Guatemala and Ecuador 6/30/16 - 7/20/16

Wednesday 7/6/2016 - Lago Cuicocha

After a good night's sleep, we met in the kitchen at 8:30 a.m. for breakfast. We had fried eggs, bologna, papas fritas, babaco juice, tea, coffee, and bread.

After breakfast, I settled in to work. After breakfast, the kids went outside and were tasting various fruits (blackberries, mandarinas, tree tomato, etc.) from the garden. Vanesa was delighted to find that a variety of plum that they grow is called "claudia," as that is her first name! Aracely helped Sisa to feed corn to Juanita the pig.

A local woman from the community came by the house selling clothing. Rosa called me outside to see her, as I could use a new anako. An anako is a traditional Otavalan skirt, worn in multiple layers. There is a lighter colored underlayer (usually cream or beige), and a darker colored overlayer (usually black or navy blue). These are large rectangles of fabric (usually wool) which are wrapped precisely around your waist so that the bottom hem hits just at the top of your shoes, and cinched with a woven belt. We dress in traditional Kichwa clothes when attending formal occasions here (baptisms and festivals). As I am much taller than the average Kichwa woman, finding an anako of the right length is difficult. This woman had some available, so I purchased a light coffee-colored underlayer to add to my wardrobe.

For lunch, we had soup, spaghetti with meat sauce, and tree tomato juice.

When I was done with work for the day, we went on a sightseeing excursion to Lago Cuicocha. Antonio called a camioneta (collective pickup truck from the community) to pick us up. We rode in the back, with the wind in our hair, for several miles to the beautiful volcanic caldera lake, which is located at 3,064 meters above sea level. The weather was beautiful, sunny, and hot. Vanesa took photos of the scenery.

Vendors were selling souvenirs outside the visitor's center, and we bought Aracely and Vanesa each a pair of gloves. Their hands have been cold since arriving here, and we had been unable to find gloves before leaving Guatemala.

We went inside the visitor's center, and Antonio showed Aracely and Vanesa some tourist brochures and locally produced cultural pamphlets that actually feature photos of Rosa performing traditional activities.

We have been to the lake several times over the years (starting in 2010), and as a tour guide, Antonio leads hikes here often.

Boat rides are offered here, yet even Antonio and the kids had never experienced one. Antonio suggested that today should be the day that we all experience this for the first time together. So we purchased tickets for the eight of us, and waited until there were enough passengers assembled. Then we donned life jackets and boarded the boat.

Cuicocha is a crater lake which was formed by a pyroclastic volcanic eruption over 3000 years ago. This is a sacred lake for the Kichwa people. Cuicocha's name translates to "Guinea Pig Lake." The lake contains two small islands (Yerovi and Teodoro Wolf), one of which resembles the shape of a guinea pig. That island is said to be the namesake of the lake. However there is another theory that the name is a corruption of the Kichwa word "Kuychikucha" or "rainbow lake."

Aracely and Vanesa are used to similar boat rides on Lago Atitlan (a crater lake in their native Panajachel, Guatemala), so it was nice for them to get to have a similar, yet unique, experience here. The scale of the lakes is drastically different: whereas Lago Atitlan encompasses 50 square miles, Cuicocha is a mere 1.5 square miles in area. We could see the remains of the pyroclastic flow when the volcano last erupted over 3000 years ago. We could also see beautiful orchids growing on the trees.

For Sisa, Yupanqui, and Shina Tayanta, this was a completely new experience which they fully embraced. They were especially excited as we would pass by ducks and ducklings at close range. As we circled the islands, we were splashed by water. It felt refreshing to Craig and me, but the kids were freezing and hid under Aracely's coat to avoid the spray. Aracely and Vanesa were glad to have their new gloves.

After our enjoyable boat ride, we were served a cup of "canelazo", a hot cinnamon beverage. Adults were welcome to add a splash of white wine, which Craig and I did. We have had this drink before at Sisa and Yupanqui's baptisms, and it is quite tasty and warms you right up.

We took the camioneta back to the house after a lovely visit to the lake. We could see the very top of Volcan Cotacachi peeking up from above the clouds; our first glimpse of it during this visit.

When we got back to the house, Aracely once again helped Sisa to water the plants. We could hear them giggling as darkness fell while they performed the chore. Then we all gathered around the fire with Abuelita in her outdoor kitchen. She offered us tostado, corn kernels which she had toasted over the fire and sprinkled with salt. It was a delicious crunchy snack. Sisa sat on Aracely's lap. We really enjoyed seeing these two bonding. It was peaceful in front of the fire.

We went back into the kitchen for dinner. We had quinoa soup, steak, peas, fried plantain, and rice, with fresh pineapple juice to drink.

After dinner, we watched two locally made short films online. Otavalo has a thriving film industry which uses local indigenous actors to depict culturally significant stories. We started with the perennial favorite "El Pastorcito de Otavalo Buscando El Dorado." This is a fun, "Goonies"-style 22-minute adventure film about a young Otavalan shepherd boy and his friends searching for Atahualpa's gold. Aracely and Vanesa enjoyed it very much and we all had some good laughs. Then we watched the 30-minute "La Chipicha," a scary folk tale about a local witch who eats children. Even we find this one to be very creepy, so it's not entirely surprising that poor Aracely had some trouble falling asleep afterwards.
Vanesa riding in the back of the camioneta on the way to Lago Cuicocha

Vanesa riding in the back of the camioneta on the way to Lago Cuicocha

Boat ride of Lago Cuicocha: Yupanqui, Aracely, Vanesa, Shina Tayanta, Sisa

Boat ride of Lago Cuicocha: Yupanqui, Aracely, Vanesa, Shina Tayanta, Sisa

Boat ride of Lago Cuicocha: Aracely, Sisa, Yupanqui

Boat ride of Lago Cuicocha: Aracely, Sisa, Yupanqui

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