December 3, 2012 by jiejie768
Here is the third installment detailing our trip to Quito, this one tackles Day Three (Tuesday, Nov. 27). Also, as this post is going live on Dec. 3, we’d like to wish the amazing Tom Anderson (aka Dad) a wonderful birthday. Click here for Day One and here for Day Two from Quito.
Tuesday morning, we shook off the cobwebs, threw back some coffee and headed out on, or rather, above the town. After a quick cab ride we found ourselves at the base of the 15,000-foot active volcano Pichincha and decided we needed a better look. The only way to the top was terrifying ride in gondola (or as I think of them, the devil’s deathtraps) to the 14,000-foot mark. On the way up and especially at the top, we were treated to truly spectacular views of the Ecuadorian capital. It truly felt like being on top of the world. The gondola lets out at a small concession area that leads to a hiking path that, should one desire, take you to the very lip of the volcanic crater. We spent a few minutes hiking around and decided the cloud cover made the four kilometer (and 1,000-foot altitude change) trek to the crater a purposeless waste of time and energy (or, we’re lazy, whatever).
We did however encounter a corral on the far side of the mountain and decided it was time I take my first-ever horseback ride. I’ve long had a fear of sitting atop an animal several times my weight that could, at any moment, decide he’d had enough of this d-bag on his back and send me flying in whichever direction he chose. As it turned out, though, it was a pretty pleasant experience, and my fears were quelled by the fact that I had, without a doubt, the world’s laziest horse. He certainly wasn’t amused by my presence, but he clearly couldn’t be troubled to buck me off. I spent most of the time making ridiculous clucking noises and urging him to continue along a path he clearly had no intention of traversing. Once I was safely back on my own two feet, it was time to dance with death again as we caught the gondola (really, seriously, a terrible way to get anywhere) back to the relative safety of the bustling South American metropolis below.
The rest of the day featured another walk through the center and visit to the Monastery of San Francisco which featured — shocker! — a giant golden alter and a lot of pews and pictures, sculptures and other representations of Jesus on the cross. The highlight, however, was a painting of the Last Supper where Jesus and his disciples are feasting upon cuy (aka guinea pig, a mainstay of Peruvian and Ecuadorian fare), humitas and chicha (a corn-based sweet drink that looks like red wine and tastes a bit like fruit punch).
The last item on our agenda for Tuesday was a trip to the SuperMaxi, which is a big grocery store (not a feminine hygiene product). It may seem weird, but any trip to a big city is incomplete without checking out the grocery store. And as we’ve already familiarized ourselves with what Lima has to offer, we were pretty excited to see what Quito had in store in the way of American imports. When you’ve been living in the Andes Mountains for several months, never underestimate the impact that real cheddar cheese or a box of Rice Krispies can have on your psyche. Though we had several more days of traveling ahead and were unable to stock up like we do during treks to Lima, we left the store with some chips and salsa, kettle cooked potato chips and a few slices of (what turned out to be mediocre) cheddar cheese. Afterward, we returned the hotel for our dinner and spent the rest of the evening vegging out — hiking around for a couple of hours at 14,000-plus feet can seriously take it out of you.
On Wednesday, we rose early, got some breakfast before checking out and boarded a bus to Ban(y)os — a popular tourist spot about four hours from Quito that features several natural hot springs, a real-life microbrewery and plenty of outdoor fun.