It is crazy to think I have been in Quito for around a month. Parts of me do feel settled in, and parts of me feel like I just arrived. The food continues to be amazing, and I keep finding new things to try. One of my highlights of this week was an Ecuadorian staple, Shrimp Ceviche. If watching Anthony Bourdain taught me anything on Ecuadorian food, it’s the focus on stews. With their fresh seafood and knack for soups, the ceviche I had their blew me away. It even comes with some almost popped popcorn kernels and popped ones as well to give it a great texture and soak all the sauce. It’s a meal I’ll be going back to find. I’m also continuing to notice some improvement in my Spanish thanks to the classes I’m taking in the mornings and through speaking with the people here. The conversations still have speed bumps, like when you’re at bar or concert and someone is trying to tell you something but you can’t hear them. So after they repeat themselves a couple times, you just smile and say “yeah”.
Speaking of bars, I made it to La Ronda this past weekend. John, a waiter I met in Blog #2, invited me to check out the area Saturday night. There are two major nightlife areas in Quito, La Mariscal and La Ronda. La Mariscal is filled with clubs, and is definitely geared to the younger audience. The area reminds me of some college towns, like Athens, Georgia where I attended college. I’m sure I’ll have a blog on that later. La Ronda is more on the traditional side, featuring a lot of bars that have salsa dancing, street performers, and traditional street food and beverages. La Ronda is a street that goes on for around 4-5 blocks. Cars cannot pass through, and pedestrians can walk as they please (crosswalks don’t exist in Quito. Technically they do but it’s a gamble to see if a car will stop.) Some of the local drinks are great. If I had to pick a favorite then it would be canelazo. It is a fruit juice with lots of sugar then spiked with sugar cane alcohol. It is really sweet and warm, great to have at night. It’s also strong, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. I didn’t stay out too late, as I was quite tired from my hike up the Pichincha Volcano that morning.
My first large hike was near the city, up the Pichincha Mountain. The entrance is near a small theme park called Volqano Parque, where you ride the TelefériQo to the start of the hike. The TelefériQo is a gondola that starts at 10,226 feet and takes you up to 12,943 feet. Let me remind you that this is the start. The summit of the mountain is 15,413 feet. Even at the beginning, you can definitely feel the altitude difference and it is does not get any more tolerable. I did take some time to take in the view of Quito, seeing the city from this distance is amazing. The view from the El Panecillo is great, but this view was even better. I loaded up on some snacks and drinks, and started making my way up.
The trek starts with a walk past a small church. I wonder how they got the supplies up to build the church, considering how ornate it was, which once again shows the care and craftsmanship used in building the historic churches of Quito. I knew the hike would take around three to four hours, so I had some podcasts lined up when I started making the walk. The weather felt great and the views were amazing. Since Pichincha is located near the city, there are towers on it visible from the ground. Being at eye level with those seemed crazy.
My favorite part happened a couple hours into the hike, when I really had to start navigating myself up some steep slopes and rocky trails. There were still people passing by me still, but much fewer than when I started. I took a seat to grab a bite and take a look at the view when I really noticed there was not much of one. There was a thick fog in the air that made it difficult to see the city or far into the distance. Luckily, the fog seemed to clear out a lot quicker than a typical fog. Now I’m not a meteorologist, but I don’t think that was a fog. I think it was a cloud, which is a crazy thing to think. Not sure I can prove it, but if any meteorologists want to help me do so I’d appreciate it. It’s an amazing place and I’ll say sandwiches taste amazing when you enjoy them with a mountain view. Thanks for reading and #VidaLaVic