In case anybody cares, the photo attached is not of either a} a bus queue or b} anythimg in Ecuador. It is a picture of statues on Easter Island. We are a bit cautious about loading pictures from our camera onto computers which are used by lots of folk and there are very few library pictures of Ecuador so this is what you get.
We are now on the last day of 4 days we have spent in Otavalo. I will write about that in a moment but will first correct Elinor's last blog ( It's so hard to get good help around here) Elinor said that we walked up 1000 ft to 4800 ft and we were affected by the altitude. 4800 ft does not sound like such a big deal.... What she meant was that we walked up 1000 ft from 4500 metres to 4800 metres.( over 16000 ft altitude) It took about an hour to do the 1.5 km walk, sometimes we were stopping every 15 to 20 steps to get our breath Its the highest I have ever been except in an aircraft. We almost reached the beginning of the glacier. We were exceptionally lucky to have the peak of the volcano (5800 metres) in full view when we started.
We got a taste of just how quickly weather can change there when cloud started rolling in from below us, the speed at which it changes from full sunny visibility to totally fogged in is a little bit scary, but fortunately we were on our way back down by then.
As Elinor mentioned, the next day we headed off to travel on the Quilotoa loop, although we did not go all the way around the loop. We were still travelling at high altitude in a landscape called the Paramo. It is largely treeless and looks somewhat similar to some of the British Moorlands.
The people who live in some of the more remote areas we saw live in homes with high pitched roofs made of a combination of straw, animal droppings and animal blood, the roofs reach down almost to the ground and the interior is dug down into the ground so there are virtually no walls. the floors are dirt, there are no chimneys and the smoke from the fires slowly filter through the thatch roofs ( so we were told). No electricity, no running water or other "mod cons", quite an existence.
The highlight of the day was a stop at Quilotoa crater. the extinct volcano crater contains a beautiful emerald green gem of a lake set about 300 metres below the rim. We hiked down to the lake ( I've written home and booked my knee replacement operations) but we had paid ahead to take a mule ride back out ($5 for a mule with just a blanket on its back , $8 for one with a saddle) We had ones with saddles!
It was the lessor of 2 evils. Walking back out would have been murder as the path was steep and narrow with long drop offs to the side and we were still over 4000 metres altitude, but the idea of trusting your life to a mule with 4 small metal shod hooves and one teeny tiny brain was also a bit unsettling along with very uncomfortable. We did make it however ( I then wrote home again to book my back surgery at the same time as the knee surgery, what the heck why waste the anaesthetic)
My poor index fingers (the only two I use to type) are now worn down to the length of my thumbs so I am going to let Elinor take over to do the further update for the time we have spent in Otavalo.
New Year's Eve was a bit of a non event in Otavalo / it consisted mostly of people walking along the main downtown streets, LOTS of drinking and people dressed up in costumes ( mostly men as women) and dancing in front of cars to stop them until the drivers gave money to the dancers. The next morning we went to a waterfall ( very pretty) then walked to another town / there were lots and lots of very drunk men, some still drinking! We went to see the workshop of a famous weaver, some very beautiful work.
One of the main things here is the market / we got up early to go to the animal market which was really interesting! Squealing piglets, mooing calves, hige bulls,crowing fighting c*** , guinea pigs, rabbits, doves, kittens and puppies all for sale. The people all wear their national clothing and the women have different headwear depending on where their town is. I was thrilled to be taller than people, even men!!
After that we came back to the hotel for breakfast then walked to the handicraft market which had unexpectedly few tourists. We had met 2 really nice women from Vermont so I, Elinor, wandered the market with them while Malcolm had a haircut then skived off back to the hotel to watch hummingbirds in the garden.
Today we are taking the bus back to Quito ( $2.50 for a 2 hour trip) and tomorrow are off to the jungle. The weather here has been beautiful , sunny clear blue skies every day. Apparently the temperature here in Otavalo varies from 19C to 29C year round.
more later, assuming we survive the Amazon........
love, Malcolm and Elinor