For an afternoon activity, Eduardo recommends taking the new cable car up to a viewpoint on Pichincha volcano. This suggestion elicits groans from the rest of our altitude weary group, but I think it sounds great.Soon a cab drops Lane and me and Mark and Kathy at the lowest level of a series of restaurants, fast food arcades, and amusement parks. We have no idea where the terminal is and the information desk we were told to seek out is unstaffed, so we wander through the people milling about, instinctively working our way up the mountainside. Soon we come across a series of “TeleferiQo” signs that lead us to the terminal.
The huge terminal is packed. Long lines snake back on themselves, making it hard to discern where one begins and another ends. However, a more careful look shows that the situation isn’t very complicated. There are two separate lines for the boarding area, one of which is significantly shorter than the other. I spot a “FastPass” sign above the shorter – almost non-existent – one. Does this mean there is a way to avoid a very, very long wait?
We turn our attention back to the ticket booth. Regular tickets are $3.50 each, but one sign seems to indicate that this window sells tickets for $7 each. There is a tiny “FastPass” sign in the corner of this sign. I’m still mulling over this application of the term “FastPass” for a simple ticket upgrade (why not call it “express” service?) while the others sort out where the proper line begins.
Finally we are in line to board the cable car. We still have to wait some and I watch the distant sky nervously. As the day goes on, the cloud cover increases. Eduardo had assured us that it is worth going up even on a cloudy day, but I am hoping that the clear skies will hold long enough to give us a view of some of the other volcanoes that surround the city.
The TeleferiQo has 18 cars, each of which can hold 6 passengers. The staff loads a few cars with people from the “FastPass” line and then a few from the other line. It is extremely organized and efficient, but the vast majority of the other passengers are families with children – usually mom, dad, and three kids – so it doesn’t move very quickly. I can’t imagine how many hours we would have had to wait had we paid the lower fare.
At last it is our turn. A car arrives, still swinging slightly from the passengers who just disembarked, and I scramble in.
We depart at 9,680 feet and climb to 3,600 ft in 8-10 minutes. The cars are completely quiet as they rise high above the mountain’s slopes. We can see the city far behind us. Below, the landscape changes from woods to rich grassy pastures (with grazing dairy cattle) and to rocky moorlands.
We exit the car at about 13,000 feet.
A serious of foot paths lead out and up over the slope to observation points that provide spectacular views of the city far, far below us.
We eat a late lunch in a restaurant with an expansive view of the city far below us.