We got up around 7am…not having slept much from the excitement, and had breakfast at the hostel…eggs, bread, orange marmalade, and coffee. We used the internet to let some folks back home know that we had arrived safely…(a little trick here, you must use the ALT button and 64 at the same time to get the @ sign for your email)…would never have figured that one out!
Eucne (pronounced u-nee) showed up promptly at nine and helped us with the luggage… I’m telling you this is a ride we’ll never forget! Nascar should send drivers over here to be trained…he who is the bravest has the right of way! Uphill, around a curve, at times you think you’re underneath a bus, looking over a ledge, it doesn’t matter….but if you are in an accident, they hold both (or all) drivers in jail until the matter of blame is resolved.
We left Spring Break in Florida, and Eucne told us that it is now 5 days of Carnival in all of Ecuador…kinda like Mardi Gras…crowds are everywhere and they are partying! Loud music, throwing water on each other with buckets, and spraying blue or pink soap foam…we went thru two toll booths, and people were selling stuffed animals, trinkets, food, handmade soap, and fried banana chips – they will come up to the car and ask you to buy. The whole carcass of a pig hangs in some vendors stalls…they just cut off what you want and you eat it while walking around! Pig on a stick? Lots of native dress, but you also see the western influence in billboards and on signs…Coke, Avon, Chevrolet, KFC and McDonalds. Gasoline is only $1.48 per gallon!
Eucne said traffic was heavier due to the carnival…the two hour drive was some of the most beautiful countryside we’ve ever seen. Along with the gorgeous scenery though, it reminded us of the poorest parts of Mexico…houses made of crumbling brick, tin, plastic, etc.
Although we don’t speak Spanish, and Eucne didn’t speak English, we managed to communicate with a few words here and there…I’m trying to take pictures and look up words in my dictionary and most of the time, we’re just pointing and smiling. There are what looks like greenhouses on about a 5 mile stretch (Cotapaxi) and he tells us they are used to grow roses- a bouquet of roses here is only $1.50!
Cows are staked out by the side of the road wherever there is grass, and you just have to wonder how they don’t get hit with the cars! We stopped a couple of times to let goats cross the road-…dogs are allowed to run rampant.
We arrived in Cotacachi around noon and the ride from Quito to here was $55.00 (including tip). Our house has a name – Casa Rosada (the pink house) and yes, it’s the color of Pepto Bismol! It’s an 1800 sq foot adobe style with 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths…terra cotta tile flooring, indigenous wood – exposed beams, doors, cabinets, etc. The inside is whitewashed and the views of the mountains are incredible! We actually have a corral out back for a horse, and there are beautiful plants everywhere you look. Each window seems to frame a picture postcard! It’s a simple house, but made more lovely by the simplicity.
The day started out very sunny, but after we arrived, the fog started moving in…we had no food or supplies in the house, and although we could walk to town, didn’t really know how long it would take or if it was going to rain. The climate changes quickly here. Fortunately for us, we were blessed by a neighbor, Bentley, coming by to check on us. Seems that it’s a very small community and we were expected…he had a truck, so he took us to town and showed us the ropes…he took us to the Supermercardo (where we can buy American items like rice, sugar, pasta, canned or boxed goods, cleaning supplies, bath tissue, wine and chocolate). Then he took us over the the Market where you buy fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers. We paid a whopping $6.00 for one week’s worth of fruits & veggies and $1.00 for a bouquet of flowers. More on that later…but we were told to wash the locally grown foods with vinegar. Usually you drink bottled water, but the water here in our little community comes straight off the mountain- we’ve had no problems so far!
Next door is the meat market…not one I’ll spend a lot of time in since the “chicken lady” asks you if you want to keep the head and feet! We also stopped at a local vendor and bought our dinner – chicken (pollo) and rice..she also gave us some fried potatoes and little baggies of ketchup and mayonaise (since we were “gringos”). I took some photos of our first “shopping trip” which included olive oil, Oreos and popcorn. Corn is a huge crop here – it’s grown everywhere you look. If a family has a cow, a pig, and/or a sheep -they are considered pretty well off.
We stopped at a “Porta cabinas” to buy $20 worth of minutes for the cell phone that our landlord left for us at the house to use…cell phone usage is 25 cents per minute, so you only use these to call a taxi or a local friend. You wouldn’t want to use it to call back home. We set up Skype for that.
After sharing a glass of wine with Bentley, and getting a tour of his gorgeous home, we came back and called it a night!