29 December 2014

Otavalo: Markets, Animals, Getting Lost - and Realizing It's Not About the Destination, But About the Journey

The main reason you go to Otavalo is to go to the market. When I was trying to organize dates and destinations for my trip, I figured out that Wayne would only have a few days. He said he wanted to see the culture of Ecuador, and I figured, what better way than to go to an authentic market - the biggest in Ecuador?

Otavalo is a 2 hour bus journey (we paid $2) but our flight from the Galapagos didn't get in until nearly five, and we decided that instead of backtracking to the bus station in the city, and then waiting, and then taking a 2-3 hour bus ride, we'd bite the bullet and pay $60 to take a taxi. We didn't really want to take a bus after dark, as we have read warnings about doing so, so we figured for once, safety first. (At Burning Man, the motto is "Safety Third," but when I'm traveling, I really do put it first, even when it's more expensive or inconvenient.) 

We arrived at our hostel, En Rincon de la Posada, where we spent $30 total for a private room with private bathroom. It was comfortable, nothing fancy, and breakfast was included. It was also in a great location on a quiet street right in the center of town.

Wayne looked at everything and immediately thought, "What a dump." But he was totally wrong.

We rested a few minutes in our room, then headed out for a proper meal. Lonely Planet listed a bunch of vegetarian-friendly options, and we wandered a bit on the way there. People were taking down the remnants of the market, and Wayne spotted blankets. "We should get one for our bed." This sounded like an excellent idea, and we vowed to get one the next day. (Wayne was leaving a day and a half later, so we figured we could for once get bulky souvenirs.)

Dinner was really good, one of the better places we've been to in Ecuador. They had a few vegetarian options at Buenavista, and specials, and we hung out there, snacking, chatting, waiting. (Waiting is always a theme at Latin American restaurants, especially at the end. You'd think they'd want you out of there to get a new table in, but no, they always disappear when you want la cuenta, and even after you ask, you could wait 15+ minutes.) After dinner, we walked around a bit, and then went back to our hostel and crashed until the next morning.

In the morning, we headed over to the animal market. It was a bit crazy, a bit sad. Animals were shoved around, for sale, negotiated over. We walked around, but didn't buy anything.

We headed back to the hostel to shower and eat. Then we went to the regular crafts market that happens every day, but in the biggest way on Saturdays. It was Saturday.

We had a list of people to buy souvenirs for, and I even bought a few things for myself (pretty quartz rings - I wear nice rings every day back at home, and need something on my fingers to feel normal - so cheapish rings are great, esp when they don't turn my fingers green). We headed back after a few hours of negotiation, and purchases. We dropped them off, and tried to figure out what to do next.

We headed out to another vegetarian lunch at Oraibi, which was good but served way too much cheese for even yes. (Yes, there is such a thing.) Menachem would've been in hell with his hatred/love of cheese. Or heaven.

After, we headed out of town to do a hike to see the knowledge tree, condor park, and waterfalls. We were told we could do all three.

The hike was gorgeous. I took tons of photos - the scenery was stunning, and we were very much alone on these roads. We were so glad we didn't take a taxi. First stop was the knowledge tree, but somehow we missed it, and didn't realize until we arrived at the condor park. We questioned how we could have possibly missed it, but looked at the birds. A lot of them were in smallish spaces when they should have been soaring. It was a bit sad.

We got directions to the waterfall and the tree, and couldn't figure out the waterfall directions. Very confusing. We decided to go back to town via the knowledge tree, which we wouldn't miss now, not for sure.

We looked. We did that argue because we're lost thing. Then duh, we realized, this is just gorgeous and who cares that we are lost? I asked for directions again. And again. Finally, we got in a cab and had the cabbie drive us and actually point out the tree.

We never would've found it. Ever. It was tucked back on a dirt road off the main road, just by a parilla place. We took photos. We looked at it, and then we headed back on a pretty walk to town, with lots of photos.

We rested. we ate dinner at the same place we ate at the day before, but the food wasn't as good and the manager a bit rude to us. We read in bed, and fell asleep on the early side.

I was going to get up early and run, but I was worried about my foot. I decided to skip my run, and cuddled in bed with Wayne, so sad he was leaving that night.

We walked to the bus station, hopped on a bus heading back to Quito, paid $2 and got a badly dubbed in Spanish American movie blasting in our ears for two hours.

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