In the Shadow of Pichincha

Quito lies on the eastern edge of Pichincha, one of many active volcanos in the region. Pichincha’s highest peak reaches almost 15,700 ft. Oddly enough, there’s an amusement park at it’s base appropriately titled VulQano Park. Adjacent to the amusement park is the TelefériQo, a cable car which takes you just 2,700 ft from the summit. That’s where I went last Saturday.

Katrin and I took a taxi for $4 up to the park and found it to be mostly abandoned. The rides surely drew a crowd but there were many deserted buildings which seemingly had lost their purpose since the area opened in 2005. It was odd to see signs worn from disuse indicating the direction to discotecas, restaurants, bars, stores, and museums all of which were empty and overgrown.

Abandoned buildings at Quito's TelefériQo

These decaying facilities surrounded others which had been well kept. The building selling tickets for the TelefériQo, for example, was beautiful with floor to ceiling windows and marble floors. I’m sorry that I didn’t get a picture of it although I know I’ll be heading back there to summit Pichincha sometime during my stay. The view from the lookout areas at the top of the TelefériQo were phenomenal, I recommend spending the $8.50 to ride to the top. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.

While on top of the mountain I walked up a dirt path and found two llamas laying down minding their own business. Looking up, I saw a sign hanging on a nearby shrub which read “Pictures with llamas with hat 50¢.” My first thought was “YES! I ABSOLUTELY WANT TO TAKE PICTURES WITH LLAMAS WEARING HATS!” You can imagine my disappointment when the girl put the hat on me instead. Although, I still consider it a justified expense.

They should have been wearing hats...

The rest of the week has been pretty interesting as well. On Monday, the folks from Vida Verde took Katrin, James (a student from the UK) and me to the Centro Historico district in Quito. We toured the area with many beautiful colonial era Spanish buildings and churches. Then, around 11am, we watched the changing of the guard at the center of governance, el Palacio de Carondelet.

The changing of guards is a 45 minutes ceremony with a full brass band accompaniment. It occurs every Monday at 11am and is normally attended by the President, Rafael Correa. This week the Vice President, Lenín Moreno, took his place as it was his last week in office. Soldiers in full dress uniforms with spurs on their boots marched holding spears tipped with Ecuadorian flags. School children from the primary, middle, and high school grades were selected to attend and sat in front of all the action. I enjoyed seeing this ceremony and I’m hoping to sneak back on another day to see President Correa. I appreciate Vida Verde taking us on these outings around the city without any extra expense or planning on my part.

Ceremony at el Palacio de Carondelet

Every week at Vida Verde the school pairs you with a different teacher. At first I was not excited for the transition, I had enjoyed working with Hipatia, but in the end I think such a simple change helped further improve my Spanish. This week I worked with Elena, her style was very different from Hipatia’s. Hipatia made me speak and we would converse for much of the class whereas Elena talked my ears off. At the beginning of the week I had trouble comprehending the quickness of her speaking but by the end of class today I felt like we were speaking together rather well. I’m starting to work at the A2 level and everyday I am noticing an improvement in my ability to speak and understand.

Tomorrow is a national holiday marking the Battle of Pichincha. The battle captured the city of Quito from Spanish rule in 1822. There are no classes tomorrow so Katrin and I are headed to Baños for the weekend. It should be fun!