The Trip from Quito to Cuellaje via Otavalo

WorldTeach arranged for six of us, four going to Intag and two going to Ibarra, to share a taxi to Otavalo. The car arrived on time at 9:15. It was essentially a compact care, fitted to seat an extra 2-3 people instead of a trunk. This meant there was a enough space for people, but luggage not so much. Somehow we managed to get all of our bags on the roof rack, although the driver charged us an extra $10. The car was squatting a bit when it pulled away from the hotel at 9:21.

The ride to Otavalo was scenic and an education in Ecuadorian road rules. As best I can tell, laws in Ecuador are a universally ignored suggestions and signs stating them a mere formality that might look good for visitors. Double yellow lines: honk while passing two cars and a truck on a curve. Speed limit: double it. Lanes: what are they? A sane, rational person might be bothered by this but I figure I would fit in driving here no problem. Plus we made good time.

We arrived safely in Otavalo and no one got car sick. The four of us headed to Intag got our luggage and bough tickets for the 1 pm (only) bus to Cuellaje. The car took the other two people the rest of the way to Ibarra.

We ate lunch and squatted for a while in an aluemerzo at the train station. The hour and a half passed relatively quickly. The bus ride was just as I found described online, “a 4 hour ride on unpaved mountain roads.” Next to me was a boy and his mother with two boxes of chicks and ducklings. Every now and then they would open the boxes, presumably to let them have fresh air. The boy let me hold a duckling (I love ducks!), which decided to try and snuggle next to me in the seat. I think it wanted to get a way from the peeping, prehistoric looking chicks or maybe it instinctively knew I would name it and instead of eating it. Where can you get duck collars and leashes? I should Google the U.S. importation regulations for ducks.

Really, other than my butt getting numb it was not a bad trip. The drive through the mountains was beautiful. I happily snapped pictures and took video as we wound our way through the mountains. If you don’t like heights, then you might not want a window seat because there were times the road seemed to disappear.

About two hours into the trip, there was a “pit stop” in front of a roadside tienda. If you need to use the bathroom or want fresh pork grinds this is the place. After than we continued on making a few quick stops as we neared Cuellaje, but only to pick up and drop off people near their homes.

We arrived in Cuellaje a little after 5 pm. Richard, the school administrator met us at the bus. He picked me out immediately. Admittedly, it couldn’t be that hard because everything about me screams gringa. He could not have been friendly. My three companions are all proficient in Spanish and easily carried on a conversation, while I picked up on every 30th word, maybe less.

We walked across the town square, where volleyball ball games were in full swing, to Richard’s house. He introduced us to his family. They talked for a while, while my brain was swimming in panic due to my deficient Spanish speaking skills. Richard walked Tristan around the corner to his host family. Lauren and Jonathan are living a little further out and waited for their rides. By the time they left, the panic in my brain subsided enough to not feel completely lost without translators.

My host family is Quito for the weekend, so I ate dinner with Richard’s family. I will also be eating lunch with them on school days. Somehow with my very limited Spanish, Richards limited English ans some gesturing we managed a few good conversations. We both seem better at understanding our respective “foreign” languages than speaking. Although, I have to give Richard most of the credit. I maybe referring to my Spanish-English dictionary a lot, but I should manage to stumble through just fine.

After dinner Richard walked me to my host family’s house and let me into my room. It is attached to the house, but has a private entrance and bath (just outside of the room). I am looking forward to exploring Cuellaje tomorrow during the daylight.

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