Published: October 9th 2007September 29th 2007
We headed for the bus terminal and the trip to Otavalo, after staying for three sleeps in Cali … I know not why.
The succession of vehicles to Otavalo makes for an interesting array of travel methods, always orchestrated by our illustrious leader. It took some planning getting busses and taxis and minivans for twelve people. There was always someone ready to take bags and pack them into a conveyance.
Four taxis from the hostel to the bus terminal. Public bus to a small town just before the border. Here the monumental task of fitting all the luggage and all the people into one minivan began. The pictures do not lie. We were packed in like sardines. And on the way the hatch flew open and Paul’s backpack landed in the street. After much shouting and laughing and a quick retrieval by the driver we were once more on our way.
Arrival at the border means standing in line in front of one wicket. A second wicket opened and I dashed into that queue. The form is filled out, the passport is stamped, my name is entered into the computer and I walk with the others with
all our baggage to the portals of Ecuador. Then it’s another minivan to the next bus station. Back on a second local bus and off into the countryside of Ecuador. Chad and Tony are assigned the task of watching both sides of the bus in case the bags go in one side and disappear out the other.
I suppose this has happened to someone because of the paranoia about it. The bags containing my laptop and Paul’s are chain together with the same lock and wire I used in India.
Posta, which the book describes as ugly, is a beautiful university town. The ugly part comes as you head south out of Posta. This area truly is not for the faint hearted….decomposing smells, diesel fumes from transports, dust and debris scattered by the wind and all percolated by the heat of an unrelenting sun.
Once over the border without being searched … this cannot be said of the man with the small child in the puffy lime green jacket. Child or no child, his car and person were being pulled apart by border police. We only watched as we drove by in the minivan.
Loaded with Vegetables
Hard work for old and young in markets, in streets and up the sides of mountains.
The bus to Otavalo was reasonably comfortable if you consider sitting with my short knees almost in my face. Pity anyone with long legs and there are a few in the group. The on bus movies were sufficiently violent to satisfy the male beasts… no need for sub-titles. The drivers stopped at convenient intervals and I was able to avoid the experience of having to visit the on board toilet … thank god. Will not expound on the numerous persons in the group who blithely use such facilities, granted without great harm but then do not take steps to disinfect … ugh and double ugh!
When we arrive in Otavalo it is dark. Paul, Kate and I have been sharing a cab since the need for public transport began in Cartagena. Our bus driver makes a joke about reaching La Luna in ten minutes. He meant la luna and laughed hilariously. He further extended his good humour by passing the other three taxis and making a race for the hostel La Luna. When the type of road is taken into consideration … river rocks form the basis of the ‘flat surface’ … the aspect of marbles in a jar
can be appreciated.
With all body parts in place and in working condition we arrive at La Luna, high in the hills with the lights of Otavalo spread out before us and la luna shining brightly above us. In the eating area a fire blazed in the grate. Delicious food odours emanated from a compact kitchen. Other travellers were enjoying an evening meal with wine and good conversation. It was ideal.
Spoke with woman from England who had been for some years in Australia. I envied her, her solo travels thru S.A. There were three American brothers who found companionship in the presence of Karen, Cat and Kate. The guys watched ‘Blood Diamonds’. I worked on my laptop with a bottle of beer at my side. The beer comes in HUGE bottles …brown bottles in Canada look scrawny in comparison.
Slept in one room with Karen and Cat, hoping that my snoring would not be a problem. Should I be developing a phobia about it? Since the fiasco with Rob and Lynn have had no real complaints.
Speaking of Rob and Lynn we three take a 6:30 taxi to the Saturday Market in Otavalo.
taxi driver is young, cute and talkative. I discuss with him the coming election on Sunday. We pass the Animal Market. It is decided that after a visit to the bus station to buy tickets for Quito for Rob and Lynn (he has to fly to New York to replace photo equipment) we will begin our day at the Market. This is after all the reason for dashing towards Otavalo.
After buying coffee for all including the driver we are off to see the animals.
Pigs reluctantly being lead to the sales area on leads.
Cows with yellow letters denoting ownership waiting to be purchased.
A bull being shoved on to small Nissan pick-up, his hind quarters hanging over the end and his horns being secured with a rope to the crash bar.
Calves with ribs protruding being passed off as healthy and shown to be eating when provided with some grass to munch on.
Llamas walking proudly as ever never letting on that they to are up for a quick sale.
Sheep, calves, chickens, horses, goats, one rabbit, and aluminium pots … all for sale to anyone that has the money. And the money flashes
from hand to hand as notes are counted out to seal a purchase.
$350 for the bull.
$40 for a female pig or calf.
$30 for a piglet … 2 for $50.
$4 for a chicken.
$.70 to .90 for a chick.
