Thursday, September 11, 2008

24 hours in Otavalo

6 de septiembre, dos mil ocho

Alarm went off at 5:10am. I got the reluctant Nate up at 5:30am. We were packed and ready to go at 6am. Why would we get up at such an uncompromising and unreasonable time?!

Otavalo, a city 2.5 hours north of Quito, is host to a huge market every Saturday. Indigenous vendors from surrounding villages pack the streets to sell their goods to ecuadorianos y extranjeros alike.

So we get there early, 9am, before most gringos are awake! Mapless and LPless, we wander down Calle Simon Bolívar (every city’s gotta have one!) toward the Plaza de Ponchos looking for a place to set down our bags. We walk into a rather nice hostel, but they don’t have rooms open until noon so we leave our stuff in the bag storage.

Unburdened we wander through the stall-packed streets. There were people selling crafts, housewares (my spoon is too big!), snails (for eating), sweaters, ice cream, and just about everything else.

Street after street this went on. Stalls lined the streets. Crowds poured in from their hostels. It was packed. We dodged tourists, small children, people begging, and people in indigenous clothes. The women wore embroidered white shirts tucked into long black skirts. Men wore hats and a long ponytail.

I bought a hat. Most awesome hat ever, so I took a picture with the people who sold it to me.

It was the Fiesta de Yamor, so there was music and dancing as well. Otavalo is one of those cities that doesn’t know how not to party!

Nate looked beat. Outdoor markets hold so much stimuli! We went back to the hotel where we picked up our bags and wandered around to find a cheaper accommodation. We wandered around, poor Nate was such a good sport. We settled on the could-be-cleaner Residencial Santa Fe. It had a bed and shared bathrooms and was in the hustle and bustle of it all.

After a brief descanso, we headed out into the chaos of the mercado once again. My adventurous appetite and I wanted to get market food. Mmmm… Chicken broth, with a big hunk of chicken in it of course, and a main dish. We walked around some more. We bought a rather large papaya and a delicious smelling pineapple. Nate bargained for a miniature guitar. We ate the pineapple and licked the sweet juice off our fingers! Then the hat made an appearance as we tested out the guitar. Then I needed to escape from the claustrophobia that was our room so we went out for a walk. The streets were dark, but we felt safe in Otavalo. People were out and walking around. What a wonderful day!

7 de septiembre, dos mil ocho

Nate’s tummy wasn’t doing that well. So I let him sleep in a bit while I walked around in the freshness of Sunday morning. The city was slow to awake, so I got my coffee and observed. The streets looked different without hundreds of vendor stalls.

We ended up waiting a little while for the shared showers. I think everyone in the hostel wanted to take care of their morning bathroom business at the same time. We packed our things up and slurped down the juicy papaya for breakfast. We set off for the indigenous village of Peguche and its supposedly beautiful waterfalls. Hardly had we gone down the street when I realized that we didn’t have our camera.

We went back to the hostel and dug through our bags for the camera. I checked mine first. Huh, it wasn’t in its usual places. Nate checked his. No luck. We checked the room again. It wasn’t there. But how can a camera just disappear?! Then I thought about it… there was a time frame when Nate was in the shower and I went to use the other bathroom that I didn’t lock the door to our room. It was a 1 minute time frame. Oh my goodness, did someone go into our room right at that moment and take our camera!? Come to think of it, the camera was on the table and I don’t remember seeing it after that. Does that mean that they were watching our room for the moment that we were not there? I did hear some doors open and close while I was in the bathroom. Panic. How can someone just steal a camera? How can you go into someone else’s room and take something? What kind of person would do something like that?!

At first I was sad. That was a very expensive camera and quite new. We had bought it for the trip. We had just lost hundreds of dollars. We didn’t have a camera for our adventures. We couldn’t go to the waterfalls and indigenous village. I fought back tears. How can someone just take something like that? It was a violation of morals that just didn’t sit well with me.

Nate did his best to calm me down. At least we are ok. We can always buy a new one. At least it wasn’t our computers. It could have been worse.

Yea. But it still sucks. A lot. We walked around the city to clear our minds, but really my mind was full of what I would say to the people who stole our camera. We decided to leave Otavalo right then and there. It was not how I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t see any reason for us to stay.

We walked to the bus station with a half a papaya in hand and caught the next bus to Quito. The ride was uneventful. I think I slept a little.

The cab from the bus station dropped near our old hostel Secret Garden. But I had had enough of the silly backpacker ambiance. I wanted a change. So we walked around with our bags trying to find an internet café to look up other hostels. Unfortunately it was Sunday and everything was closed. So what did we do? We rang the door bell of the Secret Garden and sat in their internet room looking up other hostels. It felt a little like cheating, but we knew the password and nothing else was open.

It was our lucky day afterall because we found a great hostel only a few blocks from there that was nicer, quieter and cheaper! We checked into our room with a private bathroom! We found an almuerzo place that was open and ate some delicious food. Unfortunately Nate felt very sick so we returned to the hostel pronto!

We did some research into buying a new camera. It would be much more expensive to buy it in Ecuador. BUT if we had it shipped from the US then we’d have to pay lots of taxes on it. It was a lose-lose situation. We decided that we needed a camera and that we’d buy a cheaper one and wait until someone from the US came to visit us to bring us a better one (which might not be until Chile!).

We got ready for another walk through Quito and Nate was going through his bag. Suddenly he looks up at me with a smile on his face. What’s going on? He holds up a colorful fleece sock. It’s the fleece sock that we use to carry our camera in!!! HE FOUND THE CAMERA! Apparently he slipped the camera into his bag without remembering. I was overjoyed! We wouldn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on new cameras! What a relief! I silently asked forgiveness from the people I had accused earlier.

In a much lighter mood we set off for ingredients for dinner. We had access to a kitchen and decided to be our own chefs that night. Unfortunately everything closes early in Old Quito, especially on Sundays! So we scurried around, avoiding drunk men and figuring out what we could make on such limited ingredients.

We made a loop through Old Quito, but everything was closing and streets were emptying out. We ended up with rice, beans, cheese, tomato, and an onion. The hostel kitchen provided some spices and garlic! It was a surprisingly delicious concoction!

We shared the kitchen with a couple from the UK. We shared travel stories and suggestions. We talked and talked for a couple hours until we all retired to bed.

It’s a travel day tomorrow: Latacunga and the Quilotoa Loop here we come!

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