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Thursday, November 14, 2013

WELCOME TO TACO BELLO

OTAVOLO, ECUADOR

For those coming on Sunday, be advised everything is closed.   Fairly hopeless for shopping.   Some of the things do open up after noon but in general it's a dead day.



WELCOME TO TACO BELLO  (Otavolo)
This place is owned by Carlos whose been running it for the last year and a half.  Carlos used to be a private investigator in California and has retired to his native Ecuador.   He's one of those friendly, charismatic outgoing individuals and speaks great English.
You can get a reasonably good - though small - margarita for $3 and a shitload of food  (enough for three or one American) for $5 if you order the 'Fiesta Platter'.   Here's some pics of exactly what you get.  The lighter (used for size comparison) is normal sized but I can't tell you how big that is.

The food is pretty decent.  The free nachos and big thing of guacamole were FREE.  The guacamole was excellent but the chips were only so so.

The downsides:  The restaurant is closed on Tuesday and sometimes unexpectedly.  No hours are posted.  No clue why this is.

Other pics of Taco Bello are here:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Note the guns were 'for display only' according to Carlos but I wasn't handed any of them to check out.  If you are the kind of person who faints at the sight of a gun, you might want to skip this place.



ON TO QUITO

Getting the bus to Quito was surprisingly easy.  Showed up to the bus station, was told 'get on the bus', bought a ticket on the bus and off we went with no waiting.  Good deal.

Quito was a pretty average city.  Nothing special unless you want specialty food or shopping.  I came here because I needed new frames for my broken glasses and got them within an hour of arrival.

Sadly, this is one of those towns where you are warned to keep your bag on your front to discourage pickpockets.

In this country, rather than lodging in the big city being cheaper it is more expensive.  I'm not sure why that is but I've seen it in other countries as well.  It's a strange phenomena.   I wasn't digging staying at a $15 per night place and fortunately either them trying a 'bait and switch' or just incompetence saved me from having to do so.

I'd checked into and paid for a hostel room and dumped my gear.  I was told the key had been taken by someone for some purpose and I'd get it later.  No idea why they can't own more than one key to the room but whatever.  Went off to take care of my glasses issue and grab some food as it had been awhile since I'd eaten.

I even managed to find a quirky cool little cafe with the best tiramisu I've had in years.  ['The Cheese Cake Cafe'.  Address:  Juan Leon Mera E4-434 y av Colon.]

This is a sign they had hanging up in there:

When I got back to the hotel, I was told alas, the room had already been reserved.  "But I've already paid!"  I protested.  No avail.  They showed me up some very rickety metal stairs to another room which smelled strongly of paint and was harassed by the sounds of construction.  I responded with "No."  Much discussion in Spanish ensued.  Eventually, I was given back my money.

So glad I was already done with my business here!  I grabbed a very expensive $12 cab ride to go to the further away bus station.  For some reason, the cab driver keeps his wife, baby and two children in the cab with him as he works.  No fucking clue what's up with that but I'm guessing it's a 'cultural difference'.  I demanded and got the front seat.

A four dollar bus ride and I was in Banos.  More on Banos later!



ECUADOR RESTAURANTS

In many of the restaurants by the time you get your food you forgot what you ordered and perhaps why you were there in the first place.

Many of the restaurants have pictures up of what they serve.  When I look at many of the pictures I think "Not hungry enough to eat THAT."

Depending on where you eat, you can find a meal in a restaurant for under $5.  If you are eating fancy $7-10.  Talking the possibility of cloth napkins on the table.  They still bring you paper ones to use, but the cloth ones may actually be on the table.

Although Central and South America are famous for their coffee, I've yet to have a decent cup.  Usually when you order coffee, they bring you boiled water and a jar of instant coffee.  No clue why this is.  Even 'coffee houses' have served me mediocre or shit coffee.



ECUADOR LOCALS

You've got those of Spanish, Indian, black and various mixes.

The attitudes of the locals varies wildly.  Some are friendly, others standoffish.  Some give you a 'hard look' but sometimes you can crack that with a goofy grin.  Sometimes not.  Pretty normal attitudes generally ranging toward friendly.  I'd probably do better if I actually spoke fluent Spanish but unfortunately I can't download stuff like in the Matrix.  If I could, lots of languages would be step one.



STRANGE MEMENTOS

Heard about an American tourist who was popping into different countries just to get a stamp in his passport.  He wasn't interested in seeing the country or staying there - he just wanted a stamp.  This is baffling.  I've got an old passport hidden away (at a friends) which has stamps from countries that no longer exist.   Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the DDR (that use to be East Germany) and so on.  You can't get those stamps any more.  In the last couple decades, I looked at that passport all of twice.  Hope that tourist gets his money's worth...



