A beautiful day of chilling in Pucon with my sore muscles before heading up to Santiago by night bus with Helen, one of my fellow climbers. We arrived early morning and headed to the Bellavista area where we were both staying. It was too early to actually check-in and I was having second thoughts about staying in Santiago for 2 days so I hiked over to the Lan Chile office to see if I could change my flight to Quito, Ecuador. All the things I'd read on the web about Lan Chile and their dealings with round the world travelers was not good but I have to say they have been excellent every time I've had to deal with them. My only option was to go that day at 4pm which was fine with me. I dropped by the Pablo Nerita house/museum on the way back to the hostel and was taken on a really informative tour. My guide was really enthusiastic and pointed out all the wacky features of the house and told me some crazy tidbits of his life. My favorite part strangely was seeing his solid gold Nobel prize medal. I couldn't take my eyes off of it. On the way back to the hostel I passed quite a few funky murals so I detoured around the neighborhood to find more. I ran into Helen at a restaurant near the hostel where she was chatting with a traveler who had a flight at almost the same time as me. We shared a cab to the airport and I was on my way.
My first night was at a crappy hostel around the corner from where I really wanted to stay but it was all I could book on such short notice. It was clean but dark and if you wanted to go out the woman had to come down about 4 flights of stairs to let you in or out. I couldn't be bothered so I went directly to bed. I headed out early to try and get my Brazilian visa sorted. Talk about hoops! Passport, application, picture, flight details in and out (which I don't have), yellow fever vaccination proof, international credit card, on and on. I ran around for about 2 hours trying to pull everything together and then headed over to check out the Secret Garden hostel to see if they could squeeze me in one night early. It really is as cool as I've heard. They are located right in between new and old Quito and have a huge patio on the roof where everyone hangs out. They even serve big group diners each night. I moved my things into my room and went into the Mariscal area of the new city with 2 girls I'd met on the patio. I'd already been there earlier to deal with my visa but this time I got to check it out at a relaxed pace. The place is tourist central with lots of little hotels, restaurants and shops catering to foreigners. I sat in a nice cafe for a bit before jumping on the trolley back to the hostel. The trolley was beyond packed and when the doors close, they close hard knocking lots of people back onto the platform. I held my bag in a death grip and jumped off one stop too late because getting off requires a bit of planning to get through so many people and out the door. Walking back I found the central market which is lined with stalls of people selling fruits, veg, meat and cooked meals. I was about to leave when it started pouring down rain. I ordered up a strange purple sweet purple drink, mora I think, and waited it out with everyone else.
Back at the hostel they were beginning to serve dinner. I wasn't hungry to I just had some soup and got to know some of the other travelers. 2 girls, Melissa and Honey also wanted to go to the big Saturday market in Otovalo the next day so we made a plan to be ready at 7am for the 2 hour bus journey. We were in the cab to the bus station for about 30 seconds when I realized I didn't have a copy of my passport with me. If you don't have papers and they stop the bus they can throw you in jail! I ran back to get it and we were finally on our way. Our driver dropped us off right beside our bus which was great because it left promptly after we sat down. The bus was only passing through Otovalo so it dropped us off on the corner and we had to conference for about 5 minutes with Honey's map to figure out which way to go. We hit the food market first which was stalls and stalls of dead animal carcases with some fruit and veg thrown in. In the center they have big pots of stews cooking. We were all hungry so we opted to try some authentic food. I chose mystery meat with yummy potato croquettes and the girls went for a plates of a layered rice, veg and egg dish.
The main market was a few blocks away in the main plaza but all the streets in every direction leading up to the market had people selling stuff. Lots of sweaters, ponchos and scarves, jewelery and more food. Honey left early to make her Spanish class so Melissa and I said our goodbyes and kept browsing. I really wanted a poncho but they sort of tented up at my shoulders giving my a kind of superhero look. Not the look I was going for. I found a beautiful thick wool sweater that fitted me perfectly but it was a just a little too orange. Only $9 dollars though so it was hard to give it up. It's weird using American dollars for everything here. One big difference is that prices are so cheap that where in the States you just dump your change in a bowl when you get home, you are constantly jingling when you walk.
Back to the bus station where after saying 'Quito, Quito' to enough people we found a bus ready to take off. From the Quito bus station we decided on a whim to head up the hill to check out the Virgin. I knew the taxi driver was reaming us but Melissa said it was the right price. Later back at the hostel I found out different. It was pretty overcast but we took in a great view of the city from the top. Back at the hostel it was chip/dip/hamburger/banana split night so while only 6 people ate the night before, there were almost 20 of us tucking in. I've been so used to eating at 11pm and going out even later that it's a bit hard to adjust here. Dinner was at 6:30pm and it gets dark here by 8pm. Everyone was psyching up to go out on the town at 11pm which left about 3 hours of sitting and drinking time before we were to hit the clubs. Of course I should have known better but those Cuba Libres were going down so smooth. We jumped into 5 taxis and headed out to a cool bar and then a small dance club before I'd had enough. Drinking in the clubs is a dangerous pastime. Tia had her drink spiked a few days before and was was still feeling under the weather. I put my drink down for 2 seconds to pull something out of my bag and she quickly scooped it up and wagged her finger at me. Some girls were heading to the jungle early the next day so I cabbed it back with them about 3am.
I was feeling pretty bad the next day so I didn't get up til noon. The rest of the people in the hostel looked in much worse off than me though. Drinking and smoking at high altitude when you're body hasn't fully adjusted is not advisable, take it from me. With my morning plans shot I decided to walk around the the old city which is all grand churches and squares with people milling around watching street performers. I stopped for lunch and completely botched my order and ended up with a huge plate of rice and lentils with a thin chewy piece of meat when I'd really wanted was the soup everyone else was eating.I was happy in the end because when I finally got my soup and went looking for bits of meat I found only chicken feet and offal. It wasn't too late so I headed to park El Ejido where they have a small weekend market with lots of gorgeous paintings lining the park. I was definitely tempted but I don't think my mother would appreciate me sticking her with large canvas boards to take back for me when she meets me in Lima next week. Tomorrow I pick up my passport hopefully with my new Brazilian visa decorating the last of my free pages. Then I'm off to check out some other nearby towns. I've heard the baggage handling on the buses is a bit sketchy here so I'm going to leave my big bag at the hostel and travel light which will be nice for a change;)