*Written 2010-07-04; posted by WIFI 2010-07-07*
The good: My neck, which last night was completely paralyzed and left me lying on my stomach and propping up my chin and forehead for most of the night because I couldn’t move my neck or put any pressure on it, is now mobile. It is incredibly stiff and still hurts, but I no longer have a pinched nerve or whatever was paralyzing it.
The bad: Now the rest of me hurts. My stomach is unhappy, my head is complaining, and my body in general is achy, in addition to the stiff neck. It reminds me of a scare we had in high school where a classmate died of a disease whose main symptoms were flu-like symptoms along with really stiff muscles…
Nonetheless, we’ve had a full day. We met our guide, Paul, after breakfast this morning (both of us were late; we left around 9:30) and drove into the main town of Otavalo (our Hacienda is in the outskirts). There, Paul led us through the produce market where the local farmers sell their goods as well as other packaged products, and showed us all types of different foods that are not normally available in the U.S.; Ted was amazed by the large selection. We tried an aloe drink that is supposed to help stomach ulcers, but it made me feel sick when my last gulp was all the goop at the bottom. I learned that bananas naturally grow connected in an arc, rather than in a blob; Paul said that they appear in a blob in the U.S. because they are cut down before they are ripe and stacked, and since they are still forming they heal themselves together. I can’t quite picture this happening with a bunch of bananas thrown in a pile, and I can’t picture someone painstakingly stacking them all up tip to tip, but it was interesting nonetheless.
Next, we drove to the textile market, where the local indigenous population sells items such as scarves, blankets, clothing, rugs, jewelry, hammocks, dolls, etc. A big selling point for many items is that they are made of Alpaca fur, which is quite soft. We learned that many of the vendors sold the same items, which meant they were not actually the ones making them. Paul said that some of them were made in Peru and imported, while some of the items made here were exported for sale in Peru. He said Otavalo has one of the most prosperous indigenous communities in South America due to the popularity of its market.
The main community in Otavalo is a subset of the Quichoa tribe. In Otavalo, they are identifiable by the women’s clothing: generally a black skirt, white blouse, and black shawl across one shoulder. Typical men’s clothing is white trousers and a white shirt, but it is not as commonly seen. In addition, everyone wears their hair long, and often in braids. I’ve also discovered that they are quite short–none of them are taller than I. In the next town over, they wear much more colorful attire; it is regional.
We bought some scarves, earrings, knife, and hammocks, practicing our Spanish bargaining skills; then we drove up to the Reserva Ecologica Cotacachi Cayapas, which has a large water-flled crater left over from a volcanic eruption. We learned that Ecuador has 55 volcanoes, 28 of which are currently active (the rest of which are “potentially active”, rather than “inactive” or “dormant”), and that most of the provinces in the country are named after their main volcano–we are currently in the province Imbabara, and are near the Imbabara volcano.
We got lunch at the restaurant on the Reserve, trying some Naranjilla and Tamarin juices as well as some trout, and then went for a short hike to a high point on the edge of the crater. Unfortunately, we discovered that mosquitoes live here, even though we’re 8-9000 feet above sea level. Paul said that just a few years ago, there were no mosquitoes, but that the average temperature had risen just enough since then that mosquitoes now find it habitable. We also saw a rare bird and some new flowers, in addition to the large lake itself which has 3 hills rising out of the middle of it.
On the way back from the crater lake, we stopped at what Paul called “leathertown”–we never learned its actual name. Apparently selling leather products was profitable for some people there, and the whole town took up the business, so there are 3 full blocks lined with small shops selling leather products. Ted looked at a few belts and we figured out his belt size, but we didn’t buy anything.
I wanted to take some good pictures of the lifestyles of the community here, but I’m not sure how to do so without seeming rude–you don’t just point a camera at somebody because they have a different lifestyle than you…
When we got back to the lodge, we found some peacocks wandering the grounds, and the female began pecking at Ted while he took its picture. Then we discovered the power had gone out for the whole hacienda, so we lit some candles and took a nap. We also found our clean laundry on the bed that we’d given to be washed yesterday. Later we found our way to dinner, during which the power came back on, yay. During dinner, it was just us and one other American couple (from Atlanta, Georgia) in the restaurant. Apparently this is not peak tourist season.
I tried to wind down the night with a nice hot shower to soothe my achy body and unhappy head; I was really looking forward to it since we haven’t had a hot shower since our first night in Quito. Unfortunately, the nice hot shower turned icy right as I was about to rinse off… so I froze.
And now, I’m going to put my sick self to bed.