Friday, August 30, 2013

Gasping - August 8, 2013

All the guidebooks say to take it easy when you first arrive at a location with a significant altitude. "Take it easy, acclimatize, drink lots of water, avoid alcohol, don't exert yourself." Uh huh, yeah right, okay.

We were off to the teleferiQo, Quito's newly installed cable car. It felt like old home week as I stepped into the gondola made by Poma, although a lot warmer than I was used to, and carrying a lot less gear. It was bliss.

We were flouting conventional wisdom, and although we have been living at sea level for years, surely those acclimatization rules didn't apply to us, we told ourselves. We wanted to do "a bit" of walking and the trail to Pichincha (Quito's resident volcano, located at 4,784 m or 15,696 ft) seemed to be just the thing. (See Green arrow below, which was where we were going). After all, we had climbed Izalco in El Salvador, and Pacaya in Guatemala.  We could bag another volcano!  Turned out, we were insane.... 1 and 1/2 hours into it, and being passed by fit, young men looking like they'd be right at home on Mont Blanc, we happily took photos of "the hill we didn't climb in Quito" (Red arrow below, and the sentiments attached). But, I kept saying to Ron, the book said it was a three hour walk.  "Just be sure to set out in the morning, before the clouds obscure the view." We set our sights on the first electrical power pylon and called it good.

Green means, Go - Red means, WTF, STOP!!!
So naive first thing in the morning, see that thumbs up?!
Several hours later, cooked and DONE!
Not quite as perky as he used to be
Upon our descent, we saw the sign we had missed upon initially setting out, which called it a difficult, 5 hour trek, ONE WAY. Hahahahahaha.....

Scattered around our hostel were posters and prints of strange looking men with expressions of anguish, soulful eyes, and evocative fingers. Learning that they were by Ecuador's "father of art", Oswaldo Guayasamin, we hauled our weary selves to the museum, workshop and Capilla of this most influential of artists. His personal story is amazing and his work, compelling. We vowed to return to purchase a few pieces to call our own.

I had many more sights to see on my Quito list but what we really wanted to see in front of us by this time was a cold beer or three. Despite it being "the dry season" in Ecuador, we found ourselves in the midst of a lightning and thunderstorm like what we had left behind in Panama. This time tho we were just afraid of getting wet, rather than getting hit. Things have definitely improved in the last few weeks.

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