The women in their fedoras, lacy-sleeved blouses and long dark skirts stand and wait with the pigs or piglets on the jute lines they have plaited themselves or bought from the woman who only sells lines, some made of natural fibres others made of plastic. When buying an animal cords are fished out of bags or a child is sent to buy a new cord. With deft fingers the cord is looped around the neck of the animal and with another quick twist a halter is fashioned around the body and all is ready for the march back to the finca (farm), backyard or upstairs pen.
Videoed and shot enough pigs to last a lifetime and convinced the locals we are loco gringos entranced by pigs. We head off down the road behind the other successful bargainers towards the centre of town. They have sacks full of squirming chickens or pockets full of dollars. The dollars
from the sale of an animal will buy feed, provisions or place a bet on a cock fight.
Along the way to downtown and a bank, a stop is made at a hat sellers blanket spread on the sidewalk. The grey felt hat fits perfectly and for ten dollars I have a conversation piece.
Because of toilet needs we stop at a hole in the wall restaurant. Others are eating here so it cannot be all bad. The soup arrives and looks normal. Chicken, potato, some greens and what is this big white something lodged against the backbone of the bird. The stomach has been cleaned. The liver and kidneys taste good. There are no feet in this broth. The little sack of yokes is too miniscule to be taken notice of. At the very end I ask the man who will take our money and who brought the soup what the hard lump of white is. I thought it might be the longs but it seemed too large … did want to know exactly what part of the chickens innards I was about to bite into. The man explained it was the egg. I took it to
be the egg whites in reserve for the time when an egg would be formed in readiness for laying. For a dollar who can complain about the source of protein?
The vegetable market proved to be delectable. I found a man selling BLUEBERRIES!
I poured some of them on the fruit cup I had bought. They were not sweet and I did eventually give the rest of the bag to the woman at La Luna to use in baking.
It is always difficult to avoid buying things in the food market. Where to cook them? How to carry them? When will they rot?
After the vegmarket we found a nice coffee shop. Sat behind the front window and had a better than television view of the comings and goings of a busy Saturday in Otavalo.
Three wheeled contraptions carrying goods or passengers in front of the driver on a bicycle seat pass before the window. Babies slung on the back of young and old mothers bounce their way towards the vegetable market, church or home.
After a good cappuccino I say goodbye to Lynn and Rob. The church down the street, the monument in
the park and the map of the town on the side of the tourist info building all call to be photographed, visited and scrutinized.
Eventually the wander lead me to the part of the market that was selling the touristy stuff… bags, beads, feathers, ponchos, sweaters, jewellery, bracelets, everything one could ever want to buy as a souvenir.
And then I heard my name called from on high. There was Chad. I went to the rooftop restaurant and joined Amy, Paul and Chad for refreshments. We then wandered around some more …only on the fringes of the major section of the market … I was not buying anything and did buy earrings, rings and a pendant. It was decided to walk back. On the way to the ‘short cut’ we passed a street that had the most peculiar look of a wholesale source of all the ‘handcrafted’ goods for sale. So much for cottage industry. There are not enough hands in Ecuador to make all these things. Here the population consists of only 13 million. Viva China!
I did buy a llama toe rattle … just in case I don’t see it again in my travels. Will
now probably see it for a fraction of a price everywhere I go in Peru.
We all walk up the 60% or more steep dusty hill up out of the market and Otovala. We went back a little early because Chad will go to a cock in the evening.
The climb was strenuous. Not on the leg muscles but in the breathing. We are at an altitude high enough to make a difference in the temperature ergo the need for a fire and heavy blankets.
The food at la Luna was excellent. Broccoli soup, spaghetti bolognaise chocolate cake, and good plunge coffee. The beer did not stop flowing. The choice of DVD’s was good for those who are always so inclined. Conversation with fellow travellers once again proved fruitful. Spoke to a woman from Toronto. She had only three weeks vacation from her job. Was sorry to hear she had such a short time, but she was travelling on her own. Became again, green with envy.
Spent the evening editing the 343 pics taken during the day.
Sad to say because of the elections on Sunday the Saturday cock fights, bars and the sale of
beer was closed or restricted. One could only buy liquor, which the common man cannot afford.
The four people going to the Galapagos have left. They will spend seven days on a boat. Probably going ashore during the day.
The rest of the group is set to leave for Quito Sunday morning. The public bus is comfortable. We stand in line to get on. A bus leaves for Quito every 10 minutes. I sit beside a young man that is studying in Quito. Electronics. He finds my dictionary intriguing. I cannot give it to him. I still need to get thru the rest of S.A.
$2 for two hours. We arrive and in a collectivo drive too the Casa Bambu … the best hostel I have ever stayed in.
There are more photos below