Saturday, February 05, 2011

Otavalo and Cuicocha Lake, Ecuador

Another volcano in Ecuador. I'm sure this isn't the case, but every mountain seemed like it was an extinct volcano.

After our educational visit to the Equator, we were off to the town of Otavalo. Otavalo is famous for holding onto its indigenous roots even though a lot of money has swept into the town thanks to the success of exporting their hand made goods. Almost anyone who got presents from me got them from this town's central market. The market was a maze of jewelry, llama and alpaca clothes, blankets, paintings, wood carvings, and who knows what else. The big market is on the weekend. We were there on a weekday and it was still huge. When I was not getting lost in the market trying to buy presents, we strolled around town.

Central market.

Mountain towering over town.

San Pablo Lake just outside of Otavalo.

View from out hotel.

In town, most of the women wore traditional garb. The men, less so. The most modern were the teenagers. The town itself didn't seem that traditional even if the people were. I am coming up short on details about what else we did. I remember walking and walking to find a restaurant that was traditional and had something vegetarian before ending up back at our hotel's restaurant. It had great food. It wasn't fancy. It was down to Earth. There was lots of wood and an open air courtyard that let us hear rain fall all evening and night.

Del Jordan Church.

The Dona Esther hotel, our hotel, courtyard and rooms in Otavalo

This dog is playing it smart and hanging out at the food market.

The next morning, we caught an early ride up to Cuicocha (Guinea Pig Lake), a 3km wide volcanic crater lake. It reminded me a lot of Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, but Oregon had a lot more snow. We had wet. I don't think it was raining, but it was still pretty overcast while we hiked. We had heard numerous times to beware of bandits in the area. However, lots of locals said it was safe. We didn't have any problems.


Cuicocha Lake.

We did have a great four hour hike though. We got dropped off at the visitor's center and went around anticlockwise. First, we climbed a ridge to the highest point on the lake. There was a little gazebo there, but we didn't stop to rest because we had to keep moving to make sure we met our ride on time. At two-thirds of the way, we left the rim and started on switchbacks off the ridge and back up the other side. In the valleys, there was puddles. We got wet feet and clothes that were definitely not drying off anytime soon. Eventually, we found ourselves back on the ridge among pine trees that Tina couldn't stop sniffing. Then, we hit private property and finished the hike on a road without the lake in sight. I kept wondering if we had missed a turn to get back over to the lake, but there wasn't one. By the time we got back, our ride back had been waiting for 30 minutes. I felt guilty, but he didn't seem to care. Life moves at a different speed there.

The two islands, Yerov and Teodoro Wolf, in Cuicocha Lake.

For Betty . . .

When we got back to the hostel, we walked up to the bus station and finally traveled the way locals do. I loved getting back in touch with my slow travel ways. Instead of paying $40 or more dollars, we paid $4 to get pack to Quito plus an extra $6 to get grab a cab to our hotel instead of walking in the pouring rain. I loved it. I also think I slept through a lot of it.

I thought it funny that policeman with 'Driver education' written on their uniforms had batons.

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