At an altitude of over 9,000 feet, Quito, Ecuador, is the highest national capital in the world, but for the adventurous there is an aerial lift near the city that sweeps you to 13,000 feet in about ten minutes.
On Monday morning, February 22, we took an inexpensive ($3.00) taxi ride from our barrio in the Centro Historico to the base of the “TeleferiQo” (an amalgam of “Teleferico” and “Quito”). It was about a 20 minute ride. There was almost no one there. It was a little overcast, and it was a Monday, and for the most part the tourists were staying away.
We bought our tickets, and after only a very brief wait, we were seated in a gondola with another couple (a friendly American guy and his Ecuadoran girlfriend). In a brief moment, we were flying swiftly up the mountain. The view was spectacular.
At the top of the mountain, we ate a small lunch and walked around a bit, admiring the view of the city below and the more distant valleys and summits. We soon noticed the effects of the altitude, especially Brian. It is hard to catch your breath at that elevation. So we stepped into the boarding area and waited for the next gondola for the ride back down.
At first it seemed as if we might have the descending gondola to ourselves. An Ecuadoran family was waiting behind us but there were five of them, too many for our car. And then, just as the gondola rounded the corner of the loading area, three new passengers climbed aboard.
Here is a photo of our gondola mates. Which of the three, gentle reader, do you suppose attracted our interest and attention the most? If you guessed the cute young guy in the middle, you are correct. If not, then you don’t appreciate how our minds work, Brian’s and mine.
We struck up a conversation and learned that the friendly guy on the right was visiting from Chile. The young woman lives there in Quito, and was able to point out her neighborhood below as the tram descended. Our boy in the middle, as we learned, is from Brazil. He is a Portuguese speaker, and explained that the young woman was his Spanish teacher here in Quito. It was interesting to hear him speaking in Spanish to the two native Spanish speakers on either side of him. He spoke with a Portuguese accent.
The nice man from Chile was a stranger to the other two; they had just met at the gondola. We chatted amiably all the way down. The three of them joked about their various rivalries, emanating I think perhaps from soccer, with Argentinians. Little did we know that the nations of South America seem united in a sort of friendly contempt for Argentina and her people. But when I mentioned that Pope Francis is an Argentinian, they conceded there were exceptions.
When we asked, half jokingly, whether the young woman might be available to teach us Spanish as well, the young man embraced her, with something resembling a hurt look on his face, and replied that she was exclusively his. Thus, it became clear they were not just teacher and pupil, but lovers.
She was the older of the two. He was only about 20, I would guess. “She is teaching him the ways of love,” I said to Brian later, after we reached the bottom.
Away they went together, arm in arm, as we disembarked, to continue their tutorial in language and in love.