Monday, November 28, 2005

A trip to Otavalo

We arrived in Quito on Dec 18th with a stripped down plan for a family Christmas. We have always lived in the US Midwest with snow, Christmas trees, lights and presents. Now we had to somehow create the spirit of the season while living in a semitropical city with an average daily high temperature of 72 F.

We decided to take a trip to Otavalo, a market town about 2 hours bus ride from Quito.

Ben at the Otavalo Market "Pancho Plaza"

Ecuador Explorer writes this about Otavalo:

"The best day of the week to hit this famous and friendly corner of the Andes is Saturday, the biggest market day for gringos and locals alike. Arrive Friday afternoon, and then do what most travelers don't: set your alarm for 5:30am. After being jolted out of bed Saturday morning, walk groggy-eyed along Avenida Colon to the river and cross the bridge. Upon reaching the top of Avenida Segundo J Castro you'll find yourself in a scene reminiscent of the pages of National Geographic: the Otavalo animal market. By 6am, with the sun rising and the mountains casting improbable shadows over the town, the market is already alive with squealing pigs and clucking chickens. Plant yourself on the high grassy bank abutting the market area and watch scenes of unloading, buying, selling and bargaining unfold. Take your camera (you can happily and discreetly snap away from your grassy knoll), but leave your animal rights principles behind, as livestock tender lovin' care is not the highest priority on the day's agenda. By the time the sun clears the volcanoes at 7am, much of the day's business has already been done, and its time to head back into town to the artesania market.

Artesan Market

This market is centered around 'Poncho Plaza'. All day long, the whir of cotton candy machines, Andean pipe music, and Quichua, the native tongue derived from the Incan tongue, drift across the square. A blinding maze of colored textiles spills from the square out across town, encompassing the area between Quito and Calderón and Bolívar and 31 de Octubre. As you stroll the streets you'll find everything from jumpers to armadillo shell guitars, wall hangings to ceramic fried eggs. Don't restrict yourself to Poncho Plaza, as you'll probably get better bargains away from the main square (the more items you buy, the lower the prices you can haggle), and the goods on display start to diversify as the market weaves its way through the side streets.

We were able to purchase some much needed sun gear + interesting hand crafted items for our Christmas celebration. We also purhcased wool hats for use when we returned to the US.

We did visit a pie shop on the central plaza. It had a very western sounding name, but it made the best pies, fresh every few hours.