I was sitting in a tourist information and was trying to understand an overenthusiastic man on the opposite site of a desk. He claimed to speak in English, however I was still hearing only Spanish. Although for my questions asked in a Shakespeare’s language, he answered with even more of Cervantes’ one, so probably he understood something. The same for me. I even formulated few question in Spanish: ‘Dondé puedo comer bien, no caro?’ He drew something on my map – a free tourist brochure. He even wrote something next to the drawing, but he had worse handwriting than me, so only thing I could really use was a drawing. Before going ut, he asked me to write down my name on the tourists list. I was maybe seventh.
‘O, you’re from Poland!’ – he cheered. – ‘I’m very interested in history: the war, Nazis, holocaust.’
He wondered for a while. ‘El papa Karol Wojtyla’.
‘Si, Juan Pablo II’ I replied.
He cheered even more, I smiled. A least he’d heard about Poland, unlike many Ecuadorians I’d met before. I went to grab some food.
The lunch was good, in fact. I asked for the name of my soup. I heard something like minestrone. If I only knew what was it… The second course didn’t have any special name, I suppose. Just a piece of meat with some sauce, red onion, salad, an obligatory avocado an to pieces of fried something, probably potatoes, plantains or some other yuca. Eating, I looked through the map of Otavalo surroundings and made some plans for the next day. I thought about walking to a waterfall, but I decided to find out first what’s the price of a taxi going to Laguna the Cuicocha. When I’d started to publish photos from Ecuador on Instagram, some tourist agency proposed me an excursion to that place (of course an expensive one, especially for a rich gringo).
Mine costed me 10$ going up, another 10$ down. A taxi driver didn’t speak English. Before going to the mountais he had to gice a lift to a woman, who was already in car, probably his mother or other relative. He gave me his number and name – Bolivar – and a word TAXI written in majuscule. All of this on a reverse of a ticket from petrol station. I used it the same day to get back to the town.
Laguna de Cuicocha lays in Cotacachi-Cayapas Park, named for the volcano Cotacachi. The lagoon itself is, in fat, a lake in the crater of an active volcano. According to what’s written on a ticket, one can watch the volcanic gas emition there. I didn’t see any. The fact is, though, that 3.5$ spent on a cruise (I gave them 4$, still waiting for a change) was a good investment. In the middle of the lake there are two islands – Theodore Wolf island – he was a German traveller and scientist – and José Maria Yeróvi Island, the smaller one. About José Maria Yeróvi we cannot learn anything from the brochure. Well, apparently a foreign scientist is more prestigious figure than a local someone.
The islands alone are not as much interesting as a channel which separates them. Covered with cane, the narrow passage is called the Channel of Enchantments. And, in fact, the view is enchanting. A group of German students sitting behind me on a boat (I ignored them until that moment) shouted in delight when the trunk cut through the thicket. They cried even louder a bit later, when the waves started to flood the board. I covered my camera and my face with the poncho (oh, thank you an Indian woman who’d weaved the hood in it).
The price of a ticket (and involuntary tip) included a cup of a sweet hot cinnamon drink, which name I didn’t write down, so, of course, I forgot it. At the same time I eventually got my ticket and looked at it impatiently to get some information about the lake. Most of all I wanted to know the name of the species of black duck that I’d photographed. In poor English (poorer than mine, much poorer) there was written that in the lake and its surrounding live over four hundred species of plants that are home to many animals and Andean birds. If not Wiktoria (thank you, Wiktoria), whom I always send the photos of unidentified birds, i wouldn’t know that it was Andean Coot.