Chapter 14::Table of Contents::Chapter 16

Chapter 15
Otavalo
Part 1

FRI DEC 8:

Awoke early again.

Had breakfast and hustled off to the P.O. Spent 16 bucks mailing about 25 cards to the U.S. N cashed 100 bucks in preparation for Otavalo. Back to the hotel. We loaded up 2 stuff sacks of stuff to leave behind and headed off to Ec. Tours, [1] again no mail.

Walked in circles ’til we found the bus station. One leaving at 1PM for 20S. I walked down to another collectivo Station and found one going at 12:15 for 35S. We decided to take the earlier one. It was an uneventful ride to Otavalo, during which I dozed.

In Otavalo we found the Pension Otavalo for 35S each. A nice place with kittens and a very friendly dueña. Here we met Chris, a fellow from Oregon, and Collin and Gazella, a couple from Canada. [2] Once checked in we went out for a beer with the above. Chris told about sailing, [3] getting acid from Owsley, and talking with Ken Kesey (he knew Kesey’s brother from playing basketball).

After a beer in one bar we walked off to another place that looked like your typical American cafeteria and had more beer and some good french fries. A little sign on the cash register said “Dollars accepted” Then the 5 of us walked off to yet another restaurant where we ordered up a good meal and more beer. We were joined by 2 French folks we’d seen in Quito that Collin & G. knew from Colombia, and 2 PCV’s (Peace Corps Volunteers). The one I talked to told about teaching farmers live stock management, and about life in Ec as a PCV. [4] Many beers and much talk later we headed out to go back and crash in anticipation of early arisal and bartering at the market tomorrow.

Chris is in the process of renting a house at which we may be able to crash near Lago San Pedro near town. Collin&Gazella told about walking to Indian villages near by and seeing Indians weaving in their houses. Tomorrow we may go out to a lake nearby and party with other Gringos at an island. In the park was an out of tune military band playing to a crowd of about 12 natives.

It’s nice being out of Quito and “back on the road.” The vibes here are much more mellow and we may spend at least a week touring about and enjoying the friendly natives. Just before retiring Chris gave us a couple shots of Scotch which put us in a good mood for writing and crashing.

SAT DEC, 9:

Awoke bright & early to church bells and drizzle.

N. awoke before me and was out the door before my eyes were open. I went out into the grey morn and strolled down to the market. There I met up with N. He was trying to find change for 100S to pay for coffee and rolls. We walked back to and around the market (food market) and finally got change by buying a box of cookies. Took the cooks back to the hotel.

N went off to the market to photo. I was hungry and wandered about looking for the place we’d had fries at yesterday. I found it but it was closed. So I wound up going to another place and there met 3 guys from Quebec just into town for the day.

We walked to the woolen market. The market consisted of a big open square, every so often there was a concrete stall with a roof and concrete benches. The goods were piled on the ground and hung from the roof. N. and I bought 2 turtle neck sweaters for 600S. Took the sweaters back to the hotel. Walking back to the market again we ran into the PCV’s from yesterday. They were going back to Quito.

At the market we photo’d for a while and contemplated buying gifts. Looking at embroidered blouses N. decided to buy 2. This prompted me to buy some more sweaters. I looked over the selection at one stand and found a beautiful one that was actually too big. N. wound up buying that one. I found another of the same style (button up w/hood) and took that one. Also found another for my sister. I’ll give the turtle neck to John. While looking at the above sweaters, a little beggar came up, put his arm around me, leaned his head against my elbow and looked up at me with big beggar’s eyes. He was so pathetic and put on such a show that even the lady selling the sweaters had to laugh. I laughed and gave the guy a sucre. Some beggars have more style than others.

We wound up buying 3 sweaters for 950S. N. got the 2 blouses for about 300S. Then I started looking at wall hangings. But quickly I switched to blankets. I looked in one place for a red one for my folks but all of the red ones were ugly. However at another stand I saw a beautiful one with a scene of llamas. I got it for 350S. A real deal. Thus, all our shopping done, we walked back to the hotel & dropped off our goods.

