Day 16: Cuenca to Otavalo via Quito:
Today we travelled most of the day (14 hours!), so we didn't take any photos. I'll add photos of our hostal in Otavalo and the little place we ate dinner there just so there'll be some photos.
The lady in the hostal in Cuenca called a taxi to take us to the bus terminal at 6:15am. After a short ride, we arrived at the terminal to discover that the express, "direct" bus to Quito would be going afterall. We bought two tickets at $10 each on the Super Taxis Cuence bus and waited to board. It looked like a nice new bus, so we had high hopes. We soon discovered that apparently the word direct doesn't mean the same thing in Ecuador as it does in the states, as we probably stopped 10 or 12 times. Part of the reason was that again, the bathroom on the bus didn't work, so we stopped twice for bathroom breaks. We also stopped around noon for a lunch break at a roadside restaurant. The food was okay, but Manoli wasn't hungry so only I a light lunch. We found out from the lady at the
terminal that the bus to Quito stopped at the southern terminal, Quitumbe, which we already knew, but she said we could get a bus from there to Otavalo rather than getting to the northern terminal, El Carcelen.
Leaving Cuenca at 7am, plus a few minutes, we arrived in Quitumbe terminal around 4:30pm. After finding the window selling tickets to Otavalo, at $2.50 each, which she said left in 15 minutes, we went out to the departure gates and waited. About 15 or 20 minutes late, the Transportes Andina CA (TACA) bus finally arrived. The two to two and a half hour ride ended up taking a bit longer... more like four hours! Besides the normal stops to pick up and drop off folks along the way, we ended up going to the northern terminal anyways. Between leaving the northern terminal and leaving Quito proper, we coasted and stopped dozens of times, with the assistant hanging out the door yelling "ibarra", apparently trying to finish filling the bus. One other weird thing happened along the way. In Quitumbe terminal, the ticket we bought didn't have assigned seats, but when we arrived in El Carcelan, apparently the lady there did assign seats, so there was some arguing about seats. They eventually worked it out and we didn't have to move. Eventhough the assistant had told us we would be dropped off at the Otavalo terminal, they later seemed to change their mind. Maybe because we were the only ones going there. Anyways, they dropped us at some bus stop next to a gas station and after getting our bags from the storage bin, we easily found a taxi and happily were told it would be one dollar to the hostal, Hostal Chasqui. After a fast, brief ride, we arrived at the hostal, a pretty impressive looking place. By this time it was almost 9pm, so we had to ring the bell and wait a bit.
The guy working the hostal was very pleasant and gave us a very good rundown on Otavalo and surrounds, including where and when the markets were, where local superfmarkets were, etc. We dumped our stuff in our room, reconnoitered the hostal and its rooftop terrace and kitchen, then headed out to see if we could find something to eat. We ended up eating in a small local place. Manoli head the usual soup and I had hot dogs with french fries. It was all pretty good and inexpensive. We strolled back to the hostal, having been told it was quite safe at night in Otavalo and hit the hay. Tomorrow we hope to see some of the nearby sites, including the Peguche Falls, the craft towns of Quiroga and Cotacachi, and maybe the Cuicocha Lake.
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