Published: May 26th 2012April 9th 2012
Otavalo and Quito
There was definitely a big part of us that was more than sad to leave Colombia after all of the great times we had, but we know we’re also lucky enough to have plenty more to look forward to. We walked across the bridge saying our goodbyes to Colombia. We were stamped into Ecuador within 30 minutes and on a collectivo to Tulcan. There we grabbed a bus to Otavalo and we soon found ourselves enjoying the same stunning views we had been spoiled with in Colombia. The postcard pictures were everywhere on both sides of the bus as we got a little more excited to get started in a new country. For just about everyone who visits Otavalo, the main attraction here is the largest market in South America and it happens every Saturday. Being the big fans of markets that we are, we were obviously pretty stoked to check it out. We found the absolute cheapest place we could in town after accidentally getting off the bus too early and having to get a cab into town to avoid an oncoming rain storm. We really lucked out with our place though. We didn’t have
wifi, but we had just about everything else we needed and a nice, comfy ass bed. It definitely proved to be useful after a day and needing a good night’s sleep to get up early for the market.
We were glad we checked with the owner of the place we were staying at to see when we needed to be at the animal market. The thought of dragging our asses out of bed by 6 in the morning and just about needing toothpicks to keep our eyes open even after 2 cups of strong coffee wasn’t exactly something we were looking forward to after a long travel day. Instead we grabbed ourselves a couple more hours of sleep and woke up, well somewhat refreshed and ready to head out. Now, we’ve seen our fair share of animal markets, but usually most of them are full of blood and organs from already dead animals. This time everything was alive and being sold instead, which included; cows, pigs, chickens, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, etc. Jessie was even approached by a lady who had one of the cutest Siamese kittens you’ve ever seen, who let her pet it and quickly asked if
she wanted to buy it. There was definitely that split second (or more) where you could see the wheels turning in her head as she thought to herself, “I wonder if I could actually make this work. Could I just keep it in my day pack and let it poop and pee when it needed to?” Obviously she knew she couldn’t and gave the lady a nearly tear-filled “no.” Yes Jessie we already know…you’ll be getting 2 cats as SOON as you’re home.
One sound you might as well prepare yourself for at this market is the NON-stop squealing of the pigs who don’t want to leave whatever they just found on the ground to eat. Seriously, you’d think someone just whisper in their ear, “We’re stickin’ your ass on a spit tomorrow and havin’ your bacon for breakfast the next morning my friend.” I swear these things screamed louder than a teenage girl waking up to a huge zit on her face the day of the prom! It’s truly interesting to wander through this market and take a look at all of the live animals for sale while actually being able to find out the prices on some
of them as well. Well, you’ll probably find a couple of them not alive, but they’ll most likely be guinea pigs who were just killed and are now being carried by their neck by an old local woman ready to start cooking. If you’re wondering, yes we’ll be trying the “cooey”, but we have to admit, we’re not exactly looking forward to it! Other than the live animal market, we honestly found most of the market to be geared towards package tourists from Quito with a lot of money, rather than much of a local market. It actually seemed like the same 30 stalls or so kept repeating around us the entire time we were there, but at least it provided us with some entertainment for the day.
Our local lunch was a nice surprise for our break and having cheap food again is always a plus for us now that the budget is starting to wind down. Although, we have to admit, the falafel we had the next day was ten times better than anything we had eaten in a while. We were thoroughly impressed and tried to go back the next day before we had to leave
for Quito to get another taste…too bad for us they were closed. Most people come here for the market and leave the next day, but we decided to stick around for a day and then head off. It was kind of nice to see the other side of Otavalo…ya know, the one where you don’t see 1 gringo for every 3 locals. It’s not like this was a happening place to be or somewhere you could easily stay entertained for weeks on end, but sometimes that’s the point. Sometimes it’s just nice to take in the local life of a place and see how everyday living is. Besides, we weren’t ready to get back on the bus quite yet and head to Quito. Hopefully we would be a little more rested the next day…and we were.
