Class Trip, Road Trip


This blog entry about the events of Thursday, October 23, 2003 was originally posted on October 24, 2003.

DAY 5: I checked out of the hostel room around 8, managing not to wake up Lars, who was pretty much out cold anyway since he drank half a bottle of rum the night before in front of the TV.  I left my bag with Carlos in the office and went off to class.

Every Friday at the school, the second half of the morning classes go on a field trip somewhere in town.  A las once, four of us students, plus all of our teachers headed off to a museum of Ecuador’s history, in the Old City.  One of the students was a tall, lanky Dutch guy named Hugo, who towered about 6’5”.  He was one of those goofball gringos that didn’t care how embarrassed he’d get talking to locals, knowing that they’d just brush him off as a gringo.  Using his broken Spanish, he managed to buy candy off a blind man on the bus.

All of us hopped on a public bus to the Old City.  Hugo was too tall to stand, so he had to stand one step down just to keep his head from hitting the ceiling, like a midget in a doghouse.  He had fun anyway, hanging out, talking with me and Anita, a Swiss girl from class. 

I paired off with my teacher Rosa in the Old City, and for some reason it was easier to have a conversation with her in Spanish outside of the classroom.  Or perhaps my Spanish is just getting better.  We went to the museum, and followed around a tour guide who conducted the entire tour in Spanish, so that perhaps we could learn a thing or two.  But, like most Latinos, he spoke WAY too fast for us students, and I could only pick up on certain phrases.  Out of the entire 30 minute presentation, the only thing I managed to comprehend is “gold is precious.”

BACK AT THE HOSTEL, I went to go grab my bags and head off to the bus station to go away for the weekend.  I had heard that the smaller town of Otavalo, about two hours north by bus, was famous for its Saturday morning markets, and it was recommended to go there Friday night to get a head start.  A big guy named Navid from outside of Reno, Nevada — who reminded me of Gung Ho from the old 80’s G.I.Joecartoon — was looking at the brochures for Spanish lessons. 

“I’m headed off to Otavalo, wanna come?” I asked him, in attempts to find a traveling companion so that I wouldn’t have to take my first bus trip solo.

“Sure, I’ll go.”

Navid checked out and we went off to the city trolley.

AT THE TROLLEY STOP, I noticed a shady looking old guy with twitchy fingers and a blazer hanging down one arm.  I noticed he was checking out our bags and had a bad feeling about him.

The trolley was packed as usual, with the normal pushing and shoving, making it impossible to notice any unusual pressure on your bag or pockets.  I kept my big bag on the floor in front of me, and held my daypack on my chest and kept my eye on the Shady Guy.  He was always glancing over at Navid’s bag, and I could see him trying to reach his hand over with the hanging blazer as his cover.  But he noticed me noticing him and was hesitant.  Eventually I stared him down and he went away like a frightened squirrel.

Navid and I managed to figure out how to buy tickets easily, but made idiots of ourselves when we didn’t know that you had to pay an additional 20 centivos in a turnstile to get into the departures area.  We waited about 20 minutes, and soon our bus came and picked us up.  We were the only two passengers on board, and we rode with a driver and a bus conductor who would stand on the bus platform, lean out and get people to come aboard:  “Otavalo! Otavalo! Otavalo!” 

We stopped anywhere on the road someone wanted a lift, and eventually, we had a jam-packed bus.  To calm the masses, the conductor put on movies on the TV monitor in front, the French-action film Le Transporteur, dubbed in Spanish.  It was followed by the first half of Die Hard With A Vengeance.

We drove through the majestic Andes, along windy but fairly modern highways.  Little villages scaled the rocky slopes and for a while, we got a glimpse of Volcan Cayambe, the highest point on the equator.  At one point, an indigenous woman and her daughter sat next to me, and she tried to ask me something in Spanish.  I managed to know enough Spanish to tell her that I didn’t know that much, but was learning, in hopes that perhaps I could practice my Spanish with her.  But she just left me the fuck alone.

The bus dropped us off on some random street, four blocks from Otavalo’s town center, and we wandered around looking for a hostel.  A friendly woman with her daughter approached us with a business card for her hostel about four blocks away, and we followed her.  The hostel was nice; humble, but decent.  We got a room with two beds and a private bathroom and shower for four bucks per person per night, settled in and then went out for food.

Unlike the metropolis of Quito, Otavalo had a small town feel with not as many places to eat.  We found a small place run by a Columbian family that sold those fried corn tortillas with the mozzarella in them — the kind you can get at a street fair in New York — only with added chicken or beef.  We had a couple with a couple cervezas.

We wandered into the main plaza where there was a big crowd around a stage, watching some sort of live variety show.  It was just like the kind you’d see on the Spanish channel in the USA, complete with audience participation, live instruments and corny jokes.

I waited around for a guy in a bee costume, but he never showed up. 

Ay Caramba.

Next entry: Shopping Spree

Previous entry: Old School

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Comments for “Class Trip, Road Trip”

  • Duro para matar con vengaza!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/24  at  01:14 PM

  • wasn’t LARS on the real world?

    i love the photos! my eyes go straight for BLUE just so i can click & view pics.  more, more, more!

    have fun at the market! shop till you drop.

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/24  at  04:20 PM

  • hopefully in Otavalo you can use this phrase at the market if some merchant wants you to buy something ridiculous: “Quando mono fluave desti me culo”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/24  at  06:15 PM

  • Navid sent this link to me, I really enjoyed the play by play and am looking forward to the rest of your adventure.  Enjoy and keep up the good work!!!  (I’m jealous too!!!!)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/24  at  09:26 PM

  • I can’t wait to get home in the afternoon to read your day’s adventure. I enjoy all the comments & I am glad that a lot of your friends are travelling with you in spirit, at least I know you are not alone.  these are all God’s blessings & don’t forget to thank Him every single day..

    vaya con dios, mi hijo..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  01:52 AM

  • Erik, Reading your blog is one of the best parts of my day. Shame there was no guy in the bee costume!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  03:15 AM

  • great blog. I really enjoy reading your stories…keep it up!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  05:08 AM

  • oooooh ooooh aaaah aaaah aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    who’s the drunken moneky now!?!?!?!

    miss ya!!!! ; )

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  06:22 AM

  • in case you care, yankees lost the world series.

    Your blog’s are the best!  Keep ‘em coming!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  06:57 AM

  • I (Cathy) really enjoy reading your blog.  Alan mentioned the website to me a few days back, but it’s been soooooo busy for me w/ work and everything else. 
    Yes, you’re right, it’s just the beginning of your trip, there’ll be plenty of other “erika’s”.  So you scared off a would-be-pick pocketer, huh?  YOU GO BOY!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  02:48 PM

  • luvPenny:  that pickpocket was no match for my powers.  I am the staring contest master!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  09:28 PM

  • I do have one question for ya- what’s the average age range of the traveller’s you’ve met so far?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  09:30 PM

  • J120:  Average age…hmmm…30?  in between 24 and 40 something…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/27  at  12:50 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today,, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
Shopping Spree

Previous entry:
Old School


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

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