back and forth across the Equator. The rum produced was unremarkable, but the sailors involved in the experiment have gone on to prolific careers as politicians, comedians, and Encylopediant Scholars.
There are, of course, people on the other side of the Equator. One theory even goes so far as to state that the same people exist on both sides of the line, but backwards. Whatever that means. The Equatorial Scientist Margaret Clongerwutch even speculated that they have a 'parallel but reverse history'. However, since her disappearance across the line, nobody has been able to make very much sense of her ramblings.
But I digress.
Over the centuries, there are several documented, as well as hundreds of rumored, cases of persons visiting from the other side of the Equator.
In one case, a supposed visitor was even witnessed to explode, in the presence of 38 people, 3 goats, and a pony. (The pony, however, was suspected of being drunk.)
In 1299, amid the panic surrounding the Lucky Century and the so-called 1300 plague, the most famous of these visitors - Joe Blogs (if that was in fact his real name) appeared, and toured every major city, talking of the upside-down-and-backwards world on the other side of the line. While he was widely dismissed as a farce by the cognoscenti, the majority of the population believed with a fervor approaching religion. Most citizens of Einwimz - 87% in one recent poll - firmly believe that Joe was in fact a visitor from the other side of the line. He told stories of inside-out animals that didn't need butchering. (You just pluck steaks off of them at need.) He told of kings that sit on their crowns and peasants forced to subsist on eating gold when they can't find food, because gold is so plentiful. Mr Blogs amassed an enormous fortune for this speaking tour, and retired to a villa in the hills of Bensaro, where he refused interviews the remainder of his life.
In a lesser-publicized visit, in 1412, a visitor named Jeremiah J Krew arrived, very disoriented, in T'alorp, on a small boat of unknown design. When he was finally able to learn enough of the local dialects to make himself understood, it was gathered that he had sailed, delirious, for many weeks, to get there. In normal conversation, he spoke of his home town, where things were very similar to T'alorp, but stop signs were green and square, and only those under 21 were allowed to drink beer. He remained in T'alorp for several weeks, during which time Margaret Clongerwutch heard that he was there, and traveled there to meet him, believing that he was from the other side of the Equator. However, 2 days before she arrived, he was struck by a vehicle in an intersection, and died of his injuries. As per the tradition of T'alorp, he was cremated prior to Professor Clongerwutch's arrival, much to her consternation, as she had hoped to be able to examine the body.
In preparing this article, I felt it necessary to conduct my own research. Rather than merely relying on the hearsay of idiot travellers, I chose to become one myself. Thus, on a fine spring morning, one year ago, I set forth on my own vessel, the Spendour Hyaline, to traverse the Equator and collect evidence, with my own eyes, to support or undermine the reams of rubbish that have been written on this contentious topic.
Thus, supplied with many months' supply of rum, I set sail.
These are some excerpts from my diaries.
As I approach the Equator, I still feel fine. I passed the warning buoys yesterday evening, so I knew it was close. There is, of course, no actual hard line - more of a region thought to extend a klick or so in either direction.
THE PONIES ARE EVERYWHERE.
As I said, I feel fine, although a little hungry. I have set out samples of various substances, so that I can track their changes.
I crossed the Equator yesterday, and all is still well. Mostly. The eggs did indeed turn bad almost immediately. One of them hatched, and a horror from my most horrible nightmares emerged and pecked out my eyes. It was horrible. The horror.
Ponies roam the deck freely, pooping on everything and kicking over the rum barrels. Catching them has proved impossible, as they are not there. Yes they are. Are not. Are too. Are not. Are too too too infinity.
I have been in the Equatorial wastelands for 9 years, 2 days, and 17 minutes. Exactly. Ok, 18 minutes.
The ponies have vanished. Which is to say, they were never there.
The rats! The rats!
I have sampled all of the various substances. The eggs are fine. I don't know what everyone is so upset about. I made an omelette. It was yummy.
My hair now parts on the other side.
I've gone through a lot of the rum. Did I mention that rum causes hallucinations? I'm sure I mentioned that.
Running low on rum. I should head back.
Day 34, supplemental
Oh, I forgot to mention. My scientific experiments are going well. The chicken did in fact explode, but it took a lot of encouragement. The eggs are still good. The one that hatched is still there. I fear it greatly.
The rum tastes awful. It's like someone let the ponies into it, and they forgot to clean their hooves. The hourglasses all run backwards. The ponies are stealing my covers. The fish are frying themselves and serving one another to me on platters. With cilantro.
I found the store room where I stashed all the rum. I have no idea what I've been drinking up until now.
I have started back towards the right side of the Equator. I cannot figure out where all these rumors about the other side of the Equator come from. I feel normal. All of my samples are normal. The rum is unchanged. The eggs are all whole. The drinking water not only tastes as it should, but tests normal with everything I try.
The ponies agree with all of my conclusions.
Here is a picture of a house. I have colored the windows gold, because that's how they appear in this light.
I think the fish are watching me. I asked what they were looking at, and one of them said that he loves to watch a master at work.
I have arrived back home. Everyone has greeted me with open arms and large baskets of fruit and rum. The rum is sub-standard. I don't know where they got it. It is swill. I have been appointed Lord High Mayor Of Everything. The people bow to me and throw tiny sausages at me as I pass.
I approach the Equator, and am about to cross back into the normal world. I long only to flee the the horrors, the horrors, the horrors. I will not speak of the horrors. But they are horrible.
The ponies keep watch, and I pray for this all to end.
The journey is done, but I cannot find my boat. I found myself floating in the harbor, clutching a bottle of rum. It was quite good. I have a hankering for fried eggs.