We packed for three days and two nights, and were on the bus at 8 AM. Our destination was Otavalo with several detours on the way. Just getting through Quito morning traffic was a challenge, but the bus driver, who was amazing (every year I admire our bus driver the most!) took Eloy Alfaro to a peripheral road on to the Panamerican Highway, and we were on our way. Calderon is a town just north of the city, and has a tradition of fashioning colourful figures out of bread dough mixed with glue. It is a popular stop every time we take a tour bus to the north. On the main road as we enter the town, there are whole pigs roasting on spits in restaurants, and 'fritada' and hanging pigs with chunks cut out of them. We are taken to a store where the artisans are working and demonstrate their skills in using remarkably deft fingers to form figures. I was distracted by a man outside the store who was selling 'Tigua' paintings from the area around Cotopaxi. He claimed to be the artist and to work with both oils and acrylics. I bought two of his paintings, one of a shaman rubbing a guinea pig all over his subject. The cuy are used to bless someone or to diagnose illness or evaluate 'good' or 'bad' energy. Another painting depicted the story of a rabbit tricking a wolf. I know I have read the same story in a collection of legends of the Andes and will have to find it again.
Calderon Bread Figures
Calderon Bread Figures
We stopped in Guayabamba, where we bought a very strange exotic fruit called 'chirimoya', which look prehistoric and for several years I felt they looked far too odd to eat, but this time I tried one, and found it sweet and tasty. We will make an effort to try some more interesting fruit in the market tomorrow, and several students expressed interest in trying 'cuy', so that is now part of our agenda in the next few days.
Two of 150 LlamasCochasqui is a Quitu-Cara ancient monument composed of several huge pyramids with long ramps leading up to them and many 'tolas' or tombs over a massive area that used to be an hacienda for hundreds of years. The indigenous people had covered the structures with dirt and grass to hide them from the Incas who conquered them and then the Spanish who came afterward. There is confusion as to the purpose of the structures. They may have been ceremonial pyramids or tombs or ritual calendars for agriculture. There is a stone calendar of the sun and of the moon at the top of the largest pyramid. We walked through the site with our very enthusiastic guide enjoying the 150 llamas and two alpacas. Elesier, our guide, found us some salt to feed them and they all came running to investigate and visit us. We visited a typical Andean house and another with cuy running all over the floor.
We are staying in Otavalo at 'Las Palmeras', where we have stayed before. Our destination tomorrow is the market, which will be smaller but adequate on a Wednesday. Our students are enthusiastic and interested and entertaining.