After spending the day in Quito, we arrived in the northern city of Otavalo last night and did a good deal of spending today … but I’m ahead of myself….
Quito is a city.. there are taxis and rapid transit systems, one way streets and central squares, large parks and planted trees, thugs, friendly residents, and hills to walk up and down. They have skies that cover with clouds and rain that comes down.. and then rain that really comes down, blue skies, tall buildings, colorful buildings, mountains that stretch into heaven and houses built upon them. There are poor children and poor families, rich drivers and rude spenders, there are loads of tourists, English speaking waiters and English menus, drunk fellas talking about Castro and a strange addiction to Che Guevara. Most importantly there were two very handsome fellas that arrived and walked around with no purpose for several days.
Jon and I, having spent the majority of our time in small towns in Ecuador, are not quite sure what to do with ourselves in a genuine bonafeid city. Unfortunately we quickly resorted to US tactics.. spend money.. at least tried to. We searched for guitars to buy, we both got shaves from the local barber, we looked at buying street art, toured about the old town, taking pictures with Jon´s camera.. as the whereabouts of mine are still unknown, and finally we did it.. we went to the casino(s). We went to 5 separate ones. We gave them our money.. but damn it.. they just gave it back over and over again along with drinks and food. For every meal we went into the casino, threw down our dollars and promptly ordered a beer (then scotch) and a ham and cheese sandwich while they stacked the chips in front of us. Needless to say, we weren´t being very adventurous in Quito.
Our third night in Quito we were able to get a hold of a friend of Andrew´s from Oregon´s School of Architecture, a girl by the name of Gabbi. She´s a native Ecuadorian and lives in Quito. She got a good portion of her education in architecture from Oregon, but her degree from a school here in Ecuador so that she could immediately start her practice. Fortunately she was well educated in Oregon about beer and made sure we ended up someplace that served good beer – by no means on par with the micro-brews of Oregon or Colorado, but better than the national brand, Pilsener. She kept good company too and it was neat to see how much she loves her job and her country. She told us that she made more money as a truck driver (yeah, she was doin´ long hauls) in America than she does as an Architect down here. It was the best way I could think to practice my Spanish, speaking English with a Spanish speaker.. right??
The following morning, after a quick review of our time line, Jon and I made the decision to trek up to Otavalo to see the market (which is simply a larger scale of what we´ve seen in Cuenca, Ambato, and Quito.) the next day and then out to the coast in our final week here.
Otavalo is a small city that serves as the hub of commerce for the area of weavers. There are large markets every day here where they sell their crafts and Wednesday and Saturdays are even larger. Given this is where we´ve done most of our spending I thought I´d give a quick run down of the scale of costs, including some spending in Quito…
Hour of Internet Time: $0.60
Taxi Ride to Casino: $2.00
Scotch, Sandwiches, and Meat Balls on a toothpick while we gamble: $0.00
Walk home counting our winnings: $0.00
One pound of laundry service to get the casino smell out: $0.26
Bus Ride to Otavalo: $2.00
Nights Stay at Residential Santa Fe: $8.00
Sweater in Otavalo: $5.00
Hammock in Otavalo: $9.00
Cost to ship the hammock(s) home: $?.??
Almurezo: $1.00
Propositioned in the park… in Quito.. on Sunday: ….
(Jon tells this story)
The day was sunny, but the breeze kept the intense warmth of the Ecuadorian hotness under control. The sharks were out. Strolling along a walkway in the park, we browse the various local arts & crafts for sale… the shark eyes her prey.While admiring some graffiti on a statue, John is approached by a strange and wayfaring woman. The following is a translation of their Spanish conversation:

Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Do you speak Spanish?”
>John: “A little.” (A slight overestimate… poor guy.)
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Good. If I have something valuable to you, could I trade it for something from you?”
>John: “What?”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “I have something very special for you.”
** At this point, I take a few steps backwards and whip out my Pentax and start shooting, because I know this is going to be good. **
>John: “What do you have?”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Something very valuable to you.”
>John: “What do you have?”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “I have something you want, and you can give me something for it.”
>John: “I don´t understand.”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Do you want what I have for you?”
>John: “I really don´t understand.”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “I have something for you which is very valuable. Do you want it?”
>John: “Jon, what is this she talking about?”
>>Jon: “Prosssstitution!”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Yes.”
>John: “Oh… no thanks. I don´t, uh, I don´t need that. No thanks. Are you really a prostitute?”
Strange Wayfaring Woman: “Yes.”

Poor guy…

… priceless
I got a hold of a Miami Newspaper yesterday and saw that we haven’t attacked Iran yet.. if we do, will someone let me know. :) Home Soon Enough.. time for a milkshake.

To Quito with a companion

An Ausse WWOOFer that we had breifly met in Vilcabamba, Beq is doing an around the world trip that makes me just a little jellous, while at the same time thankful that I get to go home in two weeks. While in Cuenca Jon and I had hailed a cab in front of a café window she was sitting at. What dumb luck. Since then we´ve been traveling together. It´s nice to have change I suppose… it makes playing guessing games, like ´´infinite questions,´´ more fun.

Cuenca to Chordeleg hoping to find a guitar to buy. Walked the block, Went to an artisans shop, Was tempted to buy a Wooden chest then a leather bag, We bought finger puppets instead. Bus rides held the most entertainment for the day….

Cuenca to San Bartolome hoping to find a guitar to buy. Off the bus. Asked where to go. Back on the bus. Dropped off at a genuine guitar shop. Wood chips on the ground. Jon discusses custom jobs. We walk to the next shop. Just down the road – half an hour. Second shop has little more to offer than two guitars and a trail back to the road via their corn field. Guitar shop next to the bus ´stop´ … I like the way they plastered their adobe and fashioned thier door jam, guitar was not worth the time. The bus took us back to Cuenca in time to eat pizza and drink wine with Beq. It was our third night eating Oreos and bagged milk before bed. This time we enjoyed dessert and in the park – Beq accepted our invitation.

From Cuenca up to Ambato. In Ambato we ducked into an Ecuadorian Casino to do some light research and found A) Slot machine use doesn´t entitle you to free drinks, B) small spenders don´t get Johnny Walker for free, C) it´s possible to both win and loose in Ecuador just like in Vegas. After we had done a sufficient amount of research and the casino refused to serve any more drinks we headed back to the hostel for the night, woke up in the morning and caught the bus to Baños.

In Baños at the foot of the Volcano Tunguara. It´s raining. The first day was beautiful with the valley clear and the clouds hovering at the tops of the mountains about us. Waterfalls cascaded down shear cliffs and green gripped at the slopes. You could feel the ambient hope of every plant that their particular slope wouldn´t fail this day. I was able to hike up the hill in an attempt to get a glimpse of the great Vulcan across the valley. I found a nice little structure on the side of the hill with a bench and a beautiful view of the city of Baños. The clouds still hung about the tops of the mountain across the way. I sat and read in hope that the clouds with wisp away with the afternoon. And they did. The clouds, as if distracted by a more tempting mountain top, snaked up and out of the valley, revealing one low hilltop. I paused from my reading, eager to see the spouting lava mouth. To my dismay the clouds, uneasy with their absence, quickly spilled back into the valley making an evening view improbable. So I finished up my book and walked back down the hill to the hostel. In passing a map of the area on my way up to the room I discovered that a little research would have saved myself some disappointment. The volcano was above me, not across, I was on the North slope of Vulcan Tunguara. Alas, it was dark then and the next day the clouds came in and the rain came down. The only volcano view was looking over our shoulder as the bus rolled back to Ambato on it´s way to Quito.

… Arrived in Quito, dropped our gear, and found an Internet café.

– Home in two weeks.