Week 2 – Quito, Ecuador
Thank you for your lovely comments about last week’s post, they were really nice to hear and read.
Today we woke up at around 5:30am. We wanted to have an early start in order to make the most of Otavalo, our weekend destination. We’d read up about how to get there the night before, and realised we would have to face public transport for the first time.
Ecuador has a really good system of buses and trams, and they’re super cheap. We paid 25 cents for a tram ticket to take us to the North Terminal. However once we arrived we realised our mistake…. it turns out that the TRAM ‘terminal norte’ and the BUS ‘terminal norte’ aren’t the same place! We attempted to ask for help in Spanish, got confused about which bus to take to correct our error, and ended up taking a taxi to the bus terminal. It wasn’t too far and taxis here are quite cheap too so it wasn’t too bad in the end!
We boarded a bus bound for Otavalo (also cheap – $2.50 for a 2 hour bus journey!). We’d been warned to keep an eye on our bags, so we sat with them on our knees, but the journey was very uneventful. It was quite a winding road through the mountains, so we got to enjoy some stunning views on the way.
Otavalo is a town to the north of Quito that is famous for the enduring culture of its indigenous population, and its huge artisan market. When we arrived we were struck by how many people were walking around in the Otavalan ‘traditional dress’ – the women wore black skirts, and white blouse with flowers embroidered on them. They looked very different to the people in Quito in jeans and t-shirts!
Having dropped off our bags at our hostel, we wandered back into the centre of Otavalo. The market was running down almost every street. The first stalls we came across were ‘standard’ market stalls selling everyday clothes and cleaning products, but we quickly got to the touristy bit. It was so colourful! Everywhere we looked there were people selling scarves, dream-catchers, bracelets, paintings, wooden crafts and brightly coloured clothes. It was almost a bit overwhelming because it was so big. We enjoyed looking, and we bought ourselves a pair of bracelets. I think it would be cool if we bought one in each country we went to and built up a collection.
In the afternoon, we caught a taxi to a waterfall that we had read about called Peguche. Apparently it is a spiritual site for the indigenous people. It was set in an area of protected parkland. Having been in the centre of Quito for a whole week, it was quite nice to get out into the countryside. We walked between really tall trees and then followed a trail to a beautiful view over the waterfall.
Unfortunately I think that our dinner last night must have been under-cooked, because we felt quite unwell overnight! So instead of walking round Cuicocha lake like we planned today, we caught an early bus back to Quito instead and spent the rest of the day recuperating!
13th -16th November
On Monday and Tuesday Ben was still recuperating, so I went to the Spanish school on my own. This week our teacher is called Adriana. Once she found out I was a doctor she asked me a lot of questions about various illnesses that affected different members of her family, and I had to try to answer in Spanish. Discussing the merits of chemotherapy in another language is not easy.. I think in the future I’ll pretend I have a different job!
We also started level 2 of our Spanish course. One of the things we’ve found difficult is learning the verbs where they have two verbs that mean the same thing in English, but different things in Spanish. For example “to be” can be “ser” and “estar”. “Ser” is used for professions, permanent characteristics, the time, a material that something is made of, whereas “estar” is used for places, emotions and actions. In English we’d say “I am a doctor” and “I am happy”, but you have to use different words in Spanish! (soy doctora, estoy feliz). It’s a bit confusing!
Our weekly cooking lesson introduced us to a very strange but tasty meal called “cevichochos”. It’s a ‘build your own’ dish made up of multiple layers; ours included tomato, popcorn, tuna, plantain chips, toasted corn, coriander and onions. It sounds so odd but it was actually really nice, once you got past the idea of eating tuna and popcorn together!
Today we finished our classes at 12:30 and went for lunch at the restaurant that we now call our ‘local’, that’s just down the street from our apartment. The man who runs it is really friendly and every time we see him we have a brief chat in Spanish. I think he likes us because each time we eat there we say “¡la comida fue muy bueno!” (the food was very good!).
In the afternoon we wandered back through the Plaza Grande, and decided to stop for a drink and a bit of people watching. So many people seem to go to the Plaza just to sit, or talk with their friends, or read the newspaper.
Right on the Plaza is the “Catedral de Quito”. It’s a big old church with a museum attached to it. The church itself was less grand than some of the others in Quito, but while we were wandering through there was a choir practicing, which made it feel quite special. My favourite bit was some sort of monument in one of the side-chapels that was covered in cherub faces. One of their slightly stranger decorative choices I think!
The final thing to say for this week is that our interesting fruits for this week were tiny mangoes, and yellow dragonfruit. They were really tasty!