Sunday, January 10, 2016

Quito, Papallacta, Otavalo

I got my regular itch again.  No, nothing that requires antibiotics.  I mean, my 'itch' to get out of Dodge.  Those of you born in the 60's or after, go ask someone older than you what that means.

I get stir crazy very easy.  I need something to do (something I WANT to do, that is).  I have a hard time sitting still for any length of time (unless I'm watching 'I Love Lucy' back to back!!!).  Much like my Dad, I always need a project to keep me busy and engaged.

So, when I have downtime inbetween guests arriving and checking out, I start to look for opportunities to fill the gap.  Recently, it meant hopping in my car and driving to Quito (7 hours) for the umpteenth time, but this time exploring a few places I hadn't in past visits to Quito.

The new Quito airport is out in the boonies, about 1/2 hour drive from the heart of Quito. I stayed at nice lodgings recently when I helped some friends moved back to the US of A....12 bags (plus carry-ons), a German Shepherd, a Golden Retriever, and a Shit-Zoo named See-Mohn.  Gimme a break. Quito Airport Suites accepts pets, which is not very common.   QAS has large, enclosed grounds and nice rooms, complete with breakfast, and all just a few minutes from the new airport.  Normally, QAS guests are comprised of people just arriving, or just departing Quito.  They were a bit taken aback when I said I wanted to stay for 4 nights.  Their location was perfect for me to explore places on THAT side of Quito, without having to stay in the heart of the city, pay more, and drive more.

And, since QAS accepts pets, Gracie came along with me.  It was her FIRST out-of-Cuenca travel experience!!

Side note:   It's always fun (and an honor) when people recognize me and say....'aren't you Dano?'   'I read your blog all the time!'.  However, when I was at QAS, one of the guests eating dinner in the dining area where I was, recognized Gracie, then looked at me, and exclaimed...'Is that GRACIE, and are you Dano!!'    LOL   He was/is a fan of my blog and DEFINITELY a fan of Gracie and her ever-present position at the end of my blogs (of past).  Gracie jumped up and went over to him, said 'hi' and graciously gave him an autopawgraph.   I just hope it doesn't end up on Ebay somewhere down the line, going for some absurd amount like $7.93!!!!

Oh Crap, I digressed didn't I?

So, Gracie and I hit the road and headed for Quito Airport Suites on the 'other side' of Quito.  The next day, I drove up to Papallacta (pah-pah-yack-tah).   PP is regularly touted as the spa of all spas in Ecuador.  By spa, I mean thermal volcanic hot water spas (boiling water out of the ground), with various twists on amenities such as massages, mud baths, volcanic cave steam rooms, etc.  From QAS, it was less than 2 hours drive.  The route, clearly, enjoyed the benefits of the EC government financing to improve roads.  What was a 2-lane road was now a 4-lane smooth ascent into the mountains with jaw-dropping vistas.

Along the way, I saw yet another government project underway.  Huge steel towers were being erected to route electricty lines to other parts of the country from new water-powered dams being built.  I was in awe of the effort it took to erect the towers and 'string' the cable from one to another in mountainous territory.

I went up, up, up and then down, down, down to arrive at Papallacta....the town.  Encompassing the area were several thermal bath spas, but of the 'has been' variety.   PP is a town.  But, about 1km outside of town is PP, the spa.

Papallacta, the spa, has several segregated areas.  First, there is the hotel accommodations.  Verrrrry 'spensive.   Those who are staying at PP have exclusive use of an area of thermal pools.  Those who are day guests, can choose from two different areas of thermal pools.  One, is basic....just an array of hot pools to soak in.  The other, is a smidge fancier, with 6 hot pools (complete with jets and/or swan-neck-like spouts) and an ice-cold dip pool....all in a garden setting in the middle of nowhere.  PP provides a locker room, showers, changing stalls, swimming cap, and towels.  Price for the smidge fancier package was $22.

Luckily, I went on a weekday, so it was rather calm attendance-wise.  I could tell the place must really hop on weekends as the parking lots were large, and there was an electronic sign over the reception desk displaying the next turn number!  EEEEK!!!

The next day, I met up with a flight attendant friend of mine who worked the Miami - Quito route while I was there.  I met him at the Hilton, where the crew was staying, in the heart of Quito.  He had never been to Otavalo (I have) and really wanted to see the big Saturday market Otavalo is known for, so off we went after having a quick lunch for $3 in the local mercado.   Again, I was amazed at the improvement in the roads since I was last there about 3 years ago.  Smooth, new pavement, and a completely new 4-lane bypass road leading into Otavalo that was formerly a choked (with slow trucks/busses) 2-lane winding road.  The day was crystal clear and both the volcanos at Otavalo and Cotacachi were on full display, loooooooming over their respective towns.

We caught the tail end of the day with many vendors dismantling their stalls.  However, it didn't take long for both he and I to grab some buys.  In my case, more local artwork to display in one of my short-term rental apts.  A quick dinner and we hit the road (a different route) back to QAS to let Gracie out to go potty, then took my friend back to the Hilton.

Next day....I....woops...WE (Gracie and I) hit the road back to Cuenca.

Enjoy the photos!!

Dano

QAS has a large open space around their lodgings, with a soccer field.  I'm parked in front of my room and Gracie is taking a breather.

Art festival held every weekend in one of Quitos parks.

My USA brain automatically sees how this would never fly in the USA.
1.  Hard ground to fall on
2.  Kids could choke themselves in the rope
3.  No adult supervision
4.  No age limitations
5.  Too many at one time
6.  No....ugh..I'm just going to stop there, too many to list
Yet...
Everyone is fine and having a fun time here

Just another local church in Quito.  Ho hum.
Yeah, blurry, but I was driving for cripes sake!  On the road up to PP, there were people on the shoulder of the road selling basic fruits and vegetables.  



Newly erected electrical towers.

Huge spindles of the electrical cable waiting to be connected and strung from tower to tower.
A nice panorama shot of a lake just outside PP.

The highway headed downhill towards PP sitting below.

Church of PP.
(hmmm, maybe I should rephrase that)

Papallacta pools 1 & 2.

Locker room.

Notice the swan-neck spouts.  In each alcove you could either stand or sit so the spouted water would hit a different area of your neck or back.

Benches of concrete and rock.
In pool #3, you lay on submerged concrete lounges shaped to fit the curvature of the body, and rest your neck on a rock (surprisingly comfortable) and soft bubbles work your neck.

Entrance to the locker, dressing room and shower area.


View of the topography surrounding PP.

Covered walkway leading from the spa areas to the hotel.




Next up....Otavalo.

Polilshed gems in Otavalo.

Hand-beaded necklaces in Otavalo.

Silwy hats in Otavalo.

Otavalo street lamps.

Eggs anyone?

Otavalo and the volcano keeping guard.

About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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