Back to the Highlands

Trip Start Jan 19, 2012
Trip End Feb 03, 2012

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Flag of Ecuador  , Imbabura,
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Into the canoe at 7:30 AM to cross the lake and begin to retrace our process from just a few days ago: hike to the Napo, speedboat to Coca and plane to Quito. There's some grumbling because once again just snacks instead of a real lunch. Our plane is delayed an hour, so Gonzalo agrees to buy us something at a tiny cafe outside the terminal (I use that term loosely). I order a ham and cheese sandwich which doesn't show up. When it finally arrives, an airline official also arrives with news the plane is ready. I wrap up half the sandwich and run along with everyone else.

Back in Quito airport, we wait for Eduardo to arrive with our bus. It's the same one we had before, which isn't large enough for all of us and the luggage. The cram it all in, but the top row of luggage is higher than the back row of seats and some overflow onto the back seat itself. I get crammed into what remains of the last row along with 2 others; 3 people in two seats. Very uncomfortable and dangerous as well with the top row of luggage looming over our heads. We head out, but Gonzalo gets on the phone and tries to line up a bigger bus. They finally offer to meet us on the way to Otavalo with a van to carry the larger pieces of luggage. This gives us the space we need but it's only a temporary solution.  A larger bus is promised for the day after when we leave for Riobamba. We're spending two nights outside Otavalo, so this should work. We finally reach our hotel, which is the old missionary building of the Cusin hacienda. The house itself has been turned into a hotel as well. It's evening and raining, so we don't have time to investigate. My room is adorable, with a fireplace. It's quite cool after the lodge. I look forward to a fire.

A local indigenous man, Cesar Cotatachi, has arrived to give us information about himself and natives if the area. We settle into a room that may have once been the chapel and sip our Canelzos, a delicious drink made with cinnamon, tea, naranjilla juice and rum, while he speaks. It's interesting to hear about how many of the native men have left the country to sell their work as artisans, allowing them to accumulate some wealth and status. Later in the trip down to Cuenca, we see evidence of that wealth: empty, elaborate new houses, built with foreign earned wealth, waiting the owners return.

We have an excellent dinner in the main building and then to bed with, briefly, a roaring fire. Lovely but only temporarily effective. There is a small space heater plugged in near the little bathroom. I relocate it to one of the bedside tables. I have to play around with the controls a bit (I never do quite get the hang of it) and get some heat blowing across the bed. Luckily, we're also supplied with plenty of wool blankets. I am as snug as a ....
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