Saturday, March 30, 2019

Market Day at Oltavalo

I am a bit concerned because a couple days ago John and I both sent a bag of clothes out with the laundry service (very reasonable at $5 per bag). John’s came back yesterday and mine didn’t...apparently the drier broke down so mine was in another drier but should be back later today. My fingers are crossed.

We boarded the organized bus tour to Otavalo at 6:30am. Otavalo is a town that hosts an indigenous market. Artisans, craftsmen, merchants and farmers from all over the area come to sell their wares every Saturday at this market.

There were ten people on the tour...five were from Canada. It is a fun group, however John and our bus driver are the only males. John doesn’t seem to mind.

Our first stop was at another point on the equator. Here a guide from  Quitsato spoke to us about how the indigenous people knew where the equator ran long before the scientists. It was really interesting, especially when he explained how the way we depict the world in maps compared to how the earth actually spins with the poles on the sides. 

Ecuador’s main exports are petroleum, shrimp, bananas, cocoa and roses. A dozen gorgeous roses cost $1 US dollar. The bus passed a large number of greenhouses and the heavenly scent surrounded us for a short time. Mmmmm.

Our next stop was a lovely bakery/restaurant that made biscochos, which is a type of delicious biscuit from the town of Cayambe. 

We saw wood burning ovens filled with baking biscochos and then off course bought some which we dipped in dulce de leche which was pure heaven. They didn’t say, but I am sure it was a low calorie treat.

While we munched, a small band played in the restaurant.

Back on the bus, we travelled to our next stop which was San Pablo Lake. The view was good and would have been even better without the clouds.

A Kichwa woman and boy from Otavalo  joined us on the bus and explained all the parts of their local dress then sang a few songs in her native language. 

We arrived in Otavalo and the highlight of the day, the market. The weather had really heated up and I stripped down to my t-shirt.

Jackie, our guide showed us our meeting point and then we were let loose to explore this exciting and vibrant market.

It was a feast for the senses; so many  colours, sounds and delicious smells.

I was immediately drawn to the alpaca blankets. The baby alpaca wool blankets were so soft and the adult wool ones were thicker and super warm. I couldn’t help myself, I bought one of each...and lots of alpaca socks.

Every manner of merchandise seemed to be sold in the market from traditional handicrafts to local fresh produce to household necessities and even a few designer knock offs. I especially got a chuckle out of the deliberately misspelled “Calvin Clein” underwear.

The sound of chattering people, children, the odd dog and music filled the air. The music changed everywhere we moved; some booths played traditional music but I also heard Queen, Justin Bieber and Michael Jackson. Alas, no Coldplay.

Delicious smells of roasting meats came from the alley of food stalls. We could watch people making customer’s meals. There were also areas of herbs and spices, grains and vegetables, lots and lots of fruit and vegetables.

The best part of the market was people watching. The alleys of stalls seemed endless and the place was packed with just as many if not more locals than tourists doing their shopping.

This Saturday market was also a chance for the locals to catch up as I saw many merchants happily chatting away with each other. Many of the booths were family affairs. Young and old, men and women, locals and tourists; this was the place to be on a sunny Saturday.

An hour and a half passed in a flash and we boarded the carrying  a lot more bags than planned. Sometimes it’s just too hard to show restraint.

We stopped for lunch in Cotacachi and then checked out many leather shops and their beautiful square.

Our final stop was to the Cotacachi National Reserve where we checked out the view of the beautiful lake within the crater of an ancient volcano.

We had all kinds of weather: rain, sun and overcast skies, even a rainbow as we made our way back to Quito.

I am so glad we did this tour with

Ecuador Treasure at . Our guide Jackie was great, she explained things well, answered a lot of questions, adjusted to the group’s needs and had very good English. This tour was well worth the price.

We leave for the Galápagos at 4am tomorrow morning. Don’t be surprised if I don’t post as frequently. I’ve been told that WIFI in Galápagos is minimal to non-existent.

John and I are going to try and leave some of our baggage at our hostel in order to make travelling around the islands easier.

Besides my one little beef about the tourist costs of water and tea at Masaya Hostel, I do recommend it; it’s location is very central, right in the old town and steps to La Ronda, the staff are friendly and helpful and the building is beautiful. It feels more like a high end hotel.

Relief! My clothes were waiting for me, all clean and folded when we got back to Masaya Hostel. Even better, they said that we could leave our luggage with them free of charge while we are in the Galápagos.

We spent the evening repacking our bags and feasted on leftovers (including the guinea pig), which we heated in the hostel kitchen. This hostel is definitely the best of both worlds.

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