Week two in Ecuador started with a chilled out Sunday afternoon, after abandoning plans to visit Lake Cuicocha due to the near torrential downpour. Quiet time is a rare commodity in a team of twelve and so I grabbed it with both hands, listened to my iPod all afternoon and had a blissful siesta before dinner at our usual spot. We seem to go to bed ludicrously early here, and consistently blame it on the altitude even though it may have more to do with us being a bunch of Grannies (not that I’m complaining, I love my sleep!)
We were painting more of the Nursery on Monday and at this point it’s nice to feel like we’re getting into a rhythm and actually achieving something day by day. With such a long community work project you actually feel that you’re making a difference, and seeing the Casa improve slowly but surely is unspeakably rewarding. Having said that, if I ever see another paint brush again in my life, I may kill myself. Or someone else. Possibly both. I haven’t decided! As always I spent Monday morning playing with Ghandi (insane dog) and getting head-butted by children. All in a days work. Lunch is an often near hysterical affair, as we’re all feeling it after inhaling paint fumes all morning, and we usually get served soup followed by some sort of rice and meat. It’s fair to say that you couldn’t do the Atkins in Ecuador because they love their carbs. It’s nice to get some fruit juice with our meals because my body is screaming out for fruit and veg! Well, it’s mainly screaming out for Chili Heat Wave Doritos, but that’s the side of me I try to repress. Monday afternoon comprised of Spanish lessons, as usual. I’m finding Spanish a lot easier than I thought I would, and it turns out that the potentially insane Spanish teacher is actually really lovely. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s crazier than a bag of rats but she does seem to know what she’s doing.
Tuesday and Wednesday followed much the same pattern; School, Lunch, Spanish. Tuesday night was a lot of fun, after we tracked down the only vaguely English pub in Otavalo which featured a Darts Board and Jenga (who doesn’t love a bit of Jenga?!) and on Wednesday night we decided to stay in with Rum and hot chocolate.
Thursday, you’ll be glad to hear, broke the pattern, as we got the chance to visit Cuicocha – the lake we blew off on Sunday. Cuicocha literally translates as Guinea Pig Lake, and is a giant volcanic lake, named after it’s magma islands in the centre of the crater which are shaped like Guinea Pigs. We did a bit of hiking around it’s circumference to get some awe-inspiring views of the surrounding mountains and then got a boat to the centre of the lake. It’s an incredible place, where nothing really lives because of it’s total isolation from any stream of fresh water and it seems completely unspoilt by man, which is a real rarity. We were able to see the volcanic gases rising through the 200 meter deep water and to sail through the ‘Chanel of Enchantment’ between the two islands. We were treated to free drinks when we got off the boat, the name of which escapes me, but they tasted like liquid mince pies. Amazing!
We got back in a cattle bus (I don’t want to talk about it) to get down to Chilcapamba (the village we volunteer in) and had a guided tour of some of the village’s farms and production houses, which was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be, actually. It was a bit frustrating to see the mark up that we’d been paying for souvenirs in Otavalo market though, and I think we all felt a bit guilty buying gifts for such little money off of the community. We were given the opportunity to chose and slaughter our own Guinea Pig for lunch – a pass-time which I had no interest in taking part in and am pleased to report that I am no wiser to the taste of Guinea Pig than I was the day before. Spanish was an even more ridiculous affair than usual, as we bullied our teacher into taking us to the cake shop where we bought her pie and did Charades in Spanish for two hours. Only in Ecuador. Yesterday evening we had a much needed night out in Otavalo to blow off some steam in one of Otavalo’s only ‘clubs’.
Which brings us up to today! I’m pleased to report that despite my various ailments I’m having a brilliant time and am very much looking forward to a weekend in Mindo, which I’ll report back about on Monday.