Published: November 21st 2006November 21st 2006
Otavalo food market
Just a tiny section
I feel like such a loser keeping on updating you guys with no photos but I´m bored so like to write, and dont worry those pics are being developed right now!
The last few days I´ve been travelling Ecuador, seeing the most popular parts of the central Andes bit.
Otavalo, north of Quito, was a fantastic couple of days in which I splashed out at a truly beautiful hostel ¨Cabañas el Rocio.¨ For those of you visiting Ecuador, stay here even for just a night - it´s worth it with its authentic brick and wood buildings, stunning views of the mountains and welcoming hospitatility.
Of course I visited the famous Otavalo markets on a Saturday, their biggest day. Wow, it´s not an exaggeration, they are HUGE! Taking up blocks and blocks of the town.
As always in markets you want to buy everything, get confused, end up buying something you could have gotten cheaper from the stall down the way and leave feeling ripped off but pretty happy with the beautiful things you now have to stuff (somehow) into you backpack.
It gave me the giggles at these markets how blatantly obvious tourists were. You could spot one a block
View from the bus
away (complete with backpack, cap, travelling sandals and zip-off khakis) and sense the excitement of the stall owners as they smelt money. But hey, I must have looked like a ridiculous tourist with my blonde hair stuffed into a hat and wearing a t-shirt and skirt with flip flops! The weather is so cold here, but that´s all I bought since I had packed for Panama :)
I travelled 5.5 hours directly south of Otavalo to Baños a couple of days ago. I was so tired when I arrived I couldn´t be bothered fighting off the ever-present young boys at the station offering to show you the best hostels, and since there are sooo many hostels in this touristy town I gave in to the closest, and cheapest, one which turned out quite nice.
I planned to hire a bike the next day and ride to the waterfall trails but found out it was about 20km of mountainous terrain so opted for a car tour instead! A great guide, (safe and accredited don´t worry) Diego, drove me to the trails and we walked across swing-bridges, along beautiful forested paths and took cable cars to 5 different, stunning waterfalls. By
Ride to Baños
Another view from the bus. Farms stretch the length (and height!) of the mountains
far the best was Pailón del Diablo which crashed with such force over massive boulders, sending rainbows bouncing everywhere.
Again, all very similar to New Zealand AND probably nothing compared to the Iguassu falls which I will see in Argentina and Brazil. But definately worth a visit.
Baños is world famous for its thermal pools and their health benefits so I went to a beautiful hotel spa yesterday and treated myself to a full body massage - so relaxing. Actually I wouldn´t recommend the natural, public pools, which I went to today. The pools ¨El Salado¨ are apparently the best in Baños but are unfortunately made up of concrete holes filled with tepid, murky water and a bunch of fat old people. Ladies don´t go there if you don´t want to be gawked at by old men in speedos! Needless to say I left pretty shortly and am now enjoying the sunshine and shopping of Baños town.
I went to Baños zoo this morning. It is set on the side of a mountain, surrounded by amazing views - which are in stark contrast to the concrete and brick cages which house all manner of native south american bid and
Cascada Monta de la Novia
One of the beautiful Baños waterfalls
mammals. As far as the keepers could tell me these animals were captured from the wild for the purpose of being displayed in the zoo. It is difficult to hear that whilst watching an Andean condor sit at the very top of its pit-like enclosure scraping its head on the wire mesh, then to look directly beyond the pit and see a huge mountain. A continuation of the landscape for us but not for that condor. These zoos are where the local people go to see their native wildlife, without receiving any conservation message. It made me appreciate the importance of sanctuaries such as Las Pumas in Costa Rica, which yes, hold native wild animals in captivity without the intention of releasing them but do what they can with these animals to educate their LOCAL people.
Lorne, if my enclosure photos turn out I will email them to you - they are pretty interesting.
Take care everyone. I fly back to Costa Rica this friday, after a couple of days (and salsa classes!) back in Quito. There probably won´t be too many blogs while I´m settled in Costa Rica but keep in touch, I want to keep hearing
Standing right in the way of a waterfall - oops!
There are more photos below