Last Stop in Ecuador: Otavalo

The original plan was to stop in Otavalo for a day on my way to Colombia, but when I was greeted by the tag team that included the amazing salesmanship skills of Roberto, the hostel owner, and the incredibly luxurious private room with a big girl’s bed, an even bigger girl’s shower and beautiful terrace, I decided I could cool my heels for a couple of extra days.

When I say “amazing salesmanship skills” I’m referring to Roberto’s genuine friendliness and the fact that he spent 20 minutes describing all of the sights to see around Otavalo and how to get to each of them.  He made it so easy and enticing, that just as fast as I was cursing nature in Quito, I was already packing my hiking bag for another round of trekking.  He also scored bonus points by making and bringing me an herbal lemon tea to ease my stomach woes at the time.

Back on the trail

The next day, after feeling much better thanks to the magic tea, I set out along the railroad tracks to see the Peguche waterfall, a trek I was told would take about an hour.  Naturally after about two hours of walking along the tracks, which took me to a couple of new towns, I started to wonder about these waterfalls.  I stopped and asked a tiny non-threatening local lady who laughed and I said I was supposed to turn off of the tracks a while back.  I recalled the point she was talking about but remembering convincing myself that I was just supposed to “follow the tracks”.  I should have known.  No trek to a natural wonder has ever been so flat and easy for me.  The turn-off was an unappealing climb.  Now, looking ahead at my two hour return journey and the fact that my stomach was starting to feel uneasy again, I decided to head back to the hostel and try again another day.  My little traveler ego was slightly repaired after reading that another blogger also committed the same error.

After yesterday’s failed hike, I opted to try the Laguna Cuicocha trek,, which I was told would be a short bus ride, a taxi ride and then a four hour hike around the lagoon.  This time, I didn’t get lost and finding my way was a snap.  I boarded a bus at the terminal heading to Quiroga and the conductor was kind enough to direct me towards the line of camionetas waiting to transport the enthusiastic tourist up to the base of the trail.  Just remember to tell them ahead of time that the fare is $4.00, not $5.00.  As is always the case, taxi drivers always try to pinch a little more from the tourists.

The trek itself is fairly easy and as you guessed, offers beautiful awe-inspiring views.  Nothing new here, it’s still nice to enjoy and take in.  I will say, the one unique thing about this trek was the lovely flora spread all through the trail.  They say the trek should take about five hours but I actually completed it in 3:45:00, which I don’t mind bragging about given the fact that I’m a contender for the World’s Least Likely to Find on a Treadmill.  I think I’m actually starting to turn a corner in my journey to becoming a healthier human being.

Laguna Cuicocha

Some quick notes about the logistics of the trek.  First, you’ll come to a point in the path about 3/4s of the way through where you have to turn onto an unpaved road.  This is in essence, the end of the scenic portion and now you walk all the way back to the start.  After my first failed trekking attempt in Otavalo, I thought I missed another turn after walking for a while, but no, you continue walking until the end.  Second, don’t wait for a taxi to come through the entry/exit points.  Walk up the middle road to the restaurant on the lagoon and there will be a taxi or two waiting to take you back to town there.  I waited an hour and a half at the guard post before figuring this out.

Traveling Revelations: I hate haggling

When I wasn’t exploring nature, I was experiencing Otavalo’s major attraction, the World’s largest indigenous market.  Well, technically, the really big market is only on Saturdays, but the everyday artisanal market that I was perusing was big enough for me, so I wasn’t too upset about missing that.  Feeling dizzy as I snaked my way through the stalls, fending off every vendor who wanted to sell me everything on their tables, I finally declared my generalized hatred for shopping and haggling.  I know, haggling is supposed to be fun and it’s actually a great skill to develop while traveling, but I find it to be too stressful and a highly effort-intensive task for something I probably don’t even need and/or care about.  I like my shopping to be as simple as possible, so when I realize I absolutely need something, I go directly to where it’s sold, and pay for it with a fixed and known price.  Done and done.

I did try to get into the haggling spirit though a little bit.  The unique scarves caught my eye and figuring they were pretty lightweight and compact I venture out finding one for my niece.  I scoped out the average prices and then found one that I settled on, feeling great about the $1.50 discount I got for “first sale of the day”, which is usually bogus but you go with it.  Then after realizing the scarf I picked out was more appealing to me or someone with my grandma-esque  taste, I decided I had to find another scarf that was more suited to the likes of a Hannah Montana watching 10 year old.  I thought like a little girl and went for super pink scarf with busy designs.  This time, I was quite pleased with my haggling.  She said $12, I said $10, she said $11, I said $10, she said, “Okay”.  That was so much easier than in Morocco where it took me a half hour to buy tea glasses for the price I wanted to pay.

Last night in Ecuador

No matter what the journey, there is always bound to be more than one set of beginnings and end.  For me, traveling around the world, this can frequently be boiled down to beginnings and ends in each country.  Leaving Perú was easy enough.  I wasn’t that connected to the country and was quite excited about going to the shrimp farm, so crossing that border was unemotional.  Ecuador, on the other hand, is a little harder after all that I’ve experienced and not having any definitive plans for Colombia, but there’s a blessing in knowing I did have so many powerful memories here.  Here’s to all of my dear Ecuadorian friends!

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4 thoughts on “Last Stop in Ecuador: Otavalo

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