Published: July 2nd 2012June 21st 2012
Entering Ecuador was a breeze, passing through customs without even a bag check. Strange, agents were not checking anybody's bags or possessions. Ecuadorian customs seemed either extremely negligent or trusting, especially considering we were leaving cocaine Colombia. I made a mental note that if desperate times arrive, smuggling could be an option. Opps! I'll take that thought back. About five minutes away from the bus stations, drug agents were checking bags thoroughly. Any rate, we were happily off to our next destination in the northern highlands of Ecuador. The bus ride from the border to Octavalo is around volcanos, down canyons, up hills, and through mountains. Simply spectacular. In between we rode through towns with entire black populations, hillsides completely tamed by farming and milk cows crowding the roadway. A really active countryside that seemed well off, at least from the bus window. But what really caught our gaze were the gas stations. Gas was going for $1.48 a gallon for regular. And diesel was at the incredibly low price of $1.03 a gallon. No wonder it cost only about a dollar per hour on the buses throughout Ecuador. Taxis were as cheap, a dollar could take you across most mid
size towns. With gas prices this low, I expected Arnold and a posse of Hummers to pass by.
Octavalo was where I recuperated from a cold. The altitude combined with my chest full of phlegm laid me out for a few days. I gave up a day of hiking but wasn't going to miss the massive Indian market in town. The Incan's come from their villages to trade, buy and enjoy the energy of all their comrades getting together. Not to be missed is the animal market, a dusty field just outside town overwhelmed with livestock of all sizes. From furry fat guinea pigs to the big squealing porky kind. Watch your step for the excited animals have left loads of leftovers. From the animal market it's a short walk into town where more sensory overload is in store. On display throughout town are the colorful Indian handicrafts that foreigners and Quito tourist come to purchase. Although the talent on display is impressive, more enticing were the whole cooked pigs in some restaurant windows. For $2 dollars, Amei and I enjoyed the best roasted pig ever. And they capped off the dish by giving you some
flaky pork skin that Anthony Bourdain would have killed for. Also, a real bargain are the "almuerzos" offered in most restaurants. Two bucks gets you a hearty bean soup with chicken feet, a main course normally chicken or beef and a hearty glass of fresh juice. Simply delicious. Now besides food and the markets, Octavalo has great nearby hikes to high altitude lakes, volcanos and waterfalls. We made a waterfall, but the strenuous hikes were left off the list until I fully shake my cold. Next stop Quito.
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