One of the best parts about entering Ecuador for us was the MUCH cheaper transportation. Don’t get us wrong, many of the buses in Colombia are really nice…but you also pay for ‘em. In Ecuador there’s a standard $1 per hour on all of the bus rides, so even if you were taking a 10 hour bus it would only cost you 10
bucks! Now that’s more like it! It was nice to still be enjoying the beautiful mountain views much like the ones we had just gotten on our way to Otavalo, but the view quickly changed as soon as we got into Quito. It seemed like just about every place we drove through was the kind of place that made you want to lock the doors and roll up the windows. It was even hard to decide what part of town we wanted to stay in. Do we stay “Gringo-landia” where we know it’s dangerous at night, or do we stay in old town where people are getting robbed during the day? For us it was kind of like, “pick your poison.” When it came down to it, we really didn’t feel very safe anywhere we went, the robbery in Guatemala creeping closer from the back of our minds. Yeah, we weren’t exactly itching to do a lot of exploring even though we would push ourselves to do it.
When it came right down to it, the only thing that was really on our agenda was checking out “Mitad del Mundo”, or the equator. One of the great things about
this little adventure is that you can easily do it with cheap, local transportation. Plus, once you get there, you’re pretty much not even in Quito anymore which was a nice break for us. Of course we got our typical touristy shots of us straddling the equator among others. Well, that is after Nate took forever trying to figure out how to line up the shots we wanted despite having just seen it down about 100 times while we were waiting. Nevertheless, we would accomplish our mission and head straight back to our hostel. The only other memorable thing we did was having our Easter dinner, and what could be better for dinner than…Chinese food? Well, for us only Indian could be better, but we weren’t complaining…especially since it was AUTHENTIC Chinese food complete with inspiring fortune cookies. You can’t help but laugh when you think of the ways you spend your holidays while traveling, especially when you’re on a budget and just can’t quite pull the trigger on spending a lot of money on food when you know it could mean one more entire day on the road.
At any rate, Quito proved to be one of our
least favorite stops we had in a while. We’re sure there are people out there who will disagree and love the city depending on their experience, but we can honestly count on one hand the amount of people who we personally have talked to and liked it. Obviously there’s much more to the city and we hope other people get a much better vibe than we did, but it definitely wasn’t a place we’d be coming back to any time soon. With the daily rain and frigid hostel, we really couldn’t WAIT to get to Banos.
***To everyone who has been waiting for the next blog post, we’re sorry it has taken so long. Unfortunately our hard drive on our computer took a crap and we had to get a new one, which also meant we lost the three blogs we had already written. More to come soon, we promise!*** Getting There
Otavalo: From Pasto- take a taxi for 3500COP to terminal, then a car to Ipiales 8,000COP per person. Going to the church in Las Latas- Taxi was 4,000COP per person round trip and baggage storage 2,000COP per big backpack. Ipiales to border- we took a
collective for 1,500COP each to the border from the bus terminal. After getting the appropriate stamps, we jumped in a collectivo for $.75 for the short ride to the Tulcan terminal. From Tulcan terminal, it was $3.00 each to Otavalo.
Quito: From Otavalo it will cost you $2 per person. A taxi will run you $8 from the terminal to your hostel. Be sure to ask around because the first driver quoted us $15. Staying
Otavalo: Hostal Maria seems to be one of the cheapest places in town coming in at $14 for private room with private bath and kitchen use.
Quito: Hostal Guayunga (across from Secret Garden) was a nice family run place. It cost us about $9 each for a dorm bed. There are many different dorm rooms here so you might even be able to get a dorm room all to yourself if you like. Eating
Otavalo: For close to $3 you can get a local lunch around the plaza. There is also a hookah bar called Bohemiem (sp?) where you can get falafel.
Quito: There is a decent Chinese place close to Hostal Guayunga/Secret Garden where you can
get a massive portion of food for under $4. Getting around
Otavalo: You can get a taxi anywhere in town for $1, including to and from the terminal.
Quito: We paid total $.80 each roundtrip to visit Mitad del Mundo taking the local metro bus. Taxi to the southern terminal is also $8 for a reputable taxi, highly recommended in Quito! Also, a taxi from Mariscal to Old Town it will run you about $5. Keep in mind cabs are a bit pricey in Quito.
There are more photos below