Lost in Otavalo

Stephanie Dunning - Ecuador

December 30, 2011

Tuesday, October 11

Otavalo isn’t as big as Quito, but I had a map of Quito.

That really isn’t the only thing I had going for me while wandering the streets of Quito. I had the mountain in the west that helped with generalizing directions. In Otavalo, there are not only mountains West, but also North, East and South. So I really can’t fall back on landmarks that you can see anywhere in the city. Also, I spent pretty much every day for the first month wandering Quito. I know the relation between the three main streets, and if all else fails, I could figure out which bus to take, depending on where I wanted to go – for only a quarter of a dollar.  The bus lines 10 de Agosto, Kennedy, or Carapungo would take me pretty much to my front door, while Versalles would take me to my school.  And of course, any bus with the name of a centro comercial was always a great option.  I got “lost” in Quito twice.  However, the fear that I would never get home had a chance to settle within me completely before I figured out how to get home.  I feel completely comfortable in Quito, despite the language barrier.  For the first time in my life, I loved a big city.

Otavalo is a different story completely. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable in Otavalo; it’s just that I’ve only been about four times, always with an escort of sorts.  I know quite a few places in Otavalo, but I currently lack the ability to connect them in a way that I can get from the cathedral to Plaza de los Ponchos. Or from my Spanish class to my bus stop- which I realized yesterday.

I took myself to my Spanish class for the first time yesterday.  My sister had been gone since before I woke up.  I was lost for a larger percentage of my four hours in Otavalo.  I left my money and notebooks in my room after my “reunion” with the other teachers of my school and my supervisor.  So I wasn’t able to get a cab on the way to my Spanish class; not that I would have known where to tell the driver to go anyway.  So, I pretty much ran from Yambiro to Otavalo (thank God it’s literally all downhill).  However, when I finally got all the way down, I couldn’t find the bus terminal to use as a reference point before searching for the building where my Spanish class is.  So, I guessed.  A lot. I ended up walking right passed it, then turning around and walking right by it again before turning down a very wrong street on the other end of Plaza de  los Ponchos.  By the time I stopped to ask someone where Calle Salinas was, I was right where I started- on the correct street, about six doors down from my class.

As stressed as I was about getting lost on the way to class for the second time (the first time I was with my sister), it was nothing compared to the feeling of hopelessness consuming me once I tried to find my bus stop.  I have to explain something about the bussing system to Yambiro.  A bus arrives in front of my house at 6:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 6:30 p.m.,  and only these three times every day.  In order for the bus to stop in front of my house at exactly 6:30, it has to leave the stop in Otavalo at exactly 6:00.  My class got out at 5-ish.  It was raining hard.  I walked around a little with my amigo, Jake, to find an umbrella, and we parted ways at about 5:20.  More than enough time to find the stop, right?  Wrong.  I ended up literally walking around in circles around the market and the cathedral.   I was thinking about finding a cab and trying to tell him that I needed to go to Yambiro.  I kept looking at my phone, time was creeping closer and closer to 6 o’clock, and I still was nowhere near the stop.  At 5:53, I finally found the street I needed to be on. I turned the corner… and no one was standing at the stop.  Then I realized that everyone was inside the bus.  If I walked, I could miss it.

So I ran.


In the middle of the road.

In the rain.

… My foot stepped on the bus at 5:58.

My family thought it was hilarious, as do I, though at the time, I was not very amused.  I hope this little expedition is a one-time ordeal, I really don’t like feeling so anxious- who does? Though, through experiences like this, I feel like I will get to know Otavalo pretty well.



Stephanie Dunning