On the Top of the Little Face of God
Quito, the land of the Quitus, had already displayed his charms long before the Spanish Conquistadores arrived, and it is no wonder that before he passed away, Atahualpa, the last Inca, commanded that his heart must be buried in the capital of Ecuador. There is not doubt that the colonial influence left its invaluable print on the largest historic centre in the Americas and that is one of the reasons why Quito is the first World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO. But anyone who has visited this South American city will agree that all the buildings and churches would not have the fascination on the visitor without the mountain surroundings and the clarity of the skies, which are an essential part of Quito’s mysterious beauty. Beauty that since 2005 is possible to appreciate from a privileged spot, the Teleferiqo cable cars located on Cruz Loma, one of the hills of the Pichincha Volcano.
Traveling by car you find the way to the Teleferiqo by driving right off the Avenida Occidental. The price for parking from Monday to Thursday is US$1.00 and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday is US$2.00. The cable cars tickets cost adult: US$4.00; child under 11: US$3.00; senior citizens: US $2.00. For these prices normally you have to wait at least one hour. Although you can speed the waiting time paying for the express tickets, which cost for an adult is US$7.00 and for a child and senior citizen US$5.00. Without effort, in just 8 minutes a 6 passenger cable car would take you as far as the Mont Blanca’s refuge at 4.100m and you will have the chance of contemplating one of the most stunning landscapes of the planet. Not in vain Quito is called: “The Little Face of God” (La Carita de Dios). Once there it is up to you to go higher; you can walk until the antennas, which will take an average walker one hour. If you did not bring your snack before walking, you can charge your batteries on the Café Tostion, owned by Juan Pablo Montoya, whose hot chocolate is as energetic as the Formula One driver himself. You can also try at the café the very popular coca tea, which for less than a dollar will keep you alert all the way up. But if hiking is not your cup of tea then stay wondering around the handicrafts plaza where you can find beautiful souvenirs and always encounter musicians who are performing live to cheer you up.
Perhaps you prefer to visit the entry free Vulcano Park, where all the rides cost between US$0.35 cents to US$1.50. Only the dangerous Catapult has the extreme price of US$9.99. You can go-kart in Mondo Kart and experience this adrenaline rushing sport at 14,000feet. Also you can enjoy horseback riding. Among other horses, Ramona and Cristina are very friendly they will give you a ride for just US$5.00, or if you wish to pay just US$3.00, go to the picturesque waterfall which is a really good location to take pictures. Do not be surprised if you feel peckish, the altitude increases your appetite, but that is no problem as on the site there are several Ecuadorian restaurants that offer the best of the middle of the world cuisine, including the famous cuy (which I would like to point it out that not all Ecuadorians eat as some badly informed journalists wrongly said during the last Football World Cup). Along with the guinea pig you have a wide choice of delicious dishes mainly made with maize: humitas, empanadas, tamales, quimbolitos, mote, etc. But if you are not really into the local food there are some of the very well known fast food places like KFC and Burger King on the Pichincha Volcano.
- It is recommended to go before 4pm, because after that it could be foggy and you will lose the chance of taking wonderful pictures.
- Always take a sweater or a coat even on a sunny day, it is cold up there.
- If you decide to walk up to the antennas, wear trainers and a coat, and always bring your mobile with you in case of any emergency.
- Be careful when approaching the cliffs, especially if you are going with children. Do not allow them to run without your supervision. There are not protective barriers everywhere.
- Do not forget your camera and a book, there are plenty of areas where you can read peacefully.