Chillin´ with Mama and Papa Ruiz
Trip Start Jan 31, 2005
45Trip End Mar 30, 2006
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In addition to its general tourist appeal, we decided to go to Otavalo to take advantage of an opportunity to stay in one of the nearby villages in the house of Mary Mazei and Felix Ruiz. Mary teaches at Lincoln, where Jeff used to teach, and is married to Felix, who is originally from one of the nearby villages (Peguche)
Peguche is a friendly, quiet village on a hillside with cobblestone streets, lots of chickens and cows, and you frequently hear the sound of weaving looms churning inside of houses. Mary and Felixīs house has a beautiful garden out front and a simple, but comfortable interior. The largest part of the house was the kitchen, which suited us fine, since we were looking forward to the opportunity to cook. Mama and Papa Ruiz live right next door - practically adjacent - and live a very traditional lifestyle. They have lots of chickens, a few pigs (one of them bought while we were there - more on that later), a couple of cows, two dogs, two cats and three cuy (guinea pigs, which are eaten in South America). Their house has a dirt floor and Mama cooks over a fire. The main language in this part of Ecuador (which is heavily indigenous) is Quechua, but they both speak some Spanish. We spent a lot of time talking to Mama Ruiz, particularly - Jeff and Allison in broken Spanish and Mama in a combination of Quechua and Spanish (we call it Quechspanol - like Spanglish). We got about half of what she said, most of the time... Maybe practice for when we are in countries where we donīt understand anything... We also saw a lot of their son Rafael (Felixīs brother), who lives nearby with his family and was very helpful to us. We enjoyed spending time with all of them greatly.
We spent a total of a week in the greater Otavalo area and took a few good day trips
Saturday we went to the market, which actually has at least three distinct sections - artisan, produce and animal
6am, no Mama.
7am, no Mama.
Around that time, we decided that maybe we misunderstood her Friday and that she was just telling us her plans. So, we decided to lie back down for an hour or so and then go to the animal market later (also, it was raining pretty hard and we werenīt really feeling like going out at the moment anyway). Not surprisingly, in a way, at 7:30, Mama knocked and gave us the sign to head out. We got going, without any animals. As we left, she was motioning towards the rain and then gesturing angrily towards some chickens. We werenīt really sure what happened to Plan A, but we think the rain put the kibosh on her desire to sell the animals and leave at 6am.
The three of us walked into town (probably about a mile and a half - Mama is pretty spry for her age) and made a few stops before the animal market
After that we walked through the artisans' market where Mama greeted some of her friends, and then we finally ended up at the animal market. We felt sort of bad for asking Mama to take us there. We realized pretty quickly that the reason that she didnīt want to go as earlier planned was because the rain had turned the animal market into a muddy mess - and it wasnīt all mud. Mama dresses in traditional Otavaleņo clothes (blue skirt, pretty embroidered white blouse, red beaded bracelet and gold beads around her neck) and doesnīt wear shoes around the house. She wore traditional shoes to the market, though, which are more like slippers in our US experience, which immediately got covered in goo and became impossible to wear. Like many others she opted to go barefoot in the market for better traction. So, we took a look around and I think Mama realized that it might be the right day to get a good deal on a pig, on account of the fact that the animal market was almost over for the day and the rain had kept a lot of prospective buyers away. Mama drove a hard bargain and after waiting patiently for quite awhile, she finally got somebody to cave and accept her price of $16. After some scrambling to get her change (nobody ever seems to have change ready), Mama dragged the squealing pig (which we named Spots) across the highway and then into a pickup-for-hire, which brought us all home, with Jeff, Allison and Spots flying in the wind in back (Mama tried to get in the back, but we insisted she get in front with the driver)
After a nap, we headed back to the artisansī market for a little shopping. It was fun. There are lots of stalls and interesting things to look at. Hard to seriously window-shop, though, as the sellers are pretty experienced in pushing anything you look at into your hand and giving a list of reasons why you could need it. But given the lack of excess space in our packs and the high cost of shipping stuff home, we opted not to buy much.
On Sunday we went to Laguna Cuicocha, located in a national park about 30 minutes north of Otavalo. The laguna is a crater lake in an extinct volcano. It is a beautiful blue color and has two interesting islands. The water is over 400 feet deep and has no fish (or so said the guide we overheard leading a couple of people around). The laguna makes for a good visit because there is an 8 km path all of the way around the lake (almost). It was a good day, though much more strenuous than we expected. It seemed like there was double the amount uphill as downhill and it is all at around 3,000 meters above sea level. Weīve acclimatized somewhat to the high altitudes, but we arenīt pros yet. But the whole scene was beautiful, as you can see from the photos.
We spent a few more days in Peguche, not doing much to report, and left for Quito this morning. Unexpectedly, but in some ways not surprisingly, we entered Quito to find that pro- and anti-government protests going on, which means that parts of the city were almost cut off. We had an interesting taxi ride from the bus station in nearly standstill traffic, part of it in poorly ventilated tunnels... So, we might be leaving town tomorrow morning for an area a few hours south of Quito, or maybe we will be stuck here another day or two (nobody is sure if there will be buses out of town tomorrow, but they seem hopeful). In the meantime, we are doing a little checking into prices for tours of the Galapagos Islands... No decision yet on whether we are going or not.