Day 7 - Fri May 25, 2007 – Lasso to Otavalo – Bob: 133, Kathy: 151

Today was another adventure, of course. We needed to get to Otavalo (pronounced Oh-Tah-Vol-Oh) where we had hotel reservations at a hotel called Hotel Ali Shungu. After a simple breakfast of fruit, bacon, juice and coffee (we're getting tired of eggs) we walked around and took some photos.

Then we went back to the unmarked room eleven. I tried the door and it was open, so I slipped inside. The room was obviously not being used and it seemed to be partially under construction. I didn't sense any ghost though. I took a couple photos anyway, just in case a ghost would show up in it.

We went to the lobby where we met another couple from Holland.

This second couple from Holland was also checking out of the hotel, and they were also heading on the bus toward Quito. So we decided to share a taxi ride, which turned out to be the bed of a flatbed truck.

We paid our hotel bill and went outside. After taking some photos,

we were getting into the flatbed truck when the hotel people came running after us. They informed us that we had forgotten to pay for yesterday’s tour of the volcano. Oops. So Kathy went back inside and paid the forgotten bill.

We rode the taxi back into Lasso where we got out and waited for the bus to Quito. It was now 8:30am. The bus was marked “Quito” and paying was straightforward. We knew the difficult part was transferring buses in Quito to get to Otavalo. We read on the Internet that the bus station can be dangerous and we should be careful with our bags.

We rode on the bus for a couple hours and it stopped many times to pick up passengers and occasionally a vendor selling water, soda pop, fried bananas or even tooth brushes, as it got closer to Quito. Finally it stopped on a nondescript corner of the city and the guy told us—in Spanish—here is where you catch the bus to Otavalo. It didn't look anything like the big bus terminal I was expecting. I thought it would be like Grand Central Station or the Transit Authority in New York City, but it was just a street corner.

Confused, we shuffled off the bus, retrieved our two suitcases from the belly of the bus, and looked around as the bus pulled away. The only problem was, both Kathy and I had to pee. So we rolled our bags across the street and up the hill and yanked them up a small flight of stairs until we got to a bus parking lot. Nearby was a bigger building. We found the bathrooms in a much smaller building nearby. We paid a nominal fee, used the facilities and headed back toward the street corner where the man had said to wait for the bus to Otavalo.

Walking back to the street corner, we noticed a bus that said “Otavalo” on the front. We asked them if they were going to Otavalo and they said yes. er, Si. So we got on the bus and were surprised to find we were the first passengers. There were four other people on the bus: the driver, the driver's girlfriend, the luggage handler, and a guy whose job was to hang out of the bus and try to entice passengers by saying, “Otavalo, Otavalo, Otavalo.” He slurred his words, so it came out as one word: “Otavalotavalotavalo!”

After a long time, the bus started up and we headed down the hill. We turned a corner and went down into a “gate” or parking space labeled “6”. Eventually, a few other passengers got on the bus, but it was still mostly empty. Now we understood: we could have gone into the bus terminal, purchased a ticket, and they would have sent us to gate 6. Instead, we circumvented the process by getting on the bus in the passenger drop-off area.

A girl approached the bus and asked us if we wanted to buy flowers. I asked how much money. She said that a bundle cost seven dollars. Well, I bought them and gave them to Kathy, whose eyes lit up. She had the biggest smile on her face I've ever seen. She loved them.

About ten minutes later, the bus started up and pulled away again. He squeezed past lots of other buses, did a big loop around the terminal and eventually ended up at the same street corner where we were told to wait initially.

The bus proceeded very slowly through town, trying to collect more passengers, and that's why it took so much longer than a taxi would have.

At one point, a group of four mean-looking men boarded the bus. The bus driver used his eyes to tell us to be careful of them; they were probably banditos.

The hours clicked by and the bus slowly filled up with passengers until every seat was taken, then they took our money: another two dollars per person.

From there, it was a very long, boring ride to Otavalo, with very annoying, extremely repetitive music drilling into our brains at an excessive volume level. We arrived at the Otavalo bus station around 2:30, a nearly six hour ride.

The book warned us that the Otavalo bus station might not be very safe, so we shuffled into a taxi and asked him to drive us to our hotel.

After checking into a wonderful room, Kathy practically pulled me out the door, ready to start her day of sightseeing. She barely even give me time to take one photo of the hotel before she wanted to go.

Six hours lost and nothing to show for it! It's time to redeem the day! Reluctantly, I followed her out and we decided to visit the nearby “Parque Condor” which was a bird zoo that had a bunch of different birds,

The best was a pair of rare Condors.

We had the hotel call us a taxi and he drove us to the park. It was up an enormous steep hill and we were very grateful we didn't try to walk there.

When the taxi dropped us off, we asked him to return in one hour. The park was small, so we were done in a half-hour.

We decided to start walking down the road to take more photos of the surrounding area

and a “Holy” lone tree called “El Lechero”.

Before long, our taxi came driving up the road and picked us up. This time we asked him to take us to the Peguche Waterfalls, which he gladly did.

Our Ecuador book warned that there could be pickpockets and muggers at the park, so I was particularly paranoid about the whole thing. I was looking over my shoulder uncomfortably. Soon, my fears gave way to a sense of wonder. This was an absolutely wonderful forest with tall trees and fresh air.

Lots of school children were visiting the park. We hiked down the paths, took a lot of photos of the waterfalls.

Then we decided to walk back to the hotel. The hotel had given us directions on how to walk from the hotel to the waterfalls, so we followed those directions in reverse to get back. The instructions said “A pleasant hour or so walk”. We followed the path down the hill, down the road, and down the railroad tracks where we saw grazing livestock

and a very beautiful stream.

We were exhausted by the time we got back.

At the hotel, we met a woman traveling alone named Rosie. We chatted with her for a while, then invited her to join us for dinner. Our book said that our hotel had the best restaurant in town, so we decided to stay and eat there. There were several other couples in the restaurant so the management arranged a small four-piece band to come and play live Andean music. It was fun.

Tomorrow we're getting up early to see the famous Otavalo markets. Kathy mentioned something about 6:00am. Ugh. It's now 10:19pm and I'm tired, so I'll quit writing here and go to bed.