Tasty Treats, Otavalo and Teleferiqo

Our day to day here is pretty much the same. We go to Spanish class from 8:30 – 10:30 a.m., grab something from the bakery, then head to Lead Adventures to start work. Lunch is usually from 1-2p.m., then back to work until 5:30 or sometimes 6:30 p.m., depending on the day. Then home for dinner, Spanish homework, watch something on the computer, and go to bed. That’s our typical day. It may come as no surprise that we’re exhausted by the weekends, but we also can’t wait to do something fun! I’m eager to tell you about this past weekend, but first, I will mention that last week we ate “cuy” for the first time. Don’t know what that is?…well, it’s our furry friend…. the guinea pig. It’s very common here in Ecuador, and although I consider myself a friend of the North American household pet, I also found it to be delicious!

As a special treat, we set out after our Spanish classes to a town just outside of Quito with three of our fellow Spanish schoolmates and one teacher. When we got off the bus, we walked to this little restaurant and were told by our teacher we could order ‘the friendly beast’ in full, half or quarter parts. I carefully settled on the quarter part and Mike went for the half. The lunch came with potatoes, avocado, and an interesting fruit juice (which I think was Guava). I will let the pictures do the talking, but I will say, it tastes salty and very much like the dark meat of chicken. Myself and one of our schoolmates, Melanie (who is from Kingston, Ontario), had a bit of a hard time eating these little guys, especially since we saw them being roasted on the street, just minutes prior. It was something I’ll likely never order again, but glad I’ve tried it. Plus, the locals think you’re pretty cool for being brave enough to eat it!

El plato de cuy

'Cuy' cooking on street

Friday we headed to ‘Old Town’ with my co-worker, Elizabeth and her sister, Carla. We ate some of the best food and even saw a band playing in the streets…

In front of the Bascillica

Marching band in streets

Figs with vanilla and cheese, empanadas, and a corn/cake-type dish wrapped in banana leaves...and the strongest warm liquor drink I've ever had.

Now onto Saturday’s big day. Mike and I took a taxi to the north bus station in Quito. We were told to buy bus tickets there for Otavalo (a really interesting place about 1.5 hours outside of Quito) and get on the bus. Easy as pie. Well, we bought the tickets, then we saw people going through another area of the terminal and paying 20 cents to go through. We were not told about this. As we stand back for a few minutes watching this and each of us looking at each other and saying “I don’t know what we should do!”, we decide we should try. Luckily, we were correct in passing through this way, as once we got through, we see that the driver for the bus for Otavalo is yelling out “Otavalo”. We quickly go up to the bus, but then we both realize that we have to use the washroom and there are no facilities on the bus. So, we stand by the bus for a while wondering what we should do. Can we wait? I doubt it. Ok, in our broken Spanish, we tell the guy we’ll be right back… hopefully they don’t leave without us. We find the ‘banos’ (bathrooms) and realize there is a 15 cent fee. When you pay, they give you the toilet paper. A new experience for us. Luckily the bus doesn’t leave without us and we end up waiting in the terminal for another 30 minutes. Then the bus starts to move and we’re on our way.

After a breath-taking view on the way to Otavalo through the mountains, we arrive at the bus terminal. We get off the bus…..now what? Where do we go and in what direction? No one helped us with that part. I start to panic, but Mike keeps his cool and we just start walking…barren streets….but isn’t this supposed to be one of the largest markets in Ecuador!? As we walk a couple blocks, we finally see tents down one of the streets….phew, we found the market!

One man band in the market

Fruit, vegetables, knick-nacks, sweaters, jewelry, etc. line the streets of this small town every Saturday. It’s amazing, really. We work on our Spanish as we ask how much things are, state ‘we’re just looking’, and ask about trying things on. Bargaining is interesting – and it’s very common here. We don’t bother fighting too much about the price, since Ecuador has such a large population living under the poverty line. It’s quite eye-opening. I’d rather pay more for something that has been hand-crafted and sold in the markets by those who’ve made it themselves – give back to the community in a way, I suppose. The whole experience really makes me grateful for what we have back in Canada.

Lunch in Otavalo...$7 USD

What next? Well, we found a travel agency place in Otavalo in the late afternoon to see if we could find something to explore in the area before we headed back to the big city of Quito. Luckily, a beautiful park and waterfall was only 10 minutes away. Here are some photos of that exquisite place…(they really don’t do it justice, but I have to include some photos anyways!) It was an amazing day in Otavalo. I didn’t want to leave the countryside.

With Indiana Jones at the waterfall

Getting soaked at the waterfall

Along the trail to the waterfall

On Sunday, it was actually fairly clear in Quito (no clouds in the mountains), so we decided it was the best day for the Teleferiqo. This is a cable car that takes you up to 4100m above sea level. The view is breath-taking…and so is the small climb once we were up there! It’s amazing what the altitude does to a couple from the Canadian prairies! It makes us feel so out of shape. It was all worth it though – just for the fresh air and ‘la vista muy bonita’.

Going on up...

 

Made it.

Can’t wait for more adventures this weekend…we are going to Cotopaxi area to check out a volunteer program with my work. Practising Spanish, taking video footage, cultivating fields, preparing meals, and watching some traditional dancing is on the agenda.

Stay tuned,

Shawna