The last time I had to jump on a bus while moving was a while ago, maybe when I was last back home in Zimbabwe? That or on the older London buses. Either way, it was a while ago. Crazy as it sounds though, it’s different it kind of makes you feel like you’re on the edge! Na, I’m only messing, start with a joke right?
Living in a different country away from everyone you know means you have to be more confident, independent and decisive. As soon as the weekend came, I made a decision. Get out of the city. The last week has been manic, and I needed to go. I found out that some banks back home block your account even though you tell them you're moving abroad, I literally went three days on $5. Go back twenty years or even ten years, what would I have done?
Today there’s direct debit, credit cards, travellers cheques and all that, which is all great, but no way would that have worked out on my route. Nothing was going to ruin this for me, sure, three bank cards didn’t work, but I had planned for this! I made sure everything was done right, I made sure my mum was signed on my accounts, just in case. Just in case three of my cards didn’t work. Just in case I had no money to live on. Yeah, there’s more to the story, but who would’ve thought it. Always prepare for the worst, I guess I did.
Friday came, and like I said, I had decided to go.
High mountain roads, deep valleys in and around the Pan-American Highway and we weren't wasting time, last bus out of Quito and the destination Otavalo. Siting a few hours outside Quito but hosting one of the world’s most famous markets. Yes, world.
The bus ride to Otavalo really was something, when was the last time you saw a Datsun car on the road, or sat on a bus as the only non-locals? Me and Lou were loving it. The ride was meant to take two hours, but of course that turned into three and a half. That’s not a complaint though, it seems out here that there’s more time for anything, more time to enjoy life. Personally, I’d hoped the bus would break down somewhere along the trip. It did. Only for twenty minutes though, I was gutted. Anyway, we got to Otavalo, and we were the only one’s getting off. The conductor (which we had not seen before) came to get us, funny how he knew who the non-locals were!
Off the bus, 6.30pm, eyes rolled their way over to us. We felt them looking, “Don’t make eye contact!” It was only a joke, well- to me anyway, Lou didn’t quite think so. A dollar cab ride later, we got to the hostel, Spanish in check and ready to use. At the time, I could only manage small talk, but it was enough to keep a conversation flowing! Learning Spanish is challenging but so interesting, not to mention useful! A week of lessons, 4 hours STRAIGHT and I’m starting conversations, keeping them, telling jokes! Sure it’s a bit slow but from little to no Spanish to some decent Spanish in about a week, I’m proud!
Friday had been a long day so eventually we went to sleep.
Saturday morning, out the front door, and the market was there to greet us. Neither of us had expected something on such a scale. The streets were filled with sellers and market stalls, the people had surely been up a few hours before us and we were up and out at 8am. Something like this says a lot about the Otavalans, their organisation and everything. It wasn’t as if their streets weren’t used for anything important, Friday night had the streets full of cars and commuters, but for this one day, the streets had no cars whatsoever. The surprise is something my words can’t really describe, maybe a photograph?
We were heading for the animal market a few blocks up the road. I had my eye on a Llama or two, but there were so many other things there. From pigs, to horses, cows, chickens, sheep, ducks and a lot more. All for sale. I can see the point that some people would not agree with something like this, but personal beliefs can’t always go against the way of life of some people, and countries, this is how it works. It may be that the odd tourist spectator make it seem fake or staged or whatever, but despite the tourist attention, the people here still get on with their business, simply because trading in livestock is business. Business needed for money and a decent standard of living.
On the other hand though, some things I can question. Take for example how I was in the market and a kid was trying to reach into my bag, there was nothing in there, and I caught him, but that makes me question certain things. Why, is the biggest question and I suppose I don’t have an answer for that yet but I don’t know, I’m not angry at the kid, I don’t know.
It just happens that when you are travelling, you have to get used to certain things. You have to get used to being the only non-local. You have to get used to certain types of people. You have to get used to relying on yourself, relying on others. That in turn means trust. Trusting the people you share a cab with, trusting the people in your hostel. Without some sort of trust, travelling would become a difficult chore. With trust, there’s a way to make new friends and actually have fun.
I’ve met a few people in the last few weeks, made friends, but everyone has a place they need to be. Some in the jungle, others somewhere down south, and me in the middle. Either way though, it was ok, being out here alone makes it so easy to meet new people, travel buddies or whatever you want to call them. Although you go your separate ways after a few days, you somehow meet somewhere along the journey. The weekend in Otavalo was really random, I saw so many people I have met in different places, some from Universities, some from Quito but who were meant to be in the jungle. It’s crazy, unplanned, it’s the life of a traveller.
I’m having fun and learning a lot and seeing incredible things. Everything is to my advantage so far, and I guess that all goes down to all the preparation and the openness. Then again.. I enjoy living unprepared, under pressure, but I also love this. This being the bus I'm sitting on writing my blog, surrounded by Ecuadorians, driving home at sunset over some great landscapes, some great roads.
With the next 8 months or whatever, I’m going to have a great time and I guess that’s down to the pressure travelling brings and will bring. It challenges us, and that's the only way we learn.
Need I say more?