Monday, May 07, 2007

Okay, Now It Really Begins

8 days late.

But before we get to the daily grind of bus rides, hotel rooms, etc., let´s cut to the chase.

Almost without exception, so far just about every square centimeter of Ecuador is gorgeous deep green drop dead beautiful, with endless steep mountainsides divided into little plots of land and houses, a climate that is always 70 degrees in the day and 50 degrees at night, with clouds and drizzle endlessly alternating with blue sky. People are almost always quiet and polite, and many times the rural ones are dressed up in their colorful peasant indigenous costumes. You can get a half decent house with land where other expats are hanging around for about $40,000.

Not to mention that you can actually live quite comfortably on your Social Security check.

More on that later.

In the meantime, let´s start the grind.

So we arrived in Quito at 11 pm on Wednesday, and effortlessly got a cab into town at non ripoff prices.

And the first thing you always notice when you start world traveling, especially in the Third World, is how there usually aren´t any donkey carts on the streets. No, what you see is pretty much like back home - buildings, roads, vehicles - and really (especially in the capital city) they´re not all that much shabbier. The reality, of course, is that everybody else is the world is doing exactly what you´re doing--trying to earn a living, watching tv, worrying about their screwed up family. There is no Alternative Travel Universe where people just exist to be charming backdrops to your escapist fantasies.

On the other hand, as in learning a foreign language, it always is expansive to realize that, even though the processes are the same, still the ways that said processes are expressed can be totally different. You know, instead of watching American Idol they´re watching Ecuadorian Pop Star...

So we end up in Old Town Quito, snag the last room in the hotel, and wake up the next morning to... Old Town Quito. Hmmm. Not as old and colonial as I remembered from 25 years ago. So once we´re up and about we walk around Old Town, then keep walking about a mile and a half further to New Town Quito. Hmmm again. Not as new and exciting as it had seemed way back then.

In fact, after a day of walking around Quito, including the big park, the new museum, the... Well, although it had gotten too cloudy in the afternoon to take the cable car up the mountainside, the cumulative effect of Quito on Day One was kind of underwhelming.

Which made us decide to skip Day Two of Quito and go straight to the world famous crafts market in Otavalo, a 2 and a half hour bus ride north. Now Saturday is the Big Day, but we figured that therefore Friday would be uncrowded and the vendors would be ready to deal.

The ride to Otavalo was mostly over a wooded mountain, so it wasn´t all that exciting. And the world famous crafts market was... Well, let´s just say that, by definition, they´re not making any new traditional crafts. And that by around 1970 hippies had already found all the interesting traditional crafts there are in the world. So that in the one square block little plaza where all the little plastic awninged ´stalls´ were there wasn´t anything that I hadn´t seen and bought before.

But we were determined to buy noentheless. So within a couple of hours we had purchased a blanket, a poncho, an alpaca sweater, and a cape. Not to mention a giant woolen bag to put all the rest of the stuff in. At about $14 each. And I must admit that most of the vendors were pretty friendly and virtually all the women (at least) were nice enough to show up in their colorful costumes.

By now it was about 3 in the afternoon, and, there still being time, we then hired a cab to drive us about an hour through the countryside and up a mountain to where there was a famous lake within a volcano. We oohed and aahed, and then had him drive us back to the bus station. Cost was $15.

Then it was back to Quito and back to our hotel (which actually was pretty nice and quaint). Then a taxi to New Town and a Pizza Hut (making it Pizza Huts on 5 continents for both Maureen and me), then back to Old Town and sleep.


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