Published: September 11th 2007September 11th 2007
La Casa Sol
Our home for the three days visit.
The trip to Otavalo, two hours north of Quito, was our first experience with public buses and while the price was right (USD2), it was a little short on the comfort side. We sat up the back and shared this seat with an ever-smiling Ecuadorian family. Many vendors got on and off at the all too frequent stops, but the main act was a young guy trying to flog cheap jewellery, whose sales spiel was non-stop for over 45 minutes (he would have done justice to a spot on ‘Speakers’ Corner’ in Hyde Park). Still he must have said something right (naturally we couldn't understand a word), as he made many sales, including a necklace and bracelet to the ‘nomad old farts’, which now adorns the neck of the 5 year old from the family sitting next to us.
Our accommodation here has been a pleasant surprise. It is a brand new brightly painted hacienda, situated high on a hill overlooking a fantastic landscape of Otavalo in the valley, surrounded by mountains and two extinct (we hope!) volcanoes. We have a room with a huge balcony overlooking a great Eucalyptus forest (more Aussies dropping seeds?) bordering the view down
Saturday Market Day
No shortage of stalls available on this day.
into the township. The ‘deal’ here includes both breakfast and an Andean meal, and while we have been unsure of the identity of much that we ate of the latter, it has generally tasted okay.
The markets met all expectations. On the Saturday, which is the principal market day, the market spread over several blocks, with probably several hundred stalls, ranging from the staple of woollen goods, such as tapestries, blankets, ponchos, thick sweaters, scarves, hats and alpaca goods from other regions, in addition to embroidered blouses, hammocks, carvings, jewellery, paintings, knit finger puppets, clay pipes, fake shrunken heads, handbags and woven mats. Most stalls were manned by female vendors, similar to Asia (is Australia the only country where us men have to do all the hard work?!), and they all wear a very characteristic ‘uniform’ of frilly, embroidered white blouses, long black skirts, headcloths (over their braided hair), and bright layered necklaces. The men seemed less keen on the regimentation of a uniform, but those that do wear dark felt hats (again almost always over long hair in ponytails), white cotton pants and dark blue ponchos. While naturally keen to sell, there is none of the pushiness of
Women Vendor with Child
It's tough enough making a sale, without combining it with some babysitting!
the Asian markets, and while there is bargaining, again it is likely limited to 20-30% off the initial asking price.
On the Sunday, we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a huge parade (celebrating the last of the 10 day Fiesta del Yamur) that took over one hour to pass through, comprising a vast collection of local dancers in bright coloured uniforms, and many different tribes people on horseback. This is an annual event, and certainly seemed to pull all the locals away from their TVs, as the central part of town was packed, although again, precious few apparent western tourists, for which we are not complaining at all. There is obviously quite an African influence to Ecuador (tell us more, all you history scholars), as we have seen quite a number of Afro-Ecuadorians over the last few days.
Late Sunday, we took in an email check and also checked out the sports results. Don’t think the French (or the English for that matter) will be too thrilled with their RWC openers, and I guess Bronco (and Sydney Swans) fans didn’t have a big weekend either. Never mind guys, you’ve still got Nth Qld and Manly to
Since we have enjoyed this region so much, and finally seem to be getting on top of the altitude sickness, we decided to stay on an extra day and take in an organised tour of the area surrounding Otavalo. It was great to be able to arrange a personalised 5 hour tour of the region, including both guide and driver, with lunch thrown in, for just USD50 for us both. It centred around handicrafts, and we were fortunate enough to see a variety of weaving, manufacture of brightly coloured toys and maracas, a massive rose farm (140 employees) that exports mainly to the US, ‘Mr Music’, who manufactures and plays about 20 different instruments (mainly flute-like), and a leather market (coats for around USD70, ladies). We also took in a bit of the surrounding scenery, including the impressive Laguna de Cuicocha, a dark blue lake flanked by mountains and volcanoes, and with two large islands in the middle.
We shared dinner (and travel experiences) with young Dutch/German couple Marco and Annetta for each of our three nights of our stay at Las Casa Sol, us being virtually the only guests staying here. They had travelled from London
to Peru for a wedding, and were taking a couple of weeks to make their way back home via Ecuador. They were very lively dinner companions, but their day schedules were a little energetic for the ‘old farts’.
Since Otalavo is two hours north of Quito, and our journey is basically heading south, we will return to Quito tomorrow for just an overnight stay before heading towards Banos and the Amazon jungle.
There are more photos below