Australians, My first mistake, and Cuicocha

Trip Start Jul 19, 2006
Trip End Sep 19, 2006

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Monday, July 24, 2006

Note: If you are concerned about my well-being after the very pessimistic stories presented in my last entry, please know that everyone has been extremely warm and welcoming towards me. This entry should give a little more hope for my safety. I also saved some Australian lives...well, not really, but kind of. I'll explain...

I remembered passing by Lago San Pablo on the bus ride from Pifo to Otavalo (see the last entry where I met Carlos). In staring at this very large and magnificent lake, I thought to myself "cada lago tiene sus rios" ("every lake has it's rivers") I've started thinking in spanish again. It was just a random thought that might have some deep meaning. Sort of like the whole "no man is an island" thing. I don't know if this phrase has been credited to anyone before and I don't care. I'm taking credit for it. So spread the word. Cada lago tiene sus rios. It's deep. From Rick.

After my shopping experience in Otavalo, I caught a bus towards Cotacachi (the leather market). It was already 3pm, which is pretty late considering the sun sets around 6:15pm here. Due to Ecuador's proximity to the equator, the sunset here only fluctuates about 10-15minutes and there is no need for daylight savings time. The days are approximately equal in length to the nights. Anyway, it was late for me to make it to Cotacachi and shop and then get to el Lago Quicocha (a beautiful volcanic crater lake) and still make it back to Quito in time to pick Brett up at 9:15pm. I decided to cut out Cotacachi. I met a man named Francisco on the bus and he told me about which stop to get off of and how to get to Quicocha (he recommended a taxi with return trip, over the camionetas which are basically trucks that you hop in the back of). He gave me his phone number and told me to call him if I had any problems or needed any help at all. No powder or pale babies there.

I got into a taxi with a very amiable driver. I spoke with him for the entire 15 minute drive to Lago Quicocha. In addition to how enriching it is to speak with so many different people on such a personal level, I think it's very practical. I like to build a connection with someone, transforming myself from mean spoiled tree-crushing tourist Rick into kind, giving, respectful world citizen Ricardo. We got along very well and I deemed him to be of very high character. He set the price at $8 for the ride there and back, including about a 30minute waiting time while I explore the lake. I trusted him so much that I left all of my purchases from the market that day in the taxi. I asked if they would be safe, and he said he would watch them for me and wait til I returned. Did I make a big mistake in trusting him?

There were no other gringos that I could see at this lake. It was mostly Ecuadorian tourists visiting. I ended up paying $1.80 to get a half hour boat tour of the lake and the three large islands inside of it. The boat guide was awesome and he gave us a lot of information about the history of the lake. Of particular importance, he informed us that this volcanic lake (which was enormous) had no rivers running into it or out of it. What??? No rivers??? Well this put a damper on my astonishingly deep observation. Ok. We can work with this. "casi cada lago tiene sus rios" ("almost every lake has it's rivers"). Yes. Still very deep, perhaps gaining more depth from its ambiguity.

I walked back to where the cab had left me off. I had probably over $20 of items in there. He was still there, waiting for me. Judgement = good. But get this, as I was going to get into my cab two tall gringos approached me. In a tone revealing shades of desperation, they asked if they could share my cab back down. It turns out there are no cabs that just go back down and these two had ridden up in one of the camionetas and were thus stranded with night approaching (thanks for the tip on taxis, Francisco). I of course shared the ride with them.

They were both tall and blond, speaking with a thick Australian accent. It turns out they were traveling around the world and were starting here in Ecuador where they had been taking spanish classes in Otavalo. They were to travel through much of South America, then up into parts of North America and over into Europe. We got along very well, and exchanged contact information. I told them to give me a call if they happen to be in California. They told me I was welcome to stay with them if I ever visit Australia. Sweet.

They also told me an interesting story. They said while they were waiting at the lake, desperately hoping for a taxi, they saw a cab drop off some people who asked it to wait to take them back. Some other people later went up to the cab and got in. The original passengers returned afterwards, shocked that their cab had left them. Maybe they should've talked about their family with the driver.

I made it back into Quito at 8:15pm. I proceeded to make what I consider to be my first mistake of the trip. I trusted a man with a nun (I'll explain). The bus driver said he would drop me off at the entrance to the airport, which is close enough to Nelly's place that I decided that would be fine. He dropped me off on the highway, and it turns out he was picturing quite a large entrance as I was several miles away from the airport. This is where the nun comes in. I decided to take a cab and I saw a nun waiting to get a cab, too. I spoke with the nun and the man and told them where I was headed. The man shouted "Oh! Facil!" He then pointed down a street and told me to go 2 or 3 blocks then turn right. I asked him if it was safe. He said of course it was, and that he lived near there. I had to trust him. He was with a nun!

They say all who wander are not lost. I was most certainly very lost. For about 45 minutes. I wandered through the various neighborhoods, seeking advice from people I met along the way. This was my first bad decision. I should have taken a cab. I should not have wandered around at night. But I felt like I knew this place. I felt like it was a test for me. Don't worry mom, I won't do this again. I just tried to look as tough as I could (which is surprisingly tough, especially since I am about 2 feet taller than the average man here). I eventually made it to the house at 9pm, but Nelly was not home yet.

I ran 6 blocks to get to a point where taxis came. I was very happy because the driver did not mark me as a tourist, even after I spoke and asked to go to the airport. It cost 80cents. My accent passed!

When I saw Brett approaching me I held up my "Brett Mitchell" sign. It was the best I could do considering I didn't have time to put on all of my local clothing to surprise him. We took a cab back to Nelly's. This time it cost $3. I was marked as a tourist again. Thanks, Brett.

We slept early to prepare for the next day, which would be a trip to Pichincha. I'm glad that Brett is here, even if it does mark me even more as a tourist. It's good to have other people around. Casi cada lago tiene sus rios.

Quantifiable Summary
Otavalo to near Cotacachi for 25cents.
Near Cotacachi to Lago Quicocha for $8 roundtrip, including 45 minute wait at lake.
Near Cotacachi to Otavalo for 25cents (Australians picked this up for me out of gratitude for saving their lives).
Otavalo to Quito for $2.
Taxi to airport for 80cents.
Taxi returning to Nelly's house for $3.
Casi cada lago tiene sus rios.
Still alive.
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