There’s a point during take-off when the flight attendant comes over the intercom and announces, “We’ve reached 10,000 feet. It is now safe to use all approved portable electronic devices.”
Well, on the 10 minute Teleferico ride up the Andes mountain range to the inactive Pichincha Rucu volcano (Rucu means “old” in the indigenous language of Quichua), my friends and I passed 10,000 feet and continued up to an altitude of more than 14,000 feet where we were free to roam about the cabin…I mean mountain. We were at a height where we could see planes taking off and flying below us over Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
For $8.50 USD ($4.50 for Ecuadorians), you can ride the cable car, which is located in the vicinity of the Vulcan Theme Park at the base of the mountain, up to the top of Pichincha Rucu and walk around to all the lookout points. If you live in Quito, which I currently do, you live in the Pichincha Province. Many of the provinces in Ecuador are named after the volcanoes located nearby (i.e.Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Imbabura).
It is highly recommended to go on a clear day, with blue skies and no clouds because you will be able to see the Avenue of Volcanoes on the horizon. Some of the highest volcanoes in the world are located in Ecuador, most of them still active.
Note: Your ears will pop, and your head will feel the pressure from being up so high. Drinking a lot of water will help. The weather is also much colder at the top so dress appropriately.
I have to mention the danger involved in exploring Pichincha Rucu because it is known by many here and noted in most Ecuadorian guidebooks. Tourists are extremely vulnerable up on the top. There have been robberies and assaults, mainly from those who start hiking from Quito. It is best to hike it with a group of people (at least 3) and on the weekends when there are a lot more people up there. Just be careful and take precautions.
If you go early in the day, you’ll be able to take the easy 5 hour hike to the Rucu Pichincha peak, which is one of three that are on the Pichincha volcano. The others are: Guagua Pichincha (active volcano) and Padre Encantado.
Otherwise, an afternoon spent walking around and simply admiring the beauty of Quito from an elevation of more than 14,000 feet is just as enjoyable. Getting to see the magnitude of the capital as it stretches in-between the valley of the moutnains is mind-blowing.
Escorted tours are also available.
If you are brave, you can hook your mountain bike up to your Teleferico car and ride the routes down the mountain. There are also horses available for $5/hr, including a hat and poncho, to ride on the trails.
Here is a video of my Pichincha Rucu excursion:
Some more pictures from my excursion.