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Having recently opened in July 2005, Quito’s “TelefériQo,” or cable car, is a very pleasant option for whiling away a few hours. Morning is the time to go, as there is greater chance of sun, clear blue skies and majestic, sweeping vistas.

 

Eighteen gondolas, each carrying six people, are available to sweep you at a tranquil pace up the mountainside. You wait with trepidation at the allotted spot from which you will clamber into the gondola. As it swings around the corner, you hop on, excited and a little nervous. It takes eight to 10 minutes to soar up the mountain; cables humming, the gondolas swing precariously in the wind and you gasp as you try to cast from your mind thoughts of snapping cables as seen in the movies. As the journey progresses, the buildings below get smaller and Quito seems like a toy town in the growing distance. The people at the base become specks in the distance.

 

Arriving at the top, at 4,050 meters (13,300 feet), you are surrounded by amazing views. Follow the pathway to the view place—from here you look down on the dwarfed Panecillo, clouds, the old town and on planes landing at the airport. In the distance, the city limits of Quito are enclosed by glorious snow-capped Cotopaxi, Cayambe and Antisena volcanoes. There is nowhere better to view Quito’s spectacular settings than here, up in the clouds.

 

Expensive boutique shops and an equally pricey restaurant offer you good quality products, souvenirs, chocolates, and even oxygen for those struggling with the altitude. You are a captive audience and will pay over the odds for a cup of coffee and a piece of chocolate cake in the swanky restaurant owned by Juan Pablo Montoya. You sip on your drink and admire the spectacular view to Quito’s north and east.

 

Adventurous souls can also hike to Ruca Pichincha volcano from the top, but the hike is tough going at this altitude. Temperatures at the Ruca can drop below freezing and the weather changes rapidly so it is necessary to be appropriately clothed. The hike takes from two and a half to three and a half hours depending on speed and fitness levels. The ecosystem at this height is known as páramo. It is wild and austere, but supports an incredible diversity of life. The tall páramo grasses swish in the gentle breeze, one of the few sounds other than the tramping of your feet and you might spot an Andean fox or rabbit scurrying about its business, or a condor gliding overhead.

 

As you glide down the mountain, the garish Vulcano Park amusement park gets closer and closer. You start to hear the squeals of joy and terror coming from the rides. You feel smugly satisfied knowing that the ride you just took was the most rewarding of them all.



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