Week Four - More Spanish and Weekend in Otavalo

Trip Start Aug 23, 2006
Trip End Dec 23, 2006

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hola chicos. It's Sunday the 22nd and in 5 hours I catch my bus to Coca for a weeks worth of Spanish classes in the jungle. I'm really looking forward to this as I'm going with one of the better professors in my school...and for an entire week we really won't be speaking anything other than Spanish. Claire from the U.S. is also going this week so the temptation to speak English will be great...but we're going to do our best to avoid it.

Week 4 has come and past and the only major events were Annabells birthday Thursday night and Friday, Annabell, Harry, Max (US) and I made the 2 hour journey to Otavolo for the weekend. Otavolo has the most famous market in Ecuador and it peaks on Saturday...more on that experience and another run in with the "cocks" below...

1) Birthday for Annabell. Thursday was AB's 26th bday so a large group of students and professors went to a local restaurant for some good food (I had ceviche) and drinks. AB is perhaps the lightest weight drunk I have even met for each time we've gone out, she's dancing on the bar after 3 drinks at the most. Anyway...as we were the only group in this restaurant and as the owners are students in the school, we had some complementary shots thrown our way...including some damn fine Russian Vodka that I have only found in Russia (Ruskie Standart). After dinner, AB, Harry, Hannna, Claire, Steene, Paula, Max and I went to a local Cuban bar for dancing and more drinks. Good ratio for us...5 cute girls and 3 boys. It was fairly expensive at the Cuban bar so we urged the group to hit our favorite Thurday night hangout...club Level. Claires friend Max joined us and by the time we got there it was 11:30 and hopping. The entire group was
fairly lubricated and the dancing went on to the wee hours of the morning. I hear there was some more heavy cuddling between classmates...seems to happen a lot with one particular female class mate. ;) The next morning everyone...including me was feeling very chuchaci (hung over) and it showed in our class work. Each student was given a fruit specific to Ecuador and we had to do a brief presenation to the rest of the students and faculty on our fruit. I had naranjillas which are bitter small oranges and only taste good when you make a juice out of it and drown it with sugar.

2) Weekend (fin de semana) in Otavolo. Harry and I left after school Friday for Otavolo which is the biggest weekend market town in Ecuador...it's also home to on of the largest cockfighting circuits in Ecuador. Annabell joined us later Friday night and Max came up Saturday for the cockfights. Friday night was fairly relaxed...with dinner at an Italian restaurant and then we sort of stumbled into a bar recommended by Lonely Planet. It ended up being very cool as there was a local folk music group performing and they even had their own music video playing. After a couple strong Cuba Libres and 4 or 5 songs that all sounded exactly alike, we returned to our hostel. Our hostel by the way rocked...we've had such good luck in every town we have visited with our hostels. This one had a courtyard with 3 or 4 hammocks that we thoroughly enjoyed on Saturday. But first...we had to hit the market. So this market is crazy big...essentially the entire town is transformed overnight each Friday night into an outdoor shopping center. I ended up buying a couple small paintings, a new shirt and some other small trinkets. Annabell went crazy for all the jewelry and Harry got himself an Ecuadorian football jersey and a Panama hat (quick fact: the Panama hat was invented in Ecuador and only is named after Panama as it was first exported there during the construction of the canal). After the market, Harry and I enjoyed those great hammocks and a couple of cervezas while AB went a bit stir crazy and tried to motivate us to go on a hike to see some lakes 17KM out of town. We eventually caved in and all climbed into a taxi for the long journey to seem these fabulous lakes (note the use of sarcasm there). The journey was on a very isolated cobblestone road and we perhaps saw 6 other cars the entire time. About halfway up the road...our taxi breaks down....great. The driver told us he just needed some water, so he runs back down the road with three empty water bottles to find some agua. Not wanting to wait, we start hiking the remaining 8KM...not a bright idea. We FINALLY reach these lakes at 5PM and immediately start wondering how we are going to get back to Otavallo. We notice some locals setting up tents near the lake, so AB goes to ask them what the probability of a car or taxi making it near us so we can get a lift back. She comes back and tells us she's got bad news...and worse news. The bad news is we're nearly 20K from the closest road with traffic...and the worst news is our cell phones don't work so we can't call for a cab. Great...nice fucking lakes AB! ;) The kids who were camping were so cool and even offered us a sleeping bag and use of their tent if needed. As we pondered our fate, one of the cute local girls in the group camping approached us and said that her friend (who has a car) can take us back for $20. SOLD! As that was the price we negotiated with our taxi driver (who we never saw again..or paid), we jumped at her offer and made it back to town in time for...COCKFIGHTING!!!! After a quick dinner, we made it to the cock ring (ha) by 8PM and found out that the cockfighting circuit is most definitely on Ecuadorian time as things don't really start heating up until 9 or 10. What did we decide to do for an hour or two you might ask? As they sell rum by the bottle at the cock ring ($7 for a fifth), we sit down and begin to get pissed drunk. AB wasn't really excited about the cockfighting...but Max, Harry and I were definitely up for it. We got a behind the scenes tour from one of the locals who gladly showed us the weapons they attach to the cocks spurs...pretty gruesome stuff. As the locals started pouring in, there was somewhat of a parade of the cocks who were fighting that night so everyone could decide which cock they were going to be betting on (betting is huge in cockfighting). One of the locals told us that if a cock kills the other in 12 seconds or less...the owner of that cocks wins a pool of around $500. The first fight was a draw as neither cock bit the dust in the time allowed but the next four fights all had definitely winners...and losers....poor cocks. It was definitely pretty gruesome stuff, but we are talking about roosters here so I don't think I'm going to lose any sleep over it. I'm quite sure the losers (dead cocks) become dinner that night for the tourists. After 5 fights, we had seen enough cock on cock action so we took off and found a very cheesy disco where another bottle of rum was consumed. AB took off early...and I wasn't too far behind her as I was starting to have a brown out (not quite a blackout). The next morning (Sunday the 22nd) I got up early, had my breakfast and heading back on the bus before the others as I had to get ready for my trip to the jungle later that night (my bus departed Quito at 8:30 for the 10 hour ride to Coca).

Getting ready to head to Coca...I will be without internet access the entire time I'm in the jungle, so the next update won't come until next weekend. Adios.
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