Monday 19 October 2009

Evening in Otavalo

It is rainy and chilly outside the window: at 2530 metres above the sea level one doesn't expect torrid evenings. Otavalo, except for its market, has not much to offer - and even the market itself, so obviously made for tourists, loses a bit of its charm as a result. No wonder that on the fourth evening in Otavalo I am observing Bjarni's geekery. The third night in a row, we have come to the same pub to connect to the Internet. Bjarni seems to be in a trance: every day hundreds of ideas on how to improve his new program, how to streamline the maps, how, how, how..

Keeping myself busy, I think about our day. We went on another trip out of town, alone this time. We caught a bus to Quiroga, a small town nearby, from which we rode on the back of a camioneta (a pick-up that instead of conveying goods, conveys people) to Laguna de Cuicocha. The Lagoon of Gods, a lake three kilometres wide and about 180 metres deep, rests 3068 metres above sea-level; the crater of a dormant volcano.

Ecuador is incredible when it comes to this - volcanoes, active, extinct, dormant, surround the cities; their peaks collapse after erupting, creating lagoons similar to the one we admired today; they poor out tonnes of ash, causing towns to be evacuated and roads to be closed (as happened in Baños, which we are going to admire soon); they hide their cones under a layer of glacial ice that those who dare can climb (if it weren't for the discovery that we got tired just hiking from Laguna Quilotoa to Chugchilán, we would be amongst them). I keep telling Bjarni I can't believe that people want to live so close to a volcano that keeps erupting. Here people not only want to live nearby, but they also organise trips for tourists so they too could pay due respect to the volcanoes.

We gave ourselves two hours to admire the lagoon, asking the driver of our camioneta to pick us up afterwards. On the way to Cotacachi, a town famous in this region for its leather goods, it started to rain. The rain pelted us with double force while we - covered with nothing on the back of the car - enjoyed the ride and surrounding landscape. Cotacachi welcomed us with quiet streets and shops full of leather products. Prices? A wallet: 5 USD, a bag: 44 USD, a red (beautiful but unnecessary for now, eh..) jacket: 97 USD. Bjarni ordered a local delicacy for dinner: a guinea pig that was served roasted, still with claws and eyes staring into the unknown. From Cotacachi we went back to Otavalo and here I am, sitting in a secluded pub, relaxing to music coming out of the speakers, watching Bjarni possessed by his passion.

We are leaving Otavalo tomorrow, heading back to Quito again. Somehow we cannot free ourselves of this city. Before the Galapagos Islands - a week, after the Islands - 12 days: Quito must have some incredible charm to keep us for so long. Quieter and cleaner than Mexico City, though situated in a similar setting, with a much cooler climate than I experienced in Havana, Quito is the most European of the places we have visited so far - maybe that is why we feel so at home. This time we are planning to stay for one night only, and then we are going to the Los Cedros reserve. According to the directions we got from the caretakers, a bus is to leave Quito at 6 a.m on Wednesday, taking us to a tiny town North of Quito named Chontal, where us and our luggage are to be picked up by a guide and mules. After some four to five hours hiking we should reach our goal: a moist tropical forest covered by clouds for most of the year. For some four days we plan to be outside civilization, sleeping in a wooden house with a tin roof over our heads. It will be interesting to see how much we let the delights of living in a town spoil us..

Hmm.. But that's a day after tomorrow. Now it is 10 p.m., it is dark outside and Bjarni is putting away his laptop as the pub is closing. Our glasses are empty, it is time to go home.

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The past!