“La Caminata del Quinche,” is a pilgrimage that started over 400 years ago, that the people of the Catholic churches participate in every year. I´m not Catholic, but I thought it would be a great cultural experience and cool to participate in, so two other Fellows and I met up around 3p.m. Friday afternoon at the bus terminal to start in Quito.
We were meeting another Fellow there to walk with her and her family, so we start the two-hour bus trip to Quito, which almost turned into three-hours due to traffic jam. Just outside of Quito, we got off the bus to wait on the other Fellow and her family, we ate and then at about 9p.m. we met up with our friend and her family and began the walk. There were so many people and everyone was walking fast. You literally had no choice but to walk quickly because you were constantly getting pushed and run into. The city part was the easiest part of the whole walk, but it was almost 10:30 p.m. and we were still not out of it.
We finally get out of the city and into the mountain, where it´s so dark and all we have are flashlights and we were walking on all sorts of terrain, for the most part is was dirt and rocks that I kept tripping over, was very fun when I actually fall. We are walking uphill and then downhill, all around me I saw people carrying small children, even carrying the strollers over the trail and everyone was walking so fast. I think about 1am or 2am we finally made it to the halfway point, they had food stands lined up on either side of the road, trash all in the middle of the road and people sitting down resting everywhere, in the distance we could see lights from people climbing up the side of the mountain. We stopped and took a break, my legs were already starting to hurt and I was glad to finally sit for a little bit, one of the Fellows had been sick all week and was hurting so her and another Fellow stayed behind with the cops and me and the last Fellow decided to keep going.
We start hiking up the mountain, and it´s so dark outside and getting colder. After walking for so long, hiking up this mountain wasn’t the easiest but we made it and kept going. We are walking and walking, passing through little towns, each selling food and playing music. Sometimes we were basically in the woods, in the middle of nowhere. The longer I was walking the harder it got. It was so cold, my legs were killing me and it was really late and the terrain we were walking on wasn’t the easiest and it kept changing from uphill to downhill, I felt like we would never reach the church we were walking to. Finally, at 5a.m. we finally reached the church and at that point my legs were hurting so bad, I didn’t even want to walk anymore and it was so cold, by the time we got there I didn’t even have a voice left, there were people everywhere, walking around and just laying down, sleeping. We get to the church steps and just sat down, I laid down but it was horrible, I was laying on freezing cold concrete and had no blanket, nothing.
At 6a.m. we decided to just get up and find some hot food and I was so happy when we did, it took us 7 hours to get from Quito to the town where the church was at, well we had never been to this town before and we were trying to figure out how to get back to Ibarra. We asked different people in the town where the bus stop is and they all told us different, but we managed to find it, we had to take an hour long bus ride to Quito and at first I was standing which was awful, I was in so much pain and hadn’t slept in over 24 hours. A guy end up giving me his sit which was really nice, we get to Quito to one bus station and we have to take a cab to another bus station to get to Ibarra, well we both fell asleep and a guy walks back tells us we´re in Ibarra, but the bus didn’t stop at the station so we have to walk. I managed to figure out where we are and I get a cab home, when changed into shorts, the back of my legs were swollen and bruised and I was so happy to shower and lay down. That is one adventure I will definitely never forget.