cuycocha laguna

Cuycocha is a 10,000′ high volcanic caldera containing a sublimely lovely lake, above Cotacachi.

cuycocha ecuadorRecently a U.S.  friend visiting Ecuador hired a driver, an Ecuadorian tour guide, and an Indigenous tour guide to take us up to the park for a hike around the caldera. 

For over a century, the lake has been called Cuicocha, or Cuycocha.  “Cocha” means lake and “Cuy” means guinea pig, which is a common food animal here. (We managed not to eat any “cuys” during our stay. )  Our indigenous guide, José Antonio, explained that the real name for this lake, in Quechua, is “Kuychikocha” (kwee-chi-ko-cha) which means “rainbow lake”.  As rainbows are not common in this region, a lake with rainbows is a sacred thing. The Spanish conquistadors apparently changed the name of the lake. 

Click here for more info:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuicocha

Continue reading “Hiking A Volcanic Caldera”

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My dental work is DONE!!  So is Gary’s.  Our Spanish lessons are DONE!!  Finito!  The dental work seems to be totally successful.  Our teeth are now in relatively great shape, and our responsibilities are completed.  We are free to spend our last few days doing whatever we like.   This is our Ecuador journey so far. 

We exercised our new dental work on some freshly baked cinnamon rolls and chocolate bread.  Eating bread from the local bakers (panaderías) doesn’t seem to bother my digestion, here. Something is apparently different in the way the wheat is processed, or grown, or something along those lines.

Continue reading “Ruminations On Our Ecuador Journey So Far”

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Small towns in Ecuador each have their own unique specialties.  Meaning, they focus on one craft and become a destination for that particular craft.  We are staying in a town famous for it leather work, but there are other towns nearby and elsewhere in Ecuador that specialize in woodworking, weaving, pottery, guitar making, and more. 

Cotacachi – Leathergoods

The most popular street in Cotacachi is Leather Street.  That’s not the official name, it’s what it generally referred to because of all the leather shops lining the street.   These shops are filled with leather jackets, vests, purses, pants, and assorted accessories, all, to my knowledge, made in Ecuador.  The quality of these products is outstanding.  You can buy a leather jacket in just about any color you can imagine.  You can find leather shoes that are locally made.  You can even watch them being made.  It’s refreshing to see shoes made this way, and not imported from China.

Continue reading “Unique Ecuador Town Specialties”

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Ecuador is a relatively poor country where most people cannot afford to own and operate a car or truck.  Also, many of the towns and cities are very walkable.  As a result, public transportation is abundant here.  Buses and taxis are the most common mode of transportation, but there are also a lot of motorcycles and scooters on the road, which are cheaper to buy, own, and operate. 

Buses

buses in ecuadorThe major mode of transportation to get around Ecuador is buses.  The majority of the people living here cannot afford to own cars, and there are many who simply choose not to own one because it’s not necessary.  A bus ride from Cotacachi to Quito is currently about $2.50. One from Cotacachi to Otavalo is .35, and they run all of the time.  The buses are all diesel so they are noisy and polluting but they are a necessity in Ecuador. 

Continue reading “Transportation in Ecuador”

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Bonnie at San Francisco Park

Oh no… Only 7 days left in Ecuador. How could this month have flown past so quickly?! We don’t feel ready to leave yet.

Gary and I are eager to return to our comfy bed, our dog and cat, garden, neighborhood, and friends. We are eager to return to a city where burglary is less of an issue… although my hometown has experienced more burglaries in recent years and our house was robbed, our neighbor’s car was burglarized and friends in other towns have been robbed. hmmm… maybe it’s no more dangerous here.

On the other hand, we are sorrowful to leave this relaxed, interesting lifestyle among friendly people in this tranquil landscape.  I shudder to contemplate the amount of work that’s backlogged in my business during our month here.  Remembering how strongly we felt the absence of uncomfortable ‘buzzing” vibration in the atmosphere when we first arrived, I’m reluctant to return to that nebulous buzzing sensation again. My whole body relaxed tangibly, over this month without it.

Continue reading “Weighing The Pros and Cons”

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cotacachi street
Cotacachi street complete with street dogs.

“Be careful in Ecuador, you could get thrown in jail”.  Those were the words of my dad when we told him we were going to Ecuador for a visit.  I have to say, I feel much safer here than in the US, especially since yet another school massacre has taken place up there since we have been here.  There have been zero school shootings in Ecuador this year, and any year for that matter.  Children here are precious, and you can see it every day with families holding hands walking down the sidewalks of Cotacachi. 

In the week plus that we have been in this small town of Cotacachi, Ecuador, we have wandered all over town by foot.  We’ve walked main streets and side streets, and not once, have we felt threatened in this beautiful foreign country. 

This is a walking town, so when you walk, you pass many people on the street.  Most of these are Mestizo, Spanish, or Quechua (indigenous).  Most greet you, or you greet them with Buenos Dias, Buenas Tardes, or Buenas Noches, depending on the time of day.  The smiles that come with these greetings are infectious.  These are beautiful, friendly people. 

