Ugh, I just typed up a short post, but somehow lost it all in the cut and paste! I was doing it on gmail, instead of word, as it had started out as an email to a friend, and of course I screwed up!
We’re in Quito now. We just booked our trip to the Galapagos Islands for mid-September: which will be one of the big splurges for the trip.
Yesterday was a crazy afternoon, as we ran around trying to make our cards work at various ATMs to get cash for the trip deposit. I lost Joe at the mall (because I walk too fast), and I may have lost some cash because one of the ATMs told me the transaction was invalid, but when I checked my bank account, it said I’d made a withdrawal. Ugh. I hope I can sort it out. The ATM/banking system here is rather finicky, compared to Colombia.
We were in Otavalo and Cotacachi before we arrived in Quito. Otavalo is famous for its Saturday market, full of wool and alpaca sweaters and ponchos and other handicrafts.I bought a grey alpaca sweater (I can’t believe I bought something in a boring color, but it was the only thing in my size, and I will ‘need’ it for the Macchu Picchu trek, since I didn’t bring enough warm clothes.) I also bought a blue alpaca scarf to jazz it up though.
It’s funny that most of the sweaters and jackets sold at Otavalo are such large sizes, because the people here are not that big or fat. We haven’t really seen any obese people on our trip so far.)
Cotacachi is famous for its leather products. The two towns are close by to each other. There’s also waterfalls and lakes around. Most of the people who live here are indigenous Kichwa people, and many of them still dress in their traditional outfits, which is good to see. They also still speak their own language: I’ve figure out that ‘Alii shumashka’ means ‘welcome’ in Kichwa, from several signs I’ve seen.
We went to Lake Cuicocha (the ‘cui’ part of the name is from the two islands in the lake that look like guinea pigs.) It’s a volcanic crater lake. We had planned to hike around the lake, but I was feeling crappy (altitude sickness, mild food poisoning from tap water used instead of drinking water), so we only got 1/3 of the way of the 14 km/4-5 hr hike around the lake. The scenery and views were beautiful, the slopes of the crater are covered in green, including beautiful fuschia-coloured wild miniature orchids, even though the area is actually relatively dry. There’s also agave-type plants.
We couldn’t see Volcan Cuicocha behind the lake, because there were clouds, but apparently it’s snow capped. The water looked dark green instead of blue, as it would have on a clear sunny day. (I felt slightly disappointed in myself, a bit like a loser for not completing the loop. Joe was OK, and probably would have completed the whole thing.
We had time to kill by not doing the full hike, since our ride back to town was at a pre-set time, so we splurged $2.75 on a boat excursion in the lake. This gave us another perspective on the beauty of the lake, from the water level. The short boat ride went around the islands, with a stop at the edge of one of the islands, where you could see bubbles coming up in the water: I guess there’s still geo-thermal activity here.