Ecuador - October 2006
Shopping Trip to Otavalo and Salinas de Guaranda
Thursday October 19, 2006
We are off traveling again. We climbed on the 9AM bus to Quito and were on our way. Until we reached the town of Tosagua, there were only 5 passengers on the bus. The bus transited the costal plateau where there was much construction on the road. The old pot-holed surface was being upgraded to a modern wide road. The road passed thru rice fields at its lower levels then climbed to Santo Domingo. After that city the road climbed steeply, snaking up into the Andes Mountains with some great views into the canyons, finally arriving on top and dropping slightly into the valley of Quito.
Friday October 20, 2006
Today we were again on an early bus moving on to Otavalo, to be there for Saturday’s Market Day. In Otavalo we checked into a hotel that was both within walking distance from the bus terminal and the city center and was real close to the artisan’s market plaza. We lunched across the street from the vendors and after lunch began our purchasing, but we only made a few purchases, preferring to wait for the Saturday market. We then walked up to the Central Plaza, took some photos and wandered back toward the hotel along another street to see more of the town. We stopped in to visit an open church and as we were leaving there we heard sounds of a band passing several blocks away. Rushing toward the noise we found a parade in progress and stopped to watch before continuing our stroll toward the hotel. At dinner, at an Italian restaurant overlooking the main street, we met two other couples that were traveling together. They were other cruisers off boats on the Atlantic side, anchored in Venezuela.
Saturday October 21, 2006 Market Day in Otavalo
We breakfasted early in the hotel and by 8AM were off to the market. We were surprised to see vendor stands as soon as we rounded the corner from our hotel! The stands spilled out of the market plaza for several blocks in every direction. We made many purchases early on and received good prices, being the first sale of the day for many of the vendors. The market was quite colorful with the many sweaters, blankets and hammocks hanging in the stalls and when we continued up toward the central market, where there was produce for sale, that produce was also displayed in colorful artistic patterns. On the back street leading between the two markets, everything from stoves and yardage to pots and buckets were being sold. We also visited the “small animal” market area where guinea pigs, chickens, turkeys and even puppies were being traded. After returning our purchases to the hotel room, stopped for lunch at a nice little restaurant that overlooked the artisan’s market and watched as the numbers of tourists seemed to grow. After lunch we returned to the hotel to rest and read until after dark; when we returned to the plaza to watch the taking-down and packing-up, leaving behind a street full of trash.
Sunday October 22, 2006
After breakfast we walked the short distance to Terminal Terrestre to get a bus back to Quito. In Quito we boarded a second bus to take us all the way to Guaranda. The road between Ambato, where the bus turned off the Pan-American Highway, and Guaranda was spectacular! It climbed out of Ambato and passed near to a snow-capped volcano, Chimborazo, then traversed the high Andean plains of bunch grass and volcanic sand before dropping down thru the lush farms into Guaranda. Today was cloudy so we only got a glimpse of the volcano as it peaked out from the clouds.
Monday October 23, 2006
Today was spent exploring the central part of Guaranda. This is a fairly small city built on a steep hillside. It is a quiet town existing to support the farming nearby. It had once been on the crossroads between the Quito and Guayaquil. The train, and later the new roads, moved the traffic further away from town, but still some great old buildings exist from its early days. We walked some of the streets of the town, checking out several nice plazas, ate a slow lunch where we could watch people in the central plaza and spent several hours reading in that plaza and doing more people watching. We found a cute little café near the hotel for dinner. It had a tiny entrance hidden among the street-side shops, but opened into quite a large area behind. The food was also quite good.
