Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Biggest Market, the Center of the World, and My Last Week in S.A!!

After my brother left, I spent a few days hanging out in Quito. I had a decent hostal right near a bunch of old churches, and although I was a little lonely, it was fun to see more of Quito. The more I saw of the city, the more I liked it, especially in the older part. I also indulged in seeing a chick flick at the theaters, another pleasure denied while ushering around one's older brother.
A few days of hanging out, and I headed to Otavolo, known for having one of the biggest handicrafts markets, and markets in general, in all of South America. I got there on Friday, after a slight mishap on the bus. On the way to the bus station, we witnessed a huge fight--five guys against one, and pretty violent--so I insisted my cab driver call an ambulance or something. He didn't seem very concerned or anxious to do so, but hey, I can nag well, even in Spanish! After this he dumps me at the foot of a bus about to drive off, and they literally throw me on. At least I was on....right? Until I almost missed Otavolo thanks to passing out on the shoulder of a random old man (one easy way to make friends) but luckily, he was a kind gentlemen and woke me up, and they let me off on the Panamerican. I somehow got into town, by way of bus and cart and taxi, and found a cheap room in a nice hostal--and the room was cheap for good reason, although it had hot water and a TV with a bunch of Spanish channels, it was absolutely tiny! Hardly any room to manuever around the bed. At least the view was gorgeous, with a balcony right outside my window!
The next morning I got up bright and early for a visit to the small animal market, full of guinea pigs and bunnies and chicks and puppies, generally crammed tightly together in crates. I hit the produce market next and viewed mind-boggling arrays and amounts of fruit and vegetables, followed by face-numbing stink from the dead flesh displays. From there, it was handicrafts time, a.k.a. finally time to shop! I'd been waiting weeks to stock up on souvenirs for me and my friends and family, and had quite a good time haggling and exploring in the boiling sun (pretty sure my shoulders are still peeling!)
After many hours of this adventure, I stopped in a famous little pie shop for a nice slice of some sort of fruit pie and a tuna-y sandwich, tuna-y as it did not taste like any tuna I had ever eaten. There I chatted with two older fellows from South Africa, and we had a good interesting chat, and even exchanged emails. They had many horror stories of their trip so far, making me feel lucky that the worst things to happen to me were generally amusing anecdotes for the folks back home--besides the demise of my dear camera.
My last day in Otavolo I spent sick in bed, and departed the next day, headed back to Quito. My last days in Quito I spent enjoying Old Town and buying more gifts for the folks back home. I also made it to the impressive monument to the Equator, called the Mitad del Mundo, or Center of the Earth to most of you. It was quite a hassle to get there, including taxis and buses and getting off at the wrong stop, and then getting picked up by a different bus going the wrong direction...but it was fun nonetheless to look around the fake little colonial village, and of course, to straddle the Equator! I can officially say I've been in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres--at the same time!
My last days in Quito were also a bit stressful thanks to the upcoming election chaos! The current president, Rafael Correa, won handily, but it's quite jarring to be woken up in a known-to-be-volatile South American country by loud booming, at five in the morning. Thankfully just fireworks--but let's just say after a few nights of that I was thankful to get back to southern California!
My trip back to Cali was weirdly uneventful--in fact my bag didn't get searched until I flew from Salt Lake City to Bozeman, go figure. Stay tuned for a few more adventures from California and my reflections on actually making it back alive to my home state! xoxo

No comments: