Last known location: London, England

Market Days and Travel Haze

Our last stop in Ecuador was the market town of Otavalo, halfway between Quito and the Columbian border. The town is famous for it’s huge craft market, which has been running every Saturday since pre-Inca times and is reputedly the largest in South America, with sellers coming from indigenous communities across the region.

Arriving at lunchtime on Friday we had a spare afternoon, and after a brief wander around the town we spent it visiting the Condor Park, 3 miles up into the hills outside of town. The park is a sanctuary for rescued and abandoned birds of prey from around the world. There were owls, falcons, hawks and huge condors – a sacred symbol of Andean culture and one of the largest birds in the world with a wingspan of up to three metres. After having a look around we were treated to a spectacular demonstration against the stunning backdrop of the hills and valleys beyond.

We then walked back down into the town, having saved our legs by getting a taxi up there. It was nice to stroll through the fields with views of the lakes and beyond them the three volcanoes that surround the town – Imbabura, Cotacachi and Mojanda. We timed it perfectly and arrived back at the hostel just as the sun was setting.

The following morning we were up early to visit the animal market, where domestic animals of all kinds were available for sale. It was all very chaotic, with clucking chickens and pigs screaming as they were carried away – we later saw one woman carrying a very unhappy pig home in her shawl! As well as the usual farm animals there were rabbits and guinea pigs for sale – it made me regret the barbequed meal I’d had in Lima!

We then headed to the town’s main square to see the craft market – which filled all of the huge town square and most of the surrounding streets. People come from all over the area, and there were plenty of indigenous men and women in the traditional local dress – the women in elaborately embroidered blouses and the men in white trousers and dark ponchos. All kinds of handmade craft bits and pieces were available – jewellery, clothes, paintings, bags and hats as well as all the usual tourist tat!

That afternoon we headed back to our room for a siesta after our early start, and to do a bit of forward planning. Our plan at that point was to reach the Caribbean coast of Columbia, head into Venezuela, then all the way down the Brazilian Atlantic coast before flying home from Rio. However, we were starting to feel like we were in a bit of a rut of long bus journeys and colonial towns. In Brazil the bus journeys were only going to get longer, the Foreign Office advises against travel to some of the places we were planning to go to, and the price of flights to and from Rio were disrupting our plans to meet people and fly home with our budget intact. So we thought a fairly drastic change of plan was in order! An hour or so on the internet and we were booked onto flights to Las Vegas a week later! From there we plan to either buy or hire a car, then travel around California before driving coast to coast and finishing in New York. Nothing like what we’d originally planned but I guess half the fun of travelling is being impulsive! That night we headed out for beer and pizza to celebrate, feeling excited about the last couple of months to come.

The next morning it was on to Colombia. Unlike everywhere else in South America it wasn’t possible to get a direct bus across the border to our next destination, so we had a slightly convoluted Bus-Taxi-Border-Taxi-Bus journey to the town of Pasto. We made it there in one piece 6 hours later for our first stop in what was now our last destination on the continent.

1 Comment:
  1. John 30 May, 2011

    Seems like a good idea Dan. Get a car with music capability and then take route 66.
    English will be better than Spanish.
    Have fun.

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