By far my favorite excursion thus far has been to Teleférico, a gondola which carries passengers up to the top of Pichincha Volcano, an entire 13,000 feet. A friend and I went early in the morning one day, aiming to beat the clouds and rain which usually roll in in the afternoon. The gondola ride was fun in and of itself, but once we climbed out and away from its grimy windows the view was absolutely spectacular. We could see the entire city of Quito stretching north to south, fitted in between the cracks and curves of the earth and spilling into neighboring valleys. It was breathtaking, and not just in the symbolic sense considering the altitude.
The buildings up there at the summit screamed of wasted potential. It was practically a ghost town; what was supposed to be a collection of restaurants and shops has become a bunch of abandoned buildings. I didn’t mind, though, as so many attractions would have detracted from the calm and awe of the place. My friend and I ended up renting horses, but when we arrived they were all occupied so we opted to wait. We sat on the side of the sloping mountain peak, facing out toward the city. It was cold and quiet, with only the muffled roar of the city in the background. I lay down and stared up at the clouds.
It was wonderful to get out of the city, even if it was only for several hours. It’s too easy to become absorbed in the concrete and pavement that surrounds me every day as I trek to and from the university. Here I truly saw and felt the Andean landscape for the first time, and the way that the people have built their city to accommodate the shape of the earth. Never before have I felt so engulfed by nature. It was truly a transcending experience.