Quito, Volcán Rucu Pichincha and Mitad del Mundo

I arrived at the southern most terminal in Quito which is pretty far out of town. The terminals seem to have been built at the furthest possible point away from the centre of town in Ecuador, so far sometimes that they might as we ve in the next town. Okay it’s not that bad and you could argue the reason for this is that it’s easier for the busses to get in and out of town, something that would bite my ass when I got to Cali, but that’s another story. I suppose I was a little anxious as I’d done research, I’d just booked the hostel in the recomendación of Claudia, who to be fair recomendad a great hostel. Sadly she had already left Quito. The hostels directions were not amazingly helpful and I was far from walking distance. I’ll do anything to avoid taking a taxi so I headed to the information.

After a few false starts I ended up on a bus for 25 cents, a nite cheaper than the $15 if been quoted by Uber. To be fair it was far and traffic is bad but thankfully, as in Lima, the busses have their own lanes so can speed past the traffic. The bus stopped at what was to be it’s final station about two thirds of the way and I swapped busses, following everyone else. Luckily it went the right way and I was soon checking in at the hostel.

On the way I noticed that most of the restaurants were closed, being a Sunday, and I headed to Plaza Foch the middle of the tourist party area and helpfully just around the corner for a hugely overpriced burger. But I desperately needed to plan, firstly what to do in Quito and secondly how to get to Colombia and what to do there also. It seemed Colombia wouldn’t be too much of an issue but I was still anxious about getting the bus. The guys at the hostel were lovely, but all volunteers, so I wasn’t sure how accurate the information was. I decided to stay an extra night as I wanted to climb a volcano and take a trip to the centre of the world, I’d already been to the end…I’m not sure if they realise it’s a sphere but these countries are heavily Catholic, although I’m not sure how reggaetón fits into that, and I don’t want to question these things.

Having decided what to do I headed back to the hostel to sort photos and update this blog, it takes about 6 hours for each post, partly due to upload speeds but also partly due to me harassing various people on WhatsApp. A Venezuelan girl at the hostel was cooking Arepas so I decided to join and have that with a group of Germans, a Bolivian guy and Chilean guy which made for a fun dinner and interesting conservation. Shortly after I went to bed still mostly unsure how I was going to climb the volcano the next day.

Rucu Pichincha

I awoke early, showered and grabbed breakfast with more Germans and an Ecuadorean lady and her son, managing to get a few tips for the hike on the way. I was told it was best to hail a cab to the starting point which is the TelefériQo in Parque Vulquano. Its best to get a taxi as the area around is apparently a little dangerous. I jumped in a taxi, asked the price and then tried to get out again at which point the price dropped. It was still more than I was told but I wasn’t bold enough to keep arguing. Still I’m getting better and I was happy with that.

I arrived at the station and there were not many people around. I brought my ticket and jumped on the teleférico having a whole car to myself. As I ascended I soon realised why it might have been a little quiet and I was soon in the middle of a cloud.

It was a little cold at the top and slightly unsure of what to do I decided to take a moment to myself. On a clear day you can see the whole mountain range including Cotopaxi but this was not to be the day. Annoyingly each day that passed he sky’s seemed cleared but my weather luck was still with me. A British couple came with a guide and as we chatted for a moment the sky cleared and I could finally see Cotopaxi. I had missed this and it’s something that is on my to do list for the next time I am in Ecuador.

Soon the cloud returned and I saw others embarking on the hike so I decided to head off into the fog and see how far I could get. It actually started clearing at this level but still the volcano was in the cloud and it was impossible to be seen. I took a couple of wrong directions which definitely seems to be my thing, especially at the beginning of a hike, before I ended up on the trail.

Soon after heading in the correct direction I met Natalie, Canadian, and her boyfriend Daniel, Swedish, who were both struggling with the altitude. We walked and chatted for a bit and she explained that her brother, Nathan, was ahead as he was more used to hiking. We caught up and I struck up a conservation with Nathan. It turns out that he and his Uncle have brought some land on the coast, I won’t say for how much but you’ll be lucky to get a car park space in London for that and they had 44 acres. Nathan wanted to farm and Natalie was going to open and manage a hostel. It seemed like a nice life and if land is this cost effective I’d be tempted to do something similar, just maybe not in Ecuador.

Nathan and I hiked faster so we walked together and then stopped to let the others catch up. Which was probably a good thing for me as normally I hike to too fast and get affected by the altitude.

We had interesting conservations the entire day about spiritually and politics. I can’t say I agreed with everything discusses and I get the feeling Nathan felt the same but it was nice to talk to someone who had different and also at the same time very similar opinions to me without feeling the need to argue or even challenge them. We live in a divided world at the moment so my new approach is to listen to different opinions, test them against my own and see how they influence them. Rather than argue from an in trenched position. We know from WW1 that trench warfare doesn’t work so why we are doing it now with politics I don’t really know. We swapped sources so maybe we can meet more in the middle ground somewhere. Maybe it’s because our goals were very similar but we disagreed on how to reach them. Still it’s good to talk and this was in stark contrast to the annoying British guy I met in Cali, but that’s a later story.

The hike is only about 4km from the top of the teleférico but it’s steep and at high altitude. As we stopped a lot of people overtook us and reached the top. The last part of the hike was straight up over volcanic ash, which is essentially climbing in sand. That was tough. As we were climbing the skies cleared and when we neared the top the cloud had returned. At this point we met all the hikers that had overtaken us but decided to return as the cloud had obstructed the view. At that point I started to kick myself a little as if I’d not waited for everyone then I could have been at the top when it was clear. But I then realised it was better to make new friends and hike with others, which was particularly evident when I accidentally started to climb up a wall of rocks and Natalie suggested that I’d gone the wrong way.

I went a little ahead filling the correct path and collapsed at the top exhausted. As you can see from the photo below I was in the middle of a cloud. But then a strange thing happened as the others reached the top. It all started to clear, and not like it had before but properly this time, tho cloud completely lifted. If I hadn’t waited I would have missed this view and it was spectacular. Sometimes it’s good to take things slowly and have a little faith. I should have learnt that back in Patagonia as Cerro Torres was a classic example.

As the sky’s cleared we were lucky to see some eagles at the top.

And just to prove I was really here.

And then it was time to head back down. We were all feeling a little rough and this time we ran though the sand as it was quicker. The skies kept getting better.

And here is the volcano in al its glory.

So sometimes it doesn’t pay to rush. If we had stayed a little long the views would have been even better but sadly it was still hazy so not possible to see the entire range. We shared a cab back to town and I returned to my hostel to get some rest, I went and had some Arabic food and returned to the hostel for an early night.

Mitad del Mundo

The next day it was time for me to go to te middle of the world. I’m not sure exactly what makes this the middle other than it’s the equator and also it’s not actually on the equator as I think the equator line runs across the top of a mountain. Still there is a yellow painted line and for me this was a big achievement. When I left for Colombia the next day I’d be back in the Northern Hemisphere and this would be the first time in 9 months, the longest ever for me and it would mean I’d reached my final country. So I headed to the site.

You can take a taxi or special transport but if you take local busses it’s less than one dollar. Ask at your hostel and they will point you in the right direction. It might take a little longer but you’ll get there. For me it was a weird tourist experience but I paid the one dollar fee, skipped most of the attractions as I simply couldn’t care less and I had a lot of things to do that day and just took the tourist photos.

I took the wrong bus back into town but it did take me to the centre and was surprisingly close to one of the restaurants Ben from the Quitola Loop had suggested. I had a vegan lunch for $3 which was delicious and also had some much needed vegetables.

Afterwards I headed back to the hostel, changing some dollars on the way, and relaxed while I wrote another blog. I was due to meet Micheala, who I’d been chatting to online and she knew an amazing cheese place, at 7pm. So I skipped getting my haircut and just sorted everything ahead of the next day.

After getting a little lost, Uber drivers here are not the best but they are very friendly, we met in an empty restaurant. Micheala has lived in London and half of the other countries in the world and spoke perfect English, which again was good for me. We had some good wine and cheese which I’ve not had for a while and great conservation. I asked her at one point why meet a stranger when she knew I was leaving the country the next day and she said she would only be staying in watching TV otherwise, which I thought was great maybe it’s just the people I meet but it seems that everyone in South America is always doing. It’s better to meet friends, family, strangers than sit in on your own. I like tat philosophy and now we both have a new friend. It got late and I had to get up early the next day so she booked me a taxi to my hostel and I tried not to wake everyone up as I went to bed. Ready to head to Colombia the next day.

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