Chris had lined up a trip to a lake nearby (Cocochi) with some PCV’s staying here in town. Collin went off to buy bread, cheese, liquor and mix. N. also bought some Rum&Grapefruit juice. Chris had whiskey and the PCV’s had wine. Up until the last minute I was undecided about going. I didn’t really feel like drinking but when Chris asked Judy (a girl from Ca.) if she wanted to go and she accepted, so did I. I had fallen in love with her beautiful blue eyes. She had the deepest, purest blue eyes I’d ever seen. She reminded me of Carlene.

We stashed our stuff in Chris’ room except for jackets, sweaters, sleeping bags & booze, and headed for the bus. We were accompanied by Chris , Collin, Judy, Gazella , and the PCV’s: Joan from Alabama and her Latin-looking boyfriend, Ed - who reminded me of Wayne Howe, and Mike - the red head.

We rode the bus to Cotocochi for 3S. [5] A short ride. There we looked around for a truck to take us to the lake. We found one going out for 70S. Just as we were piling into it, another guy with another truck said he’d take us for 60S. We loaded off and started getting into that one but then the first guy said he’d go for 50S. Back we piled into truck #1. Just as we had all loaded in, the 2nd guy offered to take us for 40S, but by then our truck was already underway. We rode out, jammed in the back of the pickup, passing around a bottle of scotch that had leaked over Chris’ bag and the breads.

At the lake we bargained with the boat man to take us out to the island. We finally agreed to go out, stay in a house there, and come back for 250S total. [6]

On the island we walked back to the cabin, a nice little brick building with a fireplace and broken out windows. The first order of business was to find fire wood. Everybody went searching and soon N. and Ed & Mike were busy chopping with a dull axe. Not much later we had a good fire going and began to drink the wine and eat the bread & cheese. The PCV’s and had brought out some roasted corn, some hominy, and some other lima bean-like munchies. We sat around the fireplace eating and trying to keep the smoke from coming back in thru the windows. The smoke reached a level in the room about 5’ from the floor. Sitting down we were all OK.

N started playing guitar and I broke out the Rum & Gfj. As the eve. wore on I got progressively more drunk. Judy retired early. As I got more and more drunk my tongue got looser & looser! [7] I talked to Chris, Ed, Collin and N - feeling very good about them and traveling. By the end of the eve. I had all I could do to stagger out to the steps and puke a little (only because I had little in my stomach). I staggered back in, rolled out my sleeping bag, and crashed.

SUN. DEC 10:

Awoke hung over.

N. went out and took a dip in the lake. I sat around in a daze trying not to feel sick. We had told the boat man to come and get us at 10:45, but by 9 we were all ready to go back. We cleaned up the floor, (I wound up sleeping with the foot of my sleeping bag in the ashes on the floor) left the bottles sitting in the window, took some pix of the group , and headed off to the dock.

Chris & Mike whistled for the driver (who didn’t show ’til 10:50) Joan & her friend fished, N & I laid back & rested. Chris told about getting an MG from some movie star [8] , getting busted in Mexico, evading the draft, and playing basketball.

Finally the boatman came. An hour before he got there an Ec. family (Ma, pa & jr.) pulled in from somewhere. Ma sat listening to the radio [9] while pa & jr. fished. No luck. The boatman took us to the shore but our driver hadn’t shown. We went downstairs in the rest. and hade a coke. Mike told about the village he lived in: about killing slugs on beans, about getting screwed out of pigs by the Ministry of Ag., and about his intolerance towards the “mañana” attitude found all over.

The truck we’d given 30s (called “sucs”, rhymes with dukes, by the PCV's) never showed up. About noon we wound up hiring another one to take us to Otavalo for 80s. Sitting in the back trying not to feel sick, breathing exhaust fumes & bouncing up and down, Ed told about bad roads and getting in an accident on the Quito-Otavalo road.

Finally arrived in Otavalo, queasy and in the rain. Checked back into the Pension, claimed our stuff and went off to the Rest. Central for a good lunch. Then came back to the Pension and crashed for the rest of the afternoon. About dinner time I awoke feeling slightly better, Chris, Collin & G., N & I went off to the local Chifa for dinner.

We had decided to go to the movies which we thought started at 8, so we gulped our meal and headed down to the theater. N. by this time had come down with a doozey of a cold and I was only slightly better. As it turned out the movie didn’t start ’til 8:45 so we walked around, bought some cookies and coke, and finally made it back to the show. The features were: The Love Bug Goes to Monte Carlo & Rock & Roll Lives. The film projector suffered from dimness of light & irregularity of same.

We came back to a good nite’s sleep. I dreamt about gargoyles and other bizarre things. 

Mon DEC 11:

Awoke late.

On my way to the can I saw Judy was still here. We sat and talked for a while abut Colo. She decided to buy some sweaters for her brothers before leaving town. She asked me to come with her to help her choose. I got my shit together and after a few wrong turns - went to a shop she’d been in before. There she picked out 2 nice sweaters and proceeded to barter the lady from 700s to 650s. But Judy didn’t have enough money so we went off to the Hotel Otavalo to cash a 20 but they didn’t have enough to change a checque. So I lent J. $10 in sucs. She payed me back with a personal check made out to my old man. We went back to the shop and picked up the sweaters. We traded addresses and upon seeing my last name told me her married name used to be Morse. Hmmm. We talked a bit more and then I bade her farewell.

I came back to the room to munch some cookies for breakfast but N. had polished them off. I went back to the store to buy some more. At the store I ran into J. again. We walked back to the Pension and I told her to write me a card in Cochabamba. She agreed. A very nice lady. I’ll definitely have to see her again.

Back at the room I wrote for a while. N’s cold was not much better today and mine wasn’t much worse. Living next door to C&G was a French couple with a giggly lady. We wondered about why she laughed so much and figured he had to be a pretty funny guy. Around noon C.,C.,G.,N.&I went back to the Central for a good lunch. Back at the hotel we spent most of the afternoon playing cards. First a game of elimination, which I won. Then a 5 handed game of hearts that dragged on & on which Chris finally won.

After cards & relaxing & writing some more we all went back to the Chifa for dinner. We had dinner and came back to read. N. & I discussed the fact that we seem to be loosing momentum, running out of gas. Today for example was particularly boring and unproductive. Things start to look the same after a while. Quito was a big exercise in spinning wheels and we’re only 1/2 done with the place. We seem to be running into a lot more gringos and a lot fewer natives. We speculated on how to solve this seeming lack of motivation but no concrete answers were reached. Just as the evening’s reading and writing was drawing to a close, the power went out and these notes were finished by flashlite.

TUES DEC 12:

I was awakened by the radio next door at 6AM. I slept ’til 10 in spite of the noise.

I got up and went out with Chris and N for breakfast. In front of our table was a large 4’ x 5’ print of the Matterhorn. Chris told us about the mountain, pointing out details on the photo. After breakfast N and I walked around looking for Doris’ house on Calle Morales. We went to one end of town and saw several yellow houses that “just didn’t look like theirs”; we walked to the other end of town and found one that “must be theirs”. Wall hangings in the window gave it away, along with the old lady in the store on the corner. But nobody was home.

Came back to the hotel and got a map of the area. Decided to hike up to Peguchi and down to lago San Pedro, meeting Chris at his prospective rented house. We gathered up our cameras, consulted map and compass, and hiked up the road. It felt good to be out walking the countryside amidst trees and speeding trucks. We turned off the main road and walked into Peguchi asking directions to the waterfall along the way. Many friendly Indians, from old men to young children, pointed us many different directions, much to our amusement and perplexity. Finally thru a convergence of popular opinion we were set on the main (correct) road.

We hiked up a hill going out of town and found ourselves surrounded by hills and trees and a creek rushing down below. What a change from Quito, cars, and red tape. We found the waterfall but the road was above the creek so we didn’t get to view it very well. If we’d known better we could have followed a trail closer to the creek which would have been more scenic. We saw ladies herding sheep.

Once thru the “pass” we came to a small town which consisted of several houses, a store, and a jail. Some natives were sitting on the steps of the store. We stopped to ask directions. There was an older lady, a couple children and a younger man sitting on the steps. Also on the steps was a man of indistinguishable age, dressed in black pants and a grey, dusty, motheaten suit coat, a black hat and black shoes. And surrounded by flies. The flies bothered the others, and this man was obviously the source. Sitting [10] off to the other side of the building was another young man who looked half crazed or retarded, with wide glazed eyes.

We were sent off on the correct road followed by 2-6 children not over 3’ tall. We walked past more houses and farms, the children having to run to match our much longer strides. In the distance we viewed the creek, now much wider and shallower, with several ladies and children tending cows and washing clothes. We reached another town, the children abandoning us by then, but others still poked heads around the mudbank fences and doorways, or ran giggling in front of us.

At another cross roads, due to our mis-reading the creek as a road on our little Otavalo tourist map, and to our miscalculating our position, we set off down the wrong road. Shortly we suspected our error, both confirmed and denied, respectively, by two little girls. We got back on the track and after walking now thru a bottomland area right next to the lake and seeing more cows , pigs, sheep, dogs, and old ladies and children, we ran into Chris walking back up the same road, about 300 yds from his new house. His contact for pot, the lady presently living at the house, wasn’t home.

We caught a taxi back to town. In Otavalo I stopped in a store, bought a liter of milk in a plastic bag, and walked with C & N to the restaurant with the french fries. We ate lunch there but it was too expensive. We went around the corner to the breakfast place and had a hamburger. Soon we were joined by PCV Ed #2. Earlier we’d seen PCV Ed #1 “on his way to work”. We ate lunch with Ed #2 and another lady yesterday.

We sat around and talked about how dry the pot and coke situation was. Chris told stories about putting car keys in a slot machine in Vegas, and drunk driving episodes. This guy’s done a lot of weird, crazy things, but seems perfectly normal. Later we were joined by two more PCVs. Scott(?) and another lady. They’d seen us walking on the road to Peguchi. We talked about books, drugs, the Peace Corps, and Ecuador.

The party broke up and we came back to the hotel. I lazed out for a while. About quarter to six Chris came up and wanted to know if we were going to eat. We got to wondering if Sheri was home yet. He went off in a taxi to see while N & I went to check on Doris again. She wasn’t home.

We stopped at a store and bought some Coke, bread, and cookies and came back & had dinner with some leftover cheese. I read Dostoyevsky and N wrote more Christmas cards. Chris didn’t come back for over 3 hours. We’d just about given up hope when finally he pulled in, stoned, and having walked back from the lake, with a 1/2 oz. We proceeded to get high and marvel at our good fortune. We drank coke and ate cooks.

Chris retired to read Henry Miller. He told us he’d be able to move into his house soon. N & I retired to read and write, respectively.

WED DEC 13;

Awoke early to the music next door. The guy’s radio sits 3’ from my head, the sound stopped by an 1/8" masonite panel board.

I got up and flipped N. for the hot shower. I lost but still had a good warm one. Then off to Mama Rositas, as recommended to us by Eve & Ann, two British ladies. There we found an energetic lady, her husband, and a small restaurant. The lady does all the work and makes the best French crepes with fruit I’ve ever tasted.

Before leaving the hotel, Chris, N&I got high. At the restaurant we were joined by Collin & G. The 5 of us, between chocolate crepes, crepes with fruit, and omelettes, kept this poor lady literally running for an hour and a half. The food was terrific and the lady as friendly as could be. She greeted us at the door in English, and had English, French, and Spanish menus listed on the wall. At the end of our meal we told her we’d be back for spaghetti at 6:30 and to make up a big batch. We left satisfied with our new “find”.

We went to the hotel, grabbed cameras, and started trucking up the road, the five of us accompanied by PCV (Skip?) of yesterday. It was a beautiful day. Crystal clear and warm, we were able to see the top of the local mountain [11] for the first time in our stay. Even the dueña was astounded by the weather.

We walked up the hill in search of an old church turned into a weaving coop owned by the Indians. At first, nobody we asked had even heard of the place. We were told of it by Ed #1 who said “keep going up this street ’til you get to it”. We walked - didn’t find it, turned back up another road, didn’t find it, and turned back all together. Then we met a fellow at a restaurant who had heard of the coop. Our directions were correct, we just hadn’t gone far enough.

At the coop we saw a marvelous display of 1920’s style spinning and weaving equip. Like the pics of child labor factories, those kind of machines. All in functioning condition. In one room they were cleaning the raw cotton. Put it thru a big machine and it came out as one steady sheet of cotton. I took some photos of the machines but only after leaving did I realize that the jefe was quite upset as it was prohibited to enter with a camera.

We walked back to the hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the sundeck, reading and enjoying the sun. I crashed out but awoke about 4:30 in preparation for a slight party evolving around our anticipated spaghetti dinner. We bought oranges, mandarins, a pineapple, and bananas. We mixed up a fruit salad while Chris mixed up some guacamole. Got out the chips, vodka, and grapefruit juice, and sat down to hor’s d’ourves.

About the time the food ran out, Eve and Ann came up on the veranda to join us. Ann is a buxom, uninhibited, attractive lady. She likes her scotch and reminds me of Doc M. in her energy and forth-rightness. Eve, on the other hand, has quite surprised me. She’s obviously an elderly lady. She’s at least 45 and maybe 55 with very wrinkled skin, dyed red hair, and patched levis. She’s got more spunk and spirit than I do, which isn’t saying much, but this lady out “gringo’s” almost all the gringos we’ve met. They’ve been traveling together for over a year, lived and worked in Argentina, hitched and camped in Chile, bartered like bandits for everything in Peru, and got high with us on the veranda. Eve says Fuck! & Shit! right with the best of ’em. Ann has more drunk stories to tell than Chris. A couple of real ladies. Filled with life and energy.

We talked right up ’til 6:30 when the 5 of us went off for our dinner. [12] At Mama Rositas, Eve & Ann were behind us, having changed their plans they decided to come along. The restaurant was full. We loitered about outside ’til a table cleared. Then the 7 of us sat down and had a good meal. Much spaghetti and conversation later we walked back to the Pension. There we sat on the veranda, and then under the awning once it began to rain. We talked, drank vodka, scotch, got high, and had a good time. [13]

Thurs DEC 14,

Awoke feeling stuffed in the guts.

N,C,C,&G went off to breakfast at Mama Rositas again. I stayed behind and took a massive shit. Funny how travelers in South America put so much thought towards shitting and the toilet. As Eve said “Shitting is rather a barometer of your health, isn’t it?” Many travelers will relate intimate scatological stories at the drop of a piece of T.P. Stories of the terrible toilet conditions in Peru (hanging your balls over a plugged, reeking, seat-less toilet bowl, hanging on with both hands to keep from falling in. An overstuffed pail of shit stained T.P. and newspaper [14] .)

I felt like kicking back for the whole day. I took a toot, wrote for a while ’til N. & the others got back from breakfast, and wound up reading for 4 hours. Dostoyevsky is weaving a nice Perry Mason mystery around God, The Devil, and everybody in between. Very heavy reading. I find myself concentrating, and at times re-reading pages. Reading Dost. finally put me to sleep. I awoke again at 4:30 feeling refreshed. N & I went out to check on Doris.

Earlier - Collin & Gazella had moved on to Quito. We traded addresses, said good by, and planned on meeting up in Baños for Christmas. Chris also moved out to his house by the lake today. Sheri won’t be moving out ’til Sat.

We knocked on Doris’ door but nobody was home. As we turned up the street to walk back - there was Doris & Jr. walking toward us. She invited us in and turned Jr. over to some neighborhood kids. We toured her house, a sparsely furnished (mats & cushions, a table & 3 chairs) 4 or 5 room, one story, modern dwelling. Outside was a small yard, cultivated, with a rabbit pen and 4 healthy rabbits. When the tour was over we left to get some dinner. We invited ourselves back (this time with pot) and Doris agreed.

We ate at Mamas, had a typical, but good marienda. After dinner it started to rain. We ran to a store, bought some sandwich cookies [15] (like on the Gabriel) and ice cream cones. There we stood in the doorway watching the rain. We finished off the cones and slogged our way at a trot the 1/2 block to the Pension. I went back out and bought milk. Came back to cookies and milk.

We relaxed for a while and then went off to visit Doris. It was still raining and had gotten dark. We arrived and sat at the table watching JR dance on the table, pantless. He was finally diapered and put to sleep. We got stoned and Doris showed her collection of jewelry, precious, and semi-precious stones. Tigers eye, ruby, topaz, amethyst, and others. Hopefully her husband will be out of jail tomorrow. His trial is in the morning.

We walked back to the Pension in the fog. The streetlites reflected off the cobblestones. The palm trees in the park made the whole place look like a set for “Tarzan” or “King Kong”. We got back and finished off the milk and cooks. Retired to read and space out.

O

FRI DEC 15,

My guts felt better this morn. 2 days ago I was bloated, now I feel 10 lbs thinner.

N & I got up and went to Mamas again for breakfast. We had potato pancakes topped with cheese. Very good. She’s making us a banana bread that’ll be ready by noon. On our way to Mama’s I saw a man wearing a blue-grey suit coat. On the pocket was a patch that read, “HENNEPIN COUNTY GOVT. CENTER.” I was only 3/4 awake, so it took a minute for that one to sink in.

After our potato pancakes we went to the “big photo” rest. for coffee and rolls. Back at the Pension we tooted and retired to read & write for a while. When noon time rolled around Chris showed up after taking a shower. He was on his way to Esperanza with Sheri. Sheri is the girl we saw first in the Galapagos, with the 1yr old kid she carries around in a back pack.

N & I went to get the bread. It wasn’t ready. We walked down the block and bought a pint of Arrope de Mora (black raspberry syrup). Came back and waited. Finally the bread was ready. We took it back mold, platter, and bread. It was not what we thought we were getting. It was more like banana custard. We ate and laid back to digest and read.

Later on in the afternoon I heard Ben Sias’ voice. N ran downstairs and sure ’nuff it was him. We all went to their hotel to meet up with Dan Freidman. From there we went to Allie Mquies. There we met up with Doris and Sport Model. Her husband was not back yet. After dinner we bought some cooks, coke and all came back to toke, eat, and drink. Dan and Ben retired shortly, followed by N & I.


[1] On our way out we met the Germ. girl from the 1st day on the Galapagos.They’d gotten a boat and had a good trip traveling with the Italians.

[2] They’d taught for a while in Costa Rica and had many nice things to say about the place.

[3] getting in a fight with the Capt. & being kicked off in Costa Rica

[4] The one N. talked to was from Buffalo, Minn. Mine was from outside Eau Claire.

[5] On the bus a little girl was trying to get her drunken father off the bus.They’d missed their stop because the old man was so wasted. She was crying and trying to pull him off the bus. Finally the guy staggered off. We all felt sorry for the little girl.

[6] At the lake the truck driver wanted 30s to guarantee we’d be there in the morn. We told him to be there at 11AM. We told the boat man to be there at 10:45.

[7] (oral diarrhea)

[8] Ginger Rogers

[9] doing cross-words

[10] on some wooden boxes

[11] Imbabura

[12] Eve&Ann told us they’d been at the Rest. for lunch & that Mama told them she had 5 gringos coming in  for dinner. Also just before  leaving, N. found out that these ladies were known to Ben and Dan from the Gabriel.

[13] HCGC

[14] on the side

[15] Up ’til now all we’d been able to find were galletas de coco

Chapter 14::Table of Contents::Chapter 16