17 April 2010

Quito - Day 2

In less than an hour from leaving our hostel, Kristin and I stood at 4100 meters. Granted, Quito sits at 2850 meters and we took a gondola the rest of the way ($8.50 rt). Still, this was pretty cool. Even cooler was that we got to hike another 3 hours (2 up, 1 down) to the peak of Rucu Pichincha at 4680 meters. It was partly cloudy for most the hike, until we got near the peak, where is was a complete white-out. We enjoyed peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches (this one´s for you Matt B!), nutella, and wholegrain cookies. This was easily the best day-hike we´ve done from a big city. in Latin America.

The terrain is páramo, which is a like a high-altitude tropical sponge. The harsh conditions - rain, clouds, high winds - prohibit trees from growing. But if you look closely the earth is covered with magnificent tiny plants and grasses. The soil is saturated with water and filters the water, slowing it´s descent into the valleys below. This process helps regulate water flow to the Amazon, ensuring water even during a drought. This ecosystem exists only in on small area of Guatemala and Costa Rica, plus portions from Venezuela through northern Peru. 

The tallest plants we found were less than two feet high.

Beautiful flowers, the size of a peanut M&M, peppered the ground.

The trail splits at the base of the rocky peak. The direct routes goes straight up the ridge and hits class 5 territory (an experienced climber died there a few years ago), while the standard route winds to the right around the backside.We chose the more scenic trail.

We took the easier way, but still got off trail and found ourselves scrambling up a wall that eventually stopped us. Luckily, a passing hiker alerted us to the actual trail.

The summit. Grand views, huh? It was still well worth it.

Enjoying the descent.

A view of the city.

On the gondola ride down. They don´t call it a CrackBerry for nothing.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Danny, Im Michele...Conrads daughter. I believe you mom has told you my mother is Ecuadorian and I have lived in Ecuador many times throughout the years.

    Its looks like you have mastered the art of international travel but if you need any informaiton, tips or have a question about Ecuador please let me know. The best way to reach me is via email at lmh@boconceptusa.com but Ill be checking out your blog out regularly.

    Your mom also shared that you weren't plannning on going to the beach or amazon which is fine but you should really check out banos its incredible for such a short drive from the city and you wont find flora and fauna like that anywhere else.

    Well safe travels to you both.