We had one long day of travel. We started off in Cotopaxi and made our back to Quito and then to the U.S. Embassy to fill out paperwork. Once the paperwork was completed (five separate fillings for passports) we were off to the bus terminal to head to Otavalo. At one point on our frantic bus ride I turned to Amy and told her to peak out her window. At this point it was dark, but if you looked you were still able to see the sheer cliffs off the side of the road. I think we were seeing the same headlines in the paper back home: “Family of five killed in bus crash high in the Andes”. I don’t know about you but I don’t think it is such a good idea to try to pass a car, in a bus, going around a blind corner, uphill in the dark. That is just my opinion.
We got to Octavalo on Thursday night and checked into the hostel called Dona Ester. The main reason for us to be in Octavalo was to visit the markets, the Saturday market being the most impressive. So Friday we hiked around the area and made a stop at the Parque Condor, which is about 3 miles out of town. The Dutch run facility rehabilitates birds that have been injured in the wild. They had an impressive collection of birds ranging from the mighty Andean Condor to the Snowy Owl. They put on a show for the visitors talking about some of the birds and letting us hold them. Watching the birds fly out over the valley was a neat site to behold. After the show we strolled through the countryside and made a stop at the La Lechero or Tree of Life. The boys got a chance to climb it and pose in the branches.
On our walk back to town we saw people working the fields and tending to their land. Nick was excited because he found a cow jawbone and pried a tooth out to save, much to the disagreement of his mother. On our trip to Octavalo we made a terrible mistake. Due to the altitude we didn’t think there would be many bugs, but we were terribly mistaken. Around Parque Condor and the hillside, some type of insects bit us that left red bumps all around our legs. Weeks later we are still trying not to scratch them.
The next morning we were up early to make sure to catch the animal market. At this market, people from all around the region converge to barter and sell their animals. There were guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens, pigs, and cows. Alex was a little bothered by the treatment of the animals. I had to explain to the boys that the people did not think of the animals as pets, but as food. After the animal market we made our way into the giant Saturday market of Otavalo. As we were leaving the market a sight caught our attention. One man was pulling a large hog by a thick rope and another was kicking its rear to try to get it to cross the Pan-American Highway.
Once inside the market it was of a potpourri of products and produce. Fruits, vegetables, meats, and spices lined the walkway. You could also find beautiful artwork and wool clothing. Amy and I wished we had room to buy more things, but we are trying to travel light. However, we did pick up some small pieces of artwork. Nick discovered a new food that he likes at the market, empanadas. The boys were devouring them. I guess anything deep-fried with cheese and sugar can’t taste too bad.
That night starving from our days adventures we found a small restaurant on the main street of downtown. Amy and I ordered a plate of food, while Alex ordered soup. Much to dismay of our taste buds and stomachs the soup turned our to be awful and left a bad taste in our mouths. We came to discover the soup was made from blood sausage and I believe had tripe in it. Yum! Yum! Yum! I do give credit to Alex and Tyler for trying it.
Our final day in Otavalo we didn’t have any definite plans. We wandered the streets people watching and exploring. We decided to head up to a waterfall just outside of town. This is a sacred place to the locals, who once a year, close the park to take baths in the waters of the waterfall. From there we headed back into town and did a geocache near our hostel.
All in all our stay in Otavalo was eye opening and educational. We learned about the local markets and the indigenous people of the region. If you get a chance to visit make sure it is on a Saturday to witness and be a part of this amazing market.