Tuesday October 24, 2006
We were up early and enjoyed breakfast at the hotel, as a bus to Salinas was reported to pass a particular corner up the hill and on its way out of town about 9AM. We walked the about 10 blocks uphill to the intersection and waited… by 9:30 we decided that the bus was not coming and flagged down a taxi for the ride to Salinas. For $15 we not only got driven to the hotel in Salinas, but we given lots of information about the area, as the taxi driver had grown up near the route. It was market day in the little farming town, so after getting check into the hotel we walked down the hill to check out the vendors. Mostly produce, plastic household products and clothing were for sale. We stopped in at the tourist office and arranged a guided tour of the many small factories in the town for the next morning. We found a very tiny restaurant that served us great hot chocolate with a sweet roll and local cheese. This served us for lunch. This village is very high in the mountains (3,550 meters or 11,650 feet above sea level!) so it was cold with little air; we tired easily and spent the rest of the late afternoon and evening reading in front of a fireplace at the hotel. We asked for and were served dinner at the hotel, but were the only diners.
Wednesday October 25, 2006
Our village tour was quite interesting. The town has set up a co-op of many small family-run factories and we were guided thru most of them. Our first stop was a small shop where “essential oils” were extracted from pine, cedar, eucalyptus and a fragrant wood. They were cooked in a large pressure cooker and the resulting oils that were removed from the bottom of the container were very strong smelling.
Next we visited a cheese factory. The milk is delivered in the early morning and converted immediately into various cheeses. There were many temperature-controlled rooms where different cheeses were aging for varying times. We purchased 1 kg each of two different types of cheese and thus had to carry the about 4 pounds the rest of our tour.
Next stop was the chocolate factory where different types of candies are made on different days. We had to purchase some of the rich confections. We left there carrying another 4+ pounds of chocolates.
Then we stopped in a lean-to off of a home where salt water from a nearby mine was being boiled down to form 2 kg salt balls. It is used for cow licks on the local farms. Next we stopped at a pig processing plant. Each Monday 8 to 12 pigs are slaughtered. During the rest of the week the meat is turned into ham, bacon, sausages and hot dogs after some of the choicer cuts are sold fresh. Another small factory made soccer balls, first winding silk yarn around a rubber bladder then coating it with latex and gluing on the colored pentagons and triangles before vulcanizing the whole thing into a ball. A knit shop was next, where knit objects that the locals knit are brought, to be packaged for shipping. There is also a small store where purchases can be made.
We walked past nice elementary and secondary schools and on to the yarn plant. The yarn plant is a large factory for turning the wool into yarn. Big machines card the cleaned wool turning it into mat and then spinning it into threads and finally winding three or four of the threads together to make three- or four- ply yarn. The yarn that is produced is all natural color. Many days they produce white yarn, but the darker wool is separated out and done on a separate day. Last we visited a ceramic shop where clay is molded in molds or by hand and then painted to ship off to the cities for the tourist trade.
After a rest and lunch we took the 15 minute hike up a hill to the cross and the overlook of the town. There was a level area behind the rise and we walked along it, finding a different path back down to the plaza, passing along the way basins that looked to be settling pounds for the town’s water supply. We returned to the hotel and Bill managed to pack our new purchases into our already full packs.
Thursday October 26, 2006
Another up-early day as the bus back to Guaranda passed the plaza at 7:15AM. One restaurant along the plaza was open at 6AM, so we did get coffee and rolls with cheese before we boarded the bus. In Guaranda we were lucky to catch the 9AM bus to Riobamba. Our goal in Riobamba was to view and photograph the active Volcán Tungurahua. The route the bus traveled passed east of Volcán Chimborazo, then turned and passed south and lastly west of the volcano traversing its lower slopes. We had a great view of the volcano even though the air east of it was full of volcanic ash from Volcán Tungurahua. In Riobamba we got checked into Hotel Tren Dorado before noon. A hike up to Parque 21 Abril, where there was a view of the active volcano, showed the mountain to be covered in clouds. We returned back down to the hotel area to find a lunch. After lunch, armed with reading books to pass the time, we returned to the park to watch and wait. The clouds moved off for a brief time in the late afternoon and we had a great view of the ash plume. I took lots of photos!! While waiting, Bill phoned our friends in Cuenca, to check if they would be available to see us sometime this weekend. And, yes, they would meet us at the bus terminal for an afternoon visit.
Friday October 27, 2006
Because we both fell asleep early last night we were both up at 5AM, packed and in the restaurant soon after its 5:30 opening. The restaurant was full of younger Europeans heading out for the Friday train ride on the Devil’s Nose train. This allowed us to arrive at the bus terminal in time for the 7:30 bus to Cuenca. The road followed the train route to Alausi then followed a different canyon, equally steep and rough. The pavement got rough and sometimes disappeared completely in the stretch between Alausi and Chunchi as it twisted, with many hairpin turns, down into the canyon. We got a view of the Devil’s Nose, but from the opposite side as the view from the train. We arrived in Cuenca before 2PM and called Brian. He and Deborah picked us up at the bus station and we all went out for a late lunch followed by ice cream mocaccinos. We picked up our bags from their car and walked the short distance to Hotel Tomebamba to check in. Then we returned to the car to go out exploring with Brian and Deborah. They drove up to El Turi for a great view over the city and then continued on to a dirt road that wandered thru the hills and finally dropped back down to the city. We were dropped off near the hotel and after getting things settled into our room we walked off the find a light supper. Brian and Deborah had recommended Café Eucalyptus and we went there. The atmosphere was good and the food was great. On the way back to our hotel we ran into Joanne and Paul from the sailboat Wanderer (anchored near us in Bahía de Caráquez) and enjoyed a nice visit with them while standing on the sidewalk.
Saturday October 28, 2006
After breakfast at the hotel we walked east along Simon Bolivar past Iglesia del Santo Cenáculo, Iglesia San Sebastián and its beautiful park. We then followed the road down to the river, crossing the river near the Sports Stadium at the eastern edge oft the main city. Then we followed the river toward the west mostly within a park that skirted the river’s side. We re-crossed the river near the university and climbed up the steps toward the city center for lunch. After lunch we walked north from the main plaza to further explore parts of the old city that we had missed on our last visit. A rainstorm chased us back to the hotel and afternoon naps gave us the energy to stay up late. We joined a small group of expats for a meal at the Mexican restaurant, visited over margaritas, then dinner and dessert. Before we knew it, it was 10:30PM and bed time for all, so we said our good byes and returned to the hotel.
Sunday October 29, 2006
We took the bus to Guayaquil thru the El Cajas national park. The day was fairly clear so we had a good view of the mountains. One of the small deer that live in these mountains started across the road in front of the bus but changed its mind when the bus stopped and darted up the hill and out of sight. We had grabbed the two front seats behind the driver so had great views. When we got most of the way down the Guayaquil side of the mountains, we passed into a cloud bank with dense fog. We dropped thru the cloud but were under cloud cover the rest of the way into Guayaquil.
Monday October 30, 2006
We returned to Bahía on a late morning bus. Bill got a dinghy ride out to Lanikai and launched our dinghy to return for me and the luggage. We ate hamburgers at Puerto Amistad before returning to the boat.
Monday November 6, 2006
We arrived home in time for the Halloween Party at Puerto Amistad and even managed to put together costumes of a sort.
The fleet here has thinned out. It will thin our further this Thursday as we and 5 other boats are planning on leaving. The last week has been a busy one for us as we have checked systems and made repairs as needed. Bill’s first chore was to replace the raw-water pump on the main engine that we discovered was leaking just before we left on our last inland trip! Getting all the navigation lights working required a trip to the top of the mast, but that also allowed Bill to check the rigging fittings. Last evening we enjoyed a farewell dinner with Dave and Judy of Revenir finally eating shrimp that are raised in farms further up the estero. Today Bill is starting the check-out paperwork which will require a trip to Manta. We plan to take that trip to the city tomorrow; along with checking-out with Immigration, we will stock up with food at the super mercado so that we will have plenty of supplies for plenty of time in Panama’s Las Perlas Islands before we have to go all the way in to Panama City.
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