Otavalo (days 10-13)

On Wednesday, we transferred via mini-van from Mindo to Otavalo (much more about this charming place below) through the very touristy “Mitad del Mundo”, the number one tourist attraction in Quito (actually 30 minutes outside Quito). It is reputedly the equator though modern technology places the actual equator somewhere slightly different. It is pretty close for people mapping in 1800s, however, so won’t hold it against them. We stopped as it happened to be the “Mitad” (middle) of our day’s journey and seemed a great place to grab a snack. We also thought kids would think it was cool to be on the equator. We were wrong.

Here is the standard picture of (unhappy) kids on the equator.

Nate straddling the equator

There were your typical gift shops and restaurants and a couple of small historical and ethnographic museums/displays. I am glad we didn’t pay a lot to go out of our way to go there. Some tourists pay $80 each for a half day trip there !?!

While there was a dust storm in distance, which was interesting.

View from monument to equator out to dust storm

Our drive continued up, up and over some lovely scenery and the self-proclaimed rose capital of the world! A driver later told us 50,000 people work in the flower industry in that very small area. There were tons of greenhouses as evidence. We knew Ecuador was a major flower exporter but not quite scale of it.

Otavalo’s main square had a film production happening when we areived

Our destination was Otavalo, a small prosperous city famous for its weekly and daily markets. It’s also known as one of the few remaining places nearly all women (and older men) wear traditional dress. “women traditionally wear distinctive white embroidered blouses, with flared lace sleeves, and black or dark over skirts, with cream or white under skirts. Long hair is tied back with a 30 cm band of woven multi coloured material, often matching the band which is wound several times round their waists. They usually have many strings of gold beads around their necks, with the number of strands and thickness of beads representing their age and wisdom, and matching tightly wound long strings of coral beads around each wrist. Men wear white trousers, and dark blue ponchos.” From Wikipedia and accurate!

One of the many stores selling traditional dress

We were (by appearances) the only guests at our charming hotel, which meant our top floor room gave us a private terrace with view. The terrace also conveniently had a clothes line so we did some makeshift laundry and also dried the clothes from the prior night’s walk in the torrential rain. Less fun were the neighbor’s barking dogs which both freaked out every time we came up the stairs! Luckily they stopped a few minutes after we were out of sight

View from terrace
(And yes that’s a volcano, they are everywhere)
Hotel restaurant with possibly best pasta with meat sauce any of us have ever had (and more wood fired pizzas:)

We dedicated more time on this stop to get our math “class” up and running and had kids do an online review of their past grades to identify any weak spots and move on to new content. So far it looks like we may just use Khan Academy as it’s quite thorough, clear and includes instructional videos.

Lessons also included astronomy and long-exposure photography one evening on the terrace.

Terrace on Thursday night (note fleeces, it’s chilly here)

We went to three attractions while in Otavalo including the Parque Condor, a rehabilitation and retirement home for raptors and some other birds from around the world. It was quite a display and had stunning hill top views. The display of trained birds was cut short due to high winds but seems like a nice facility.

Andean condor – has a wingspan of 10’ and lives up to 80 years!

We also went to a small waterfall nearby: Peguche Falls. It was quite busy, but also was obviously even more full sometimes (many many tourist shops at entrance).

It was a nice morning walk in woods.

Saturday morning is the main market day In Otavalo and it’s supposedly biggest in Latin America (though I find this a bit surprising). There are actually many markets in the city, including an animal market. We stuck to the main one in the “plaza de ponchos” which is a mix of artisanal goods, foods, very non-artisanal tee-shirts and fake (and real?) sneakers and gear. On Saturday this market spills out of the plaza into all the side streets. Mid-day buses arrive from Quito. However we were there about 9:30-10 and it was surprisingly mostly full of locals (or what seemed to be). Certainly there were locals eating breakfast and buying traditional beads and dress.

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