Day 8 – March 19: Quito
Quito Travel Blog› entry 10 of 26 › view all entries
The sky was mostly clear, so we went up to the TeleferiQo. This is a gondola that takes you 4050 meters (over 13,000 feet) above the city. The taxi was $4.
I had heard that on weekends, it can be a 4 hour wait to get on, but at 10:00am on a Friday in March, we had the place almost to ourselves.
Tickets were $8.50/adult and $6.50/child for non-nationals. It took about 10 minutes to get to the top, and it was noticeably colder and windier at the top. There is a building with bathrooms, restaurants, and mechanical telescopes ($1), a small church, and many pathways to other great viewpoints. We also saw a number of mountain bikers taking the gondola up to ride their bikes back down the hill.
One path leads up and up, and I read that it takes about 3 hours to hike to the very top of the mountain. At one point, there is a sign that says “continue at your own risk”, but the path is well worn, so we continued. My son was not excited about a long, steep hike, but luckily, they rent horses! We rented a horse for $10 for 1 hour for him, and we were able to keep hiking with no complaints.
We hiked for an hour, and as we went higher, we were at cloud level, and the clouds drifted in and out giving the hike a very surreal feeling. I thought we were by ourselves on the trail, but when we turned around, a number of hikers passed us going up.
By the time we got back to the gondola (about 12 noon), the clouds had really moved in. I was very glad we didn’t start up there any later! I heard from someone later on that it is quite spectacular to get there right at dawn.
At the bottom of the gondola, there is an amusement park with small rides for young kids, bigger rides for older kids, and carnival games. Getting tickets for the rides was a little confusing. From what I can tell, the rides are $1.50 each. You get a card at a ticket window for a certain amount. I asked for $6 (4 rides), but the ticket woman said $7, so I said okay. We got 4 rides out of it, so I am not sure why it was $7. There were not a lot of people doing the rides, so there was only one ticket booth open, and the line was very long. My son thought the amusement park was great fun!
When we ran out of money on the card, and I had eaten a lunch of carnival food J we decided to head back to town. There were no taxis by the exit, but there were a couple of shuttle buses. Another couple showed up, and the 5 of us negotiated a ride to our hotels (which were near each other in the city center) for $5 total ($1/person).
In the afternoon, we went back to Old Town Quito and just explored a bit. La Ronda Street is worth a quick walk through. Shopping for general items is cheaper in Old Town, but a lot of the streets are hilly and steep.
A word of caution: Sundays are nice in Old Town because the roads are closed to cars and open for pedestrians, so it is quieter and a nice way to mingle with locals. However, that means that it is difficult to get there, and all the churches are closed to tourists.
We had a great dinner up on the hill in the evening, which had amazing views out over town with all the lights.
It was an early night for us, but not for others in Quito! There are things called "Chivas," otherwise known as "party buses". These buses are open on the sides and back with benches or just open, and either music or a live band. The Chivas drive around town filled with party-goers. They go past Plaza Foch quite often, and tonight one Chiva found its way to our hotel door. This bus had the live band with a large group of people signing and blowing whistles. Even when the music stopped, the whistles kept going. This was at MIDNIGHT!
I had long pants, a long sleeve shirt, rain jacket, and walking shoes for the TeleferiQo. When hiking, I was warm enough, but when just standing around, I wished I had one more layer on. No jacket was needed in Quito.
I’m embarrassed to say that we ate hot dogs and fried chicken at the amusement park at the TeleferiQo for lunch. It was just convenient….
For dinner, some colleagues from Quito took us to the El Escondite de Cantuña up on a hill overlooking the Old Town part of the city. Well worth the trip – for the view alone! Dinner included a starter of empanadas or potato soup, followed by chicken or beef with vegetables and rice, and finished with peach ice cream or carrot cake. The food was fine, but not nearly as amazing as the view.