PLANNING AHEAD

Prior to my sea voyage, I ran into an American who needed to take heart medicine.  Problem was it was freakishly expensive where he was.   He was bitching about the price and said that a friend of his had told him medicine in Panama was really cheap.  "Was that all the research you did, this one friend?"  Yes.  "Didn't stock up while you were in the states, just in case?"   Nope.   Expensive fail.



ECUADOR MEMES

A couple Canadians who read the blog asked me to check out Ecuador as they were thinking about expatriating here.   Aside from visiting for six months (minimum) to a year before doing so I'd warn anyone that some of the memes of Central and South America might drive people from Western civilization nuts.  Things like amazingly shoddy or stupid business practices.  Nobody ever has any change.  Noise pollution.  Litter.  Loads of semi wild animals roaming around.  Beggars.  Things like that.  Personally though, I am digging on Ecuador.  Much better 'value for money' than places like Panama or Costa Rica though I fear it may eventually go that way here.  It's not as cheap to live as say Thailand or Indonesia or Cambodia but Spanish is easier to learn - and more useful - than Thai, Indonesia or Khmer all put together.



STRANGE LOGAN TRIVIA

The only pairs of corrective glasses I've had break have both been on buses.  Not sure what it is about buses and my glasses but two of them so far.



TRAVELER'S TIP

Secure your shit before leaving your room.
Yes, this is the 'Pacsafe'.  I may buy an additional one at some point.  They give me a warm fuzzy feeling that my computer may actually still be in the room when I return.



WHO IS JIM GALFORD

He is a writer.  Like published books and all that.  He is close to what I consider a professional writer.  When he finally gets around to making audio books of his books so that I can steal them, he has hit the big leagues.  You can check out his books on Amazon here.

Having Jim as a friend on Facebook is always a lot of fun because he has a lot of really messed up stuff that happens to him within his regular job.

Having a 'Jim Galford' experience can be defined as something really messed up you have little control over.

I had one today.  I was getting tired of having shit on my bathroom floor.  Literally.  The toilet floods.  So, I asked if it could be cleaned up.  I knew in the flophouse I'm staying repair would never happen.

They offered me a new room instead.  Tried out the new room.  Fine except it was noisier and no wifi.

I went back to my old room.  Apparently, I'd rather have shit on my floor than no wifi.

Yes, I will be looking for a new place to continue staying here but the perks of this place (1.70 USD liter of beer delivered to my room when I want, quiet, friendly staff) will be difficult to beat.  Oh, and it's $7 per night.



CONVERSATIONS WITH LOCALS

Local:  "Just because you put 'o' after a word does not make it Spanish.
Logan:  (long stare)  "I don't believe you."
Local:  (sighs)  "OK.  What is your name?"
Logan:  (in Spanish)  "My Spanish name is 'El Logano'!
Local:  (shakes head)



STAYING AT CHEAP PLACES

Honestly, the worst thing about staying at cheap places is that locals also stay at cheap places.

I've yet to find a country where this is a 'good thing'.

Locals are usually worse to live with than people who are traveling.

As an example:

Staying in the hotel I fondly refer to as 'exploding toilet' when suddenly I hear loud arguing in Spanish followed by prolonged loud screaming.  I figure we've got us some 'domestic violence' going on.

The owner of the place later comes to the door and starts informing them she is calling the police.  And she really does.

The problem?  In Ecuador the police time ranges between twenty minutes and 'never'.

So another guest and I buy beers and sit out in the hallway drinking and smoking.  I softly chant 'Jerry!  Jerry!  Jerry!'

We're hoping the police show up and maybe drag the people off.

They don't show at all.

This makes us sad.

The kicker?  It wasn't just a man and a woman - they had a small child with them.

Sad.

The lesson to be learned?  If you can afford to stay in a place more expensive than what the locals can afford to stay in, I recommend it!  Sadly, I usually can't.



VIDEOS (Note - these should have been with the 'At Sea' blog but due to shitty internet they take a long time to upload)

At Sea
First Island
Another Island
Die Crabs Die
Island Princess
Making Port



COSTS

Bus from Otavalo to Quito, $2.  Taxi ride from the bus station to a hostel, $6.  That is weird but seems standard in big towns.  If you completely avoid big towns, transportation would be basically free in Ecuador.

To get lenses made for glasses is pretty expensive here at about $150.   Not sure how much it was in Cambodia but I'm thinking cheaper.  Maybe half or my memory something something.  Frames are about $25.

(Quito)  Indian (ie India, not South America) meal, including chicken massala, rice, drink and nam bread, $7.

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan | Portugal: Faro

For videos with a Loganesque slant, be sure to visit here. You can also Facebook Logan.

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