The native people really light up when you attempt to speak to them in their language, no matter how bad your Spanish.  They are always happy to help you.  Gringos are the same way.  We have met many in our short period of time here and they are always open to new friendships and sharing their experiences here.

Permaculture

We’ve been to dinner with one couple at their permaculture property on the slopes of Cotacachi volcano, and we have an invitation to visit and spend time on another permaculture farm (Finca), one and a half hours outside of Cotacachi.  This, in two weeks time.  

We have felt very welcomed and safe our whole time here.  It’s very relaxing to be out of the negative vibrations we were feeling in the US.  As our time here lengthens, we are starting to feel more and more comfortable.  We have two more weeks to go before we head back home to the US.

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Gary and I fall asleep nightly to a chorus of street dogs barking the news of the day. Some kind of frog makes a croaking that sounds like sticks clicking together.  We are awakened at dawn by church bells and roosters. The poor old church bells are non-melodious. They ring at the most random of times – 6:03 and 6:34 am and a few minutes before 7.  Same in the evening… they ring at random moments that are somehow predetermined. Even the locals don’t seem to know why they ring at those certain times.  After the last dull clang fades, we hear chickens clucking and squawking in waves across the valley. First, one barnyard goes off, then another, then another, echoing off both volcanoes.

Carnival

Like Mardi Gras, it’s Carnivale time: the weekend before Lent. Parades of musicians and dancers go down the streets at random times. Boys with squirt guns, water balloons, and shaving cream lurk in doorways, ready to douse the unsuspecting. Nobody is safe! Sidewalks are crowded with people from outlying areas. Both town squares host fireworks. I got squirted with water and shaving cream, and Gary got splashed a few times. When I got bold, I squirted a boy who ran past us with a squirt gun.  He was surprised that a gray-haired gringa squirted him. He and his mom laughed with delight.

 

One afternoon we take a shuttle bus with expats from various countries to a serene, landscaped estate with stunning views, outside of town. A wonderful charity called “Ami” is housed there. They help indigenous Quechua children in need. Weekly movies help raise funds. The bus costs $1, the movie $5.

At the movie, or in some of the expat-run cafes, it’s nice to meet other “gringos” and discuss why they’re here. The primary reasons are the ability to live off Social Security, inexpensive medical care, temperate weather, and a relaxed lifestyle. Many find the US too dangerous. Those who are most successful at making a good life here are those who learn Spanish and integrate into the local community. It seems that the people who only speak English eventually feel isolated and frustrated by the small pool of acquaintances. There are some younger expat families here, but retirees predominate. Among the expats, a variety of lifestyles, personalities, and priorities exist in a kind of disharmonious harmony.  Plenty of disharmonies, but everyone has to share a town anyway, so a type of harmony is created.

The Mercado

fruit bowlGary and I walk to the market (Mercado) on Sunday, when they have organic produce. Our backpack brims with tropical fruits. I buy 2 dozen splendid roses for $3. As always, we run into other gringos from our condo community where we’re staying and chat.  Everyone shares news about what events are happening and who is hiring a driver to visit which other town or lake or park.

At the Mercado and on the sidewalks, we encounter the Viejas. These are extremely old, tiny Quechua women who have no family. Most are well under 4’ tall, hunched, barefoot. They silently beg for food or coins, alongside the hungry street dogs. At night they sleep in a building called “Home for the Ancients”. The tiniest 3’ tall Vieja with cataracts gets coins and bananas from us when we pass.  There are a few Viejos too… little ancient men with blurry eyes, begging.

We feel utterly safe strolling here. The sidewalks are filled with relaxed families and laughing children, plus gringos and vacationers. In the bigger cities, pickpocketing is a problem; it’s best not to carry a purse or have your cell phone in your pocket. In Cotacachi, that is not an issue from what I see. This is a sleepy, safe town where people know one another and not much happens. Everyone greets everyone on the sidewalks. The locals consider the U.S. expats to be, in general, cold and unfriendly because most don’t greet their neighbors as they pass. I get in the habit of greeting everyone and watch their faces light up to greet a friendly gringo.

After the market, we stop at our favorite spot, the Serendipity cafe, to give a few roses to the gorgeous young Quechua owner, Maria. She reaches way up to hug me (she’s 4-1/2’ tall) and draws me into a cheery conversation in Spanish, laughing warmly about my grammar and complimenting my progress. Gary orders guanabana juice and we stroll home, feeling surprisingly at home here in the quiet rhythm of Cotacachi.

 

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Though the travel to Ecuador was an adventure in itself, it was a pretty boring adventure compared to arriving in this South American country.  The best part of Travel Day was meeting “Papa” Ron Cropper in the airport. He is a high-energy dynamo of laughter and joy, talking with everyone around him.  We have a lot in common with him, as he just turned 65 and is also spending a month in Ecuador to see if he might like to retire here one day. We will meet up with him again later in our journey.

Continue reading “A Day and A Half In Ecuador”

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