Total distance travelled: 45,325.9 kilometres (28,152.73 miles)
On any clear Quito day, one can see, if lucky, the volcanoes Cotopaxi & Cayambe.
Look a little closer however, and towering almost directly above the city sits Pichincha, which incredibly erupted as recently as 1999 when thankfully, strong winds blew the ash cloud away from the city and prevented a potentially greater tragedy.
It’s lower slopes (still around 4,000 metres above sea level) are popular with day hikers, and a teleferico (cable car, known as the TeleferiQo) is available to ferry hikers and those just interested in the views of the city to its elevated slopes.
Pichincha actually has 2 peaks, the highest at 4,784 metres & the 2nd, closer to the city and the one popular with hikers (also, not the one that erupted 16 years ago) sits a little lower at 4,698 metres.
We thought we’d go and check out the views for ourselves.
The folk at our hostel advised how easy it was to reach the teleferico. Well of course their plan was easy, as they suggested we take a taxi!
When we asked how easy was the walk, they looked at us blankly.
“Nobody walks there” was all we could glean from them.
Nobody, except us it would seem, so after puffing and panting (from a combination of the altitude and the fact we were travelling uphill a lot) for about 40 minutes, we found ourselves at the launching place for the cable car, where we quickly bought ourselves a couple of tickets.
The teleferico itself was ridiculously clean and well maintained (every car was also swept and mopped before entry, despite there being hardly any patrons about), however the surrounding area look in far worse shape.
It looked as though the area was redeveloped with the expectation of a tourist boom (souvenir shops & even a theme park). Most of the shops were derelict and stocked only a large variety of weeds, but surprisingly the amusement park was in fact open and possibly operational.
Tourists by all accounts do come in good numbers, but usually only for the teleferico.
You can count us amongst those tourists as well.
So after patiently waiting for our already spotless (possibly unused for the day) cable car to be swept and mopped for who knows what number time for the day (at least it kept 2 more people employed), we began our ride up the slopes of the mountain.
Despite a little morning haze, the views were pretty stunning, the horizon clear enough that we could now see both of the 2 larger volcanoes on the horizon, their snow capped peaks poking through the clouds.
The city of Quito below didn’t look half bad either!
Once finally at the top, you’ll find several viewing areas and a few overpriced eateries, before various gravel paths head off in different directions, we decided that first we’d try and take in the city below from a few different angles.
A local Llama surprised us as well, as it rolled on its back for a scratch in an act more akin to what we’d expect from a dog!
It wasn’t originally part of our morning plans, but we then decided seeing as we were up there, we may as well go for a bit of a wonder and get closer to this particular peak of Pichincha whilst we were here.
We kind of figured we’d just walk until we’d had enough.
There are several paths one can take, ours possessed several fairly steep inclines where you were quickly reminded that at over 4,000 metres, the oxygen disappears from the lungs rather quickly.
We didn’t battle too much, although it became very noticeable when simple tasks like bending over to tie a shoe lace, could result in a small head spun when one quickly stood up!
It soon became a case of after cresting each rise, we’d look at each and say “Okay, maybe we’ll turn back after the next one.”
Eventually, the skies above began to look a little darker, we’d grabbed ourselves a much closer look at the summit (although we were still probably an hour or more shy of reaching) it, so we did make the decision to turn around.
Probably somewhere around 4,200-4,300 metres mark.
We didn’t actually suffer any rain during either the ascent, or descent, and it was usually the strength of the wind that dictated whether we donned or removed our coats.
As far as mountain climbs go, this certainly didn’t feel like a chore and after being down below in the somewhat hazy capital, we loved the clean crisp feel and taste of the air.
Most information we’d read suggested that mornings tend to be clearer than the afternoons.
I’m not sure how true this is, but it was certainly reflected in our own experiences, as by the time we boarded our cable car for the return voyage, not one of the 3 volcanoes was now visible.
A quick stop during the walk back to our hostel to watch the police motorcycle stunt team rehearse (unsuccessfully) a few routines was the only other incident of note, although we did return to our hostel pretty content with having completed, in both directions, the walk that nobody does.
* To ride the cables of Quito to such great heights, costs $8.50 US for a return ticket.
* Most people take a taxi for a few dollars to get to the TeleferiQo, however it obviously cost us nothing to walk there!