We could take a taxi from our front door for $8 to $10 each way, or we could take the bus from the San Pablo plaza to Otovalo and then transfer to the Cotacachi bus for $1 each way. We took the bus. It took nearly an hour to go the 23 miles between here and there, but the buses were a visual feast. On the San Pablo to Otovalo leg we saw couples with babies, women headed to market and men to work. Three quarters of them were indigenous, dressed traditionally; the rest were mestizo (mixed indigenous and European from several centuries ago). Between Otovalo and Cotacachi there were few indigenous, mostly mestizo in Western dress and several English and Italian speakers. And the scenery is unmatched anywhere I have traveled in the world.
We walked the "leather street" and I found my new laptop case. Leather, with the right dimensions and pockets, I paid $68 in the second shop I visited. Then I stopped looking, because I didn't want to know what else I might have chosen, or what different prices I might have paid. The street reminded me of Italy. These weren't little native shops; they had sophisticated window displays and their display areas were artfully done. It was clear to me that more than a few non-Ecuadorians live in this place and are influencing the growth and culture of Cotacachi. We had lunch in a place that could have been in Italy or Mexico, and thought our spaghetti with shrimp was excellent and inexpensive, I found myself thinking almost wistfully about the local flavor of San Pablo and even Otovalo.
Of course we stand out on the buses; I have gray hair and am wearing a large-brimmed hat, while everyone else has black hair and wears traditional headgear or nothing. Still, they are courteous to us. We feel comfortable in their midst.
And now that we're back at Casa Quinde, I'm thinking about wandering over to the garden to pick some vegetables for dinner - or maybe walking to a tienda for an ice cream sandwich.
It's feeling like home here, but we're leaving a week from tomorrow. Already?
You should hear my Spanish! It's terrible. But my vocabulary increases every day. Somehow I'm making myself understood.