Thursday, August 05, 2010

Otovalo & Cotopaxi

(As always, click on the slide show for access to the album and corresponding captions)

Day 2: Trip to Otovalo Market
Not a lot to comment on. Otovalo has what's supposed to be the biggest and best market in Ecuador and comes highly recommended by the guidebooks. This is where my spoiled brattyness around having traveled so much comes in. It was definitely a good market, but it wasn't mindblowing. There was unquestionably a LOT of stuff. A lot of stuff for tourists and a lot of stuff for locals, and a lot of stuff for some unidentified consumer base. Perhaps my disappointment was less a reflection of the market's quality than of my lack of familiarity with Ecuadorean culture. As I looked for gifts and keepsakes that would represent my voyage, it was hard to pick out things that felt uniquely Ecuador. Finding such items felt much easier in Kenya (lion-killing clubs), Rarotonga (wooden tikis), New Zealand (anything with a koru design), Japan (something from a vending machine), etc. But I also knew a lot more about the cultures in those places. In any case, I came home with some pretty new scarves including a nice alpaca one for the chilly California winters.

Day 3: Cotopaxi
I briefly mentioned this excursion earlier. We decided that the best way to see this volcano was to mountain bike down it. Here are the highlights:
-This was my first time mountain biking, but I will count it as successful after only one fall. I quickly discovered (re-discovered?) that I am not a speed junkie and do not like the feeling of being out of control. This realization dates back long ago to my attempt at our middle school's ski club; I probably should have figured out the connection to mountain biking.
-Being at 15,000ft is colder than you might imagine. Four layers were insufficient. Fortunately, the adrenaline/terror of trying to maintain at a non-heart-attack-inducing speed helped warm me up a little.
-When we were at our starting point getting ready to head down (a parking lot not quite at the top of the volcano), a lovely Ecuadorean family came over and awkwardly starting chatting with Maura and me. The awkwardness came from the fact that the first minute of the "conversation" was just them standing in front of us while the dad cajoled his teenage daughter (in Spanish) to practice her English by talking to us. Her English was very well-pronounced, but limited, so our eventual exchange consisted only of her asking how we were doing, where we were from, did we like Ecuador, and "How is California?" This poor child. Fortunately, her parents documented the whole experience on film. I'm sure she will look back on this memory fondly.
-In our first two days in Quito (altitude: ~10,000ft) and even when we were up on the volcano (~15,000ft) I didn't notice any sort of altitude sickness or difficulty breathing. I'm sure my lungs are strong as an ox. Then we got to the end of our ride and few small uphill segments. Small being the operative word. The hills were not very steep and not very long. Yet both times I made it a little bit of the way up and quickly had to get off and walk the rest of the way. What was most challenging was the recovery. It took much longer for my breathing heart rate to come back down to reasonable levels. My biggest comfort was that my travel companion--a big-time athlete--had to do the same. I will take this as an indication that my fitness level is equal to hers, which is to say equal to someone who bikes every day, runs marathons, and was a Division I NCAA athlete.
-The whole experience was totally worth it. If you're ever in Quito, I highly recommend The Biking Dutchman tour company!

1 comment:

Pat said...

I have lived in Quito for over 16 years, I am happy to help with any questions you might have about the country. Patrick-