In the daylight we could see the delightful campsite that is Rose Cottage about 3km outside the city. Otavalo is in the beautiful “Valley of Sunrise” (Valle de Amanecer) and dominated by the Imbabura volcano.
There has been a market at Otavalo for hundreds of years and whilst it has now evolved to cater to the tourists that flock here for the Saturday market, it has managed to keep firm touch with its heritage and thus has a particularly authentic feel.
The crafts, particularly the textiles are known the world over, and make the indigenous people – Otavalenos – the most successful and wealthy indigenous group in Ecuador They are instantly recognisable being short and stocky with swarthy complexions.
Despite all the trappings of 21st century such as 4WD and mobile phones they still dress traditionally and the women will use a small blanket / shawl as a backpack carrying everything from babies to the weekly shopping.
Saturday is the big market day with an associated animal market from sunrise to about 9am but there are plenty of stalls in the Plaza del Ponchos everyday selling quality crafts, textiles, art and unfortunately the inevitable tourist junk but in fairness this is minimal.
Haggling is expected but trust me they are better at it than you having much more experience. For example we bought three T-shirts at $7 paying with $30 dollars, after much consultation with adjacent stall holders the lady was able to produce $8 change with a smile and a shrug. So 3 x 7 = 22 in Ecuador. The option of just giving me a dollar discount and $10 change didn’t seem to exist!
Taking photographs of people is OK either with a purchase or a donation, one old lady peeling beans haggled me up to a dollar when I proffered 50 cents for a photo. It’s all very good natured and friendly but it is strange taking photos of the inhabitants, I do confess we took a few candid shots on the street to try and get away from posed photographs. The children in particular are extremely photogenic and the older ones unfailingly polite as you often see them in groups in their school uniforms.
Apart from the textile markets there is a fantastic daily food market, primarily fruit and veg but also meat and chicken plus dozens of stalls to get fresh food and drink. It’s a great place to spend an hour or two mooching about watching people go about their business.
Pete ran the truck into the city with a pick up at 2pm which allowed us to see the market and most importantly visit “Pie Shop Shenandoah” where they sold the most delicious apple and cinnamon pie with ice cream for a bargain $4, absolutely to die for.
Back to Rose Cottage to prepare for Duncan and Angela’s farewell bash, as having been on the road for almost 10 months they were heading home to Australia. Don’t think Duncan has quite forgiven me for when, acting as Kirsten’s admin assistant and collecting peoples options for Machu Picchu, I asked them first, genuinely forgetting they were leaving.
Dunc it was a genuine error. Although it did become a bit of a running joke for the next week for people to ask them, it’s a tough crowd. The bash was fun, I put together a slide show from many photographic donations to the musical accompaniment from “Men Down Under” as particularly Duncan has provided many moments of entertainment over the months and will be missed.
We had a reprise of his famed Gangnam Style dancing complete with backing group and the expected level of serious drinking from the usual quarters. Farewell with our best wishes.
Onward to Quito (and the Galapagos!) we passed the equator – although Pete had some trouble finding the monument he remembered from last time – turns out there is a new monument as the last one wasn’t quite in the right place due to the limitations of the then measuring equipment.
Anyway we spent a fun hour taking photographs standing in both hemispheres, a group photo in Odyssey shirts and then Karen and I in our latitude zero shirts purchased in Otavalo the day before.
We rolled into our Hotel in Quito around 4pm having spent a tedious hour in the rush hour traffic. Too late / tired to go into the lovely old town we did reacquaint ourselves with a previous favourite spot “ The Magic Bean” we had found during our 2005 visit.
We had a brief walk to the Galapagos tour operator – Happy Gringo – to complete some formalities where there was good and bad news. The good being a $59 dollar per person refund as flights cheaper than expected and the bad being the 4.15 am departure to the airport next morning.
More of which on next post, Galapagos.
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