Bargain hunting and surviving the road

Otavalo Travel Blog

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In the morning it was an early rise again, however, for it was Saturday, market day in Otavalo.  Karine and I met at breakfast and caught the bus north, a 2.5 hour ride, entertainment courtesy of Independence Day dubbed in Spanish.  The Otavalo market was hugh, with booths stretching in all directions, seemingly endless.  They sold local crafts, ponchos and sweaters, toys, little wooden guitars, jewelry, and an assortment of other trinkets.  We realized quickly that there was no need to see all the booths, as the stock and selection were so similar, so set ourselves to shopping.  Otavalo is known for its haggling, a feat I had not yet tried.  My 1st purchase I was too shy to try, but the 2nd one I forced myself to and naturally was successful, as the vendors expect to give discounts.  By the end of the market I had it down pat and secured some great deals, picking up some gifts to mail off later.  We shopped until around 4, grabbed a quick bite and headed for a bus to Quito.

The bus we caught turned to to be full, so we ended up with seats in the very front: Karine got shotgun, and I got to sit on a cooler in the very middle, one leg on each side of the gearstick and my back pressed right up on the heater.  The seat was far from comfortable, but it did allow me to view with painstaking clarity the rules of the Ecuadorian road.  Here are some of the local bus driving rules I was able to deduce:

1.       Always fill your bus to ridiculous capacity.  If the seats are gone, ask the newcomers who flag you from the side of the road if they mind to stand.  Pack the aisle full of those who agree.

2.       Beware of cows on the road.  They like to wander into traffic and stand there stupidly.

3.       Passing zones are simply a suggestion.  Feel free to pass at all times, irregardless of double yellow lines, upcoming blind corners or even oncoming traffic.

4.       If multiple cars want to pass the same car simultaneously, this is also fine.  Just drive side by side around the slower vehicle and then race at the end to see who will be ahead.

5.       Honking is vital.  Honk at everything: slow vehicles, other buses approaching, people at the side of the road, sometimes at nothing at all.  Don’t honk once, honk multiple times at all aforementioned items, especially the oncoming buses.  Flash your lights at these as well.

6.       All buses must be decorated with as may Virgin Mary´s as will possibly fit.

7.       Feel free to meander aimlessly between lanes on multilane roads.  After all, if someone wants you to move they will honk.

Despite all this, we arrived unscathed in Quito right in time for dinner.  After eating Karine went to bed, I however went on the piss with a few Secret Gardeners, one being Ellen, a really nice girl with an almost identical itinerary to mine, except she flies to NZ one week after me.  I have a feeling we´ll meet a few times along the way, hopefully anyway as we seem to click quite well.

                So 4 of us headed out to Finn McCool´s, the local Irish pub (some name, isn´t it! Finn McCool!) for a few games of darts and pitchers of beer.  A bigger crowd from the hostel showed up later but we turned down the option to go nightclubbing and headed back at 1-ish.

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photo by: Ils1976