Several different sources told us that the Otavalo Market is one of the largest weekend markets in South America. We decided to check out the city and specifically the market. On the Google maps it is called Plaza del Ponchos in reference to the HUGE number of vendors selling knit ponchos made from native llama fiber. But there are many other interesting items for sale there too. We captured these photos of the bright colors and intriguing products. If you see anything you want, send us a note and we will grab it for you!
We spent several hours wandering around the market and selecting a few items for the camper and to give as gifts. And since Nica was allowed to join us, she enjoyed wandering the market and checking out the smells! Of course, that left her completely exhausted when we returned to the camper.
The town of Otavalo is also interesting. As with much of Ecuador, there is a blend of native peoples wearing native attire, and a more modern style of dress. We noticed that even the school uniforms allow for flexibility in native wear. The streets were vibrant with colors and styles. We haven’t seen this much indigenous culture since Guatemala.
We also needed a few items from the supermarket. While there we spotted these giant bags of animal crackers. Mike had to pose for a photo!
This seems like a lifetime supply of the crumbly little cookies. We resisted the urge to buy! And then we went on to buy fresh goods at the market.
Our campsite outside of Otavalo provided us with gorgeous views across a lake and valley. Ecuador thus far has been lush, green and a very comfortable temperature.
Parking at that location placed us very close to the interesting bird rescue center named Parque Condor. The Andean condors here are treasured emblems from the past and a protected species now. This park has a pair on display in a beautiful setting.
They also have many other species of birds and offer a terrific show about some of their birds. We enjoyed the day of ogling at birds and we even took a few silly photos.
Also nearby that great parking place is an ancient tