Spent some time walking and photo-ing. That was my job. I think I did okay. ¡Disfruta!
Quito – Day…Five?
Quiet day. The big event was moving from on Airbnb in the center-ish part of the city near Carolina Park back to another in the Historic District. It’s a bit closer to the airport for our grand exit on Saturday, and a hot springs tour operator is located here, and that’s on the Friday agenda.
Spent some time walking and photo-ing. That was my job. I think I did okay. ¡Disfruta!
Gettin’ High in Ecuador
Much like the title, I got high in Ecuador. In fact, I got higher than I have ever been before. No, you silly goose, I’m not talking about los drogos or anything like that, I’m talking true heights: elevation. Prior to my excursion yesterday, the highest point I’ve stood in the world is the summit of Mt. Elbert in Colorado at 14,433 feet (4400 meters). I’ve been on the tops of several other of Colorado’s Fourteeners, notably Pike’s Peak, but, Elbert was my highest — until yesterday.
The day dawned with sun and some clouds, a perfect start. B and I had a nice breakfast of eggs (I ate hers too. No, I didn’t simply distract her with a “Hey, look at that!” while pointing at something behind her and Bogart them, she offered. I guess less than cement-set heuvos revueltos aren’t to her liking. Of course, being the gentleman that I am, accepted her offer, and snarfed like less than a gentleman.) We packed up (we moved residences), parked our bags behind the reception desk, hopped in a taxi and motored to the TeleferíQo cable car to ride up to about 13,000 feet (4000 meters). We got there early, before it opened, because of the weather forecast: afternoon chance of rain beginning about 2:30: 100%, and lasting through the evening. No thanks. Neither of us relished the thought of hiking down in mud and rain, so it was early, in order to be back ASAP. I thought we could do the round trip in less than 4 hours, and since the cable car began operations at 9:30, that’d get us back by 2:00-ish, factoring in the time it takes to ride up.
We rode up in the second car of the day. The first car was a family on vacation from Wisconsin. I sleuthed that fact much like Holmes would’ve by the plethora of Wisconsin-based clothing they were sporting. Equally obviously, they weren’t going to the summit, as the teen daughter was wearing pink Crocs. I guess B was my Watson.
I also scoped out the others lining up early, and it appeared I was the only one in shorts, and B in leggings. Neither of us had trekking poles, either. Huh. We both had multiple layers on above, and raincoats and the lower part of my REI zip-offs in my pack, but still... were we deluding ourselves? The temperature was in around 50°F/12°C — not unpleasant in shorts when expending effort. I guess time would tell. We rode to the top, disembarked, and off we went. Target: Cumbre Ruca Pichincha.
The beginning of the 5K to the top was a threaded, mostly double track, moving inexorably up. Most of the time the grade was not terrible. The surface was mostly decent, some mud, some gullies with puddles, with the occasional pile of unmelted hail along the way from the previous day’s storm. B and I held a nice pace, grooving and checking out the local flora and fauna. I especially liked the pink fauna.
That was the first two thirds. We made great time on the way. I don’t recall specifically, but I’d guess we did that in just about an hour. The last third, though. That was a different story. The last third climbed as much as the first two thirds, and where there was a trail, it was skirting cliff faces and boulders that made footing treacherous at best. The last bit was a scramble first through such loose sand and scree as to lose most of the distance of the step each time. One foot forward, nine inches back. It pretty much was a suck fest. Not only because of that, but the clouds had decided to take up residence, so that we really couldn’t see where we were going: just... up.
Once we got past the loose scree, things got worse. Now it was the scree-source, rocks that required hands and feet and waist-high step ups. Perseverance is B’s middle name, because she kept on keeping on. And... we finally summited 15,406 feet! My new all-time high. Woo!. It was a great feeling to make it. Maybe it was the light headedness of being oxygen deprived. Either way, I’m taking it. Now, it was time to descend. Up is one thing, down is much more challenging. For me, once we got past the rocks, it was time to channel The Police song “Walking on the Moon” cuz it was all giant steps. B was not quite so into the method and came down under more control. That’s probably why she didn’t end up on the ground like I did. Heck, I only did three times and only one of those really hurt. No blood, though, so an all around win.
We did get some views through the clouds on the way down, intimating what it would be like on a clear day. Of course, on a clear day, I’d have needed sunscreen, which I didn’t take.
We made it to the cafe at the top of the cable car at an elapsed time of 3:58:37. Nailed it! And as we started in on some refreshments (passion fruit cheesecake and mocachinos), the rain came with a vengeance. It was even cold inside the gondola on the ride down. Still, I’m glad I didn’t wear long pants. My ego is pretty chuffed about being the only person on top in shorts. B and I were only passed by a few people: all in their 20s and a couple of local guides who weren’t a lot older. There was nobody over forty except us, and no women except B. Like George Zimmer for Men’s Wearhouse would say, “I guarantee it.” I’m fit and she’s a beast. Good combo.
Mitad del Mundo
Yesterday was tour day. We had booked a tour through Viator for both the cable car (TeleferiQo) and a visit to the equator. Our guide was Christian, and he met us at the Grand Plaza and we were off in the car, battling traffic northward. I’m glad we didn’t go south, as the backups were pretty significant. Apparently, it’s not uncommon for commuters to spend 2+ hours to go from one end of the city to the other. There aren’t really a lot of highways, like, say, LA, and the number of people in the city (more than 2 million) is nothing to sneeze at. Combine that with montane geography that forces the city to extend along only two axes (in this case north and south), and you have a recipe for congestion. The buses are crammed and constant, but still, trying to get everyone where they need to be is a battle.
Anywhoodles, we made it to the Mitad del Mundo monument after a reasonably pleasant drive. This is the location where, in 1736, a group of French determined was where the equator was. I would link to the Wikipedia article here and now, if my blog hosting company allowed me to create hyperlinks using their mobile platform. But, it doesn’t, and their website doesn’t play nicely with Safari on my iPad. So there ya go. Given the state of tech at the time, those boys performed superbly. The monument is impressive, but not in the right spot. We briefly stopped, snapped a few photos, and moved north 250 meters to where it was determined to be by GPS. The monument was cool, but the empty building next to it was equally photogenic.
The real location of the equator is a much smaller, much more relatable place: the Iniñan Museum. Low key environment, and a guided tour with experiments! With an entry of $5 it is by far the best value. We got to see Coriolis forces in action, tried to balance eggs on nails, and supposed other effects of physics on the exact equator. Call me skeptical on some, but it was fun nonetheless. And, I got to kiss from the northern hemisphere, a beautiful woman in the south. That alone made the admission worth it! The llama? Yeah, I don’t know either. Weird dude at the entrance, just standing there with his mouth wrapped around the stick.
The next stop on the tour was the cable car TeleferíQo. It took us up to a viewpoint that sits more than 13,000 feet above sea level and about 4,000 above the city. On a clear day, the views of the city and surrounding volcanos must be spectacular. Since we are returning this way tomorrow to hitch a ride up to this point to continue to the summit of Volcán Pichinca, I’m hoping for clearer views earlier in the day. Even so, today was a Good Day, finished off with a nice meal at a restaurant filled with antiques while the clouds unleashed a fun fun fun thunderstorm. I’ll be thankful not to be on the mountain tomorrow in a deluge like this one. Hail, heavy rain, lightning and thunder. Whee!
Quito - Day Two
The second day here in Quito we spent mostly on our feet. We started with a short, but challenging, run early on (5K), a nice breakfast with some tree tomato juice. I’d never had it. It’s kind of like a cross between actual tomato juice and a weak citrus. It’s really mild flavored, and has a consistency more like tomato. Not bad, but I won’t seek it out.
One highlight of the walking tour was the Mom o’ God statue on the hill after what seemed like 1000 stairs. Stairs are normally not a big deal, but after the run, and simply being here at a higher than usual elevation, made it rather more difficult. My legs protested a bit on the way up and back down. Not to be deterred, though, they gamely carried me to a cafe where I was able to resuscitate them with empanadas and the local Pilsner. Achievement unlocked.
Afterward, we visited the botanical gardens and ended up the day at another microcerveceria, this one called Sinners. I liked this one even more than Bandidos, but it wasn’t quite as convenient to the hotel, and we needed a cab at $3 to get us back home for the night. Ahhh, the price we pay for sampling the world’s beer, eh?
Tomorrow is a tour to the equator and up the cable car. Whee! But, some pics, mostly of flowers, to finish this off.
Kickin’ it in Quito
We, yeah, that’s a we, there, left Panama on the 4th of...June heading to the equator. B and I went from steamy, sea level tropics to high altitude, not steamy cloud forest-type climate. The weather app says the humidity is right around 80% and the clouds hovering over the peaks seem to support it, but with the temperature in the mid 60s F / high teens C, it didn’t feel humid at all. I was mostly comfortable in a tee shirt, especially when the sun was blazing. It feels a lot hotter when I’m this much closer to it!
Flight was quick, and immigration and customs was equally quick. Swap out my Panamanian SIM for an Ecuadorian one ($30 for more gigs than I’ll ever use), and we were off to get a cab to the Hotel San Agustin central to the historic district. The cab ride was quick to start, sloooooow to finish. Mucho traffico in the narrow streets of the old city. Our cabbie, when we arrived at the hotel, simply stopped and turned off the car in the right lane. Seems to be the thing to do, since there are no places to park.
We got checked in, grabbed some rain gear for the inevitable T-storms that would be marching in later, and started to explore. On my personal agenda was going to a microcerveceria that was highly rated. I wanted to try some local, really local, beer. It didn’t open until 2:00 pm, and we found an interesting street market with mostly food and veg, some cool looking churches and a bullfighting ring. I didn’t get a photo of the ring, because it was behind a fence and as such, not photo worthy. Interesting nonetheless. It appeared to be still in use, which to me, is kind of ick.
Finally, Bandido Brewing opened. And the beer? Quite good! They had a selection of six, ranging from a mild ale, to a saison, to a nice chocolatey stout, and we tried them all. My faves were the stout and Alta Amber - classified as an American Amber Ale. We washed down some excellent nachos featuring vegetarian black bean chili and mango chunks! No real spice to speak of, but very flavorful. What we decided was definitely lacking was tee shirts with their excellent logo. They ran out six months ago, and haven’t gotten any in. Such a shame, black shirt with the logo on the back and “Bandido Brewing” on the front would be most excellent, dude. I’d snap one up, and I don’t buy shit.
Stuffed with both beer and nachos, we did what any sane person would do: seek out more food and chocolate. We spent the rest of the daylight hours meandering purposelessly through random streets, with some general idea of where we wanted to be: Plaza de San Francisco, and later, the Basilica del Voto Nacional. Along the way we discovered a family-run organic chocolate shop overlooking the plaza called Minka. I had a mochachino to die for, and B had a chocolate caliente thick enough to eat with a spoon. We bought chocolate covered cacao beans, and a ginger & chocolate combo.
While we were there overlooking the plaza, the rain came. Along with lightning and thunder. For the first time since December and Sicily, I was glad for the disco ball running raincoat. We put on the gear, and kept wandering. It was definitely not tropical warm rain, or tropical warm air. It kind of felt nice, actually not to be sticky with sweat nonstop. One thing of note about Quito though, you are either walking uphill or down. The only flat places are the plazas.
When we returned to the hotel for the night, I was pleasantly surprised to find an Amazon Firestick plugged into the TV, and that my muscle memory on how to use its remote hadn’t disappeared after 9 months. The Netflix selections seem to be the same as in Panama, though I didn’t see if Bosch was available on Prime. Maybe tomorrow night, after another day of city exploration. Later in the week, we’re planning the hike up a hill. We found some stairs to practice on, too. That’ll be fun.
Just a guy out exploring the world. Former world-class never-was endurance runner.