Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Left My Heart in Otavalo

Leaving Otavalo was an emotional experience. In the few days we have been here, I have come to love it. There is so much positive life energy. Speaking with a couple of Americans who are living here, it is not just Christmas time, this is the norm. This could be an alternative place to live if the correct opportunities surfaced.

We took our last walk around town and low and behold the central square had transformed yet again. Over by where the dance performances were held the night before last, the bleachers were now gone and the Ecuadorian version of Jack Lalanne was doing a public class in aerobic exercise with a vast following of the public matching his every move in tandem. Just watching them exercise non-stop for over a half hour made me tired, but they did not end it there. They continued on as we moseyed on over to The Daily Grind for a coffee.

There we met an American from NYC who supposed has a non-profit foundation to build schools and then turn them over to the community. She was believable at first, but as her story became increasing aggrandizing while at the same time contradictory to what more than one Ecuadorian has shared with us, I started to be skeptical. After 30 minutes of listening, I asked her if she know of the US State department resources that could be tapped into. She knew nothing about them, which I found strange for someone running a foundation for over 10 years.

Checking out of the hotel brought a small surprise. Although we had paid for the room ahead of time in full, breakfast was not included as we had read in Frommer’s nor as it turned out was it $3.60 a day per person as our reservation showed. It was $4.40 per person each morning, depleting our cash reserve by $35.20.  

Grabbing a taxi from the street is extraordinarily easy. The young man took us right to the bus that was leaving for Quito for only $2. Being the first to arrive, we had our pick of seats; hence the very front offered the most leg room. These buses like most in Central and South America stop anywhere along the street where some flags them or someone alerts them of the need to get off. Every bus has a person, usually, but not always a young man who hangs out the open door yelling the route along the way as the bus approaches any single or group of persons on the roadside, giving them time to hail the bus if this is their destination. Although the roads are well maintained, there are still some bumps, so my heart was in my mouth expecting this man to go flying through the door at any time.

From the Quito bus station to our hotel, which was farther away than our last hotel here, the cab ride only cost us $10.00 whereas going it was $15 and to the wrong bus station at that. We were so pleased with the rate as the poor driver kept his patience as we were stuck in traffic for over a half hour at times, less at other times, but it was repeatedly. It kept me thinking I was so delighted that taxis are not metered or the bill would have been over the roof.

Our current hotel is right in the old city. What we failed to remember having used the Hop-on Hop-off bus the last time is that Quito has a tremendous amount of steep hills. I mean to say that Quito makes San Francisco look like the Hungarian Plains. There is one staircase that has about 500 steps from bottom to top with nothing in between where to rest, other than one of the steps. Strangely, even with Quito and Otavalo being the same altitude presumably, we were smacked with low energy within an hour of walking upon our return. There is an entirely new adjustment period needed.

With all of the stores open, the streets are jam packed with pedestrians and cars. We assume people are getting their holiday shopping out of the way, in spite of this being Sunday. This is one of the few times you can visit churches, because they are open for masses. There is a Catholic church about every three blocks in the Old Town area. If you have ever heard of or experienced snow blindness, in these churches imagine gold blindness. In all of the churches I have been in in over 56 countries, I have never seen anything like this before, EVER! Every single inch or centimeter, depending on your choice, is covered with something and that something is either gold or framed in gold. Each time I go into one of these churches, I think King Midas was let loose here after being on souped up amphetamines. There is an unreal feeling to them. I would never be able to concentrate on the service without my eyes roaming all over the walls and ceiling.

In this neck of the woods, we have yet to be able to find a decent place to eat where I can accommodate my eating plan without breaking the bank. Tomorrow being Christmas Eve will be another challenge.

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