Basecamp was left clean and packed up as we all left on Thursday morning. The ten week session came to an end, giving the staff a couple weeks of break before returning out for another ten week session. Thursday morning we loaded up and headed to Tena for the night. Being one of the last nights we were all together as a group, and the first night we have been out of the jungle in 5 weeks, we all made solid attempts to have a good time. We headed to Quito the next morning, a 6 hour, winding, bus ride. Once in Quito, I checked into the best $5.60 hostel you can find in Quito, Ecuador, Central del Mundo. Sharing a room with Sam and Iggy, we organized our few days together that we had in Quito. We grabbed the 2hr bus to Otavalo on Sunday and made our way to our host family´s house.
We met our host mom, dad, and their three kids- a 2yr old girl, 6 yr old boy, and a 9 yr old boy. The house is an easy 25min walk from the town center, in a residential area of Otavalo. It is a two story house, with each of us getting our own room. Our host mom cooks every meal for us, but if we want to eat out, we just need to let her know not to expect us. We each have one on one Spanish classes starting at 8.30am until 12.30pm Monday to Friday. Other than that, we have the freedom to do what we want and come back to the house when we want. Our Spanish classes usually consist of an hour or two of conversation or work, depending on what you want to improve, and then we will all take little field trips to different areas around Otavalo. We have been through the clothing market, the food market, to a giant cross on the hill side, a local textile maker, a local artist´s gallery/home, and seen demonstration on creating and using local instruments.
We were each given a map containing some local highlights, which ofcourse was mainly restaurants. In addition to eating meals from my host mom everyday, I also eat at a local pie store. They have fresh blackberry, strawberry, apple, lemon meringue, orange meringue, and chocolate pie everyday…and take my word for it- they are sooo absolutely amazing. A warm slice will cost you $1.40, which is beyond worth it. A little bit of satisfaction comes from the pie lady saying ¨See you tomorrow¨ in Spanish everyday when we leave, because its true, we will be going back the next day. There are also a few different hamburger places that we have enjoyed. Iggy has been set on having a hamburger everyday, so definitely enjoy those as well. Little snacks of green mango, toasted corn nuts, or French fries with sausage are also occasionally picked up. Sam has made the goal (unintentionally ofcourse) of buying a musical instrument every other day. Thanks to Iggy and Sam, I have been in more music stores in the past week than the past 4 years. And between the two of them, they could open up a music store and sell all their instruments. 4 harmonicas, 2 flutes, 2 clay hand flute things, a keyboard that you blow into via a tube to make noise, a small guitar, a local ukulele type thing, and two music books- the best thing owned though isn´t a musical instrument. It is the rare find of an album that contains tributes to Michael Jackson, all done on wooden flutes local to the Andes region- one of the most amazingly, amusing things I have heard.
Otavalo is a smallish town located in the Andes mountains. It is in a valley, and doesn´t seem too cold. The days can get pretty hot, especially since the sun is so powerful, but the nights definitely are easier with a sweater and pants. There is a strong presence of the indigenous tribe, Quechua , who are spotted wearing traditional clothing around town. Depending on the morning, sometimes snow covers the nearby volcanoes (there are two- both dormant) and sometimes it’s a little drizzly, but other then that the weather is very dry. It actually reminds me of Alberta, except the surround mountains are nowhere near as rigid and intimidating as the Rockies- but that’s not to say it isn´t still beautiful. Also, Otavalo, like the rest of the area, doesn´t go through season due to such a close proximity to the Equator, so it is weird to think the weather stays like this year round. The town center is grid-like and is based around the Plaza de Ponchos, which is where you can find the Saturday market, daily in a much smaller version, and the Parque de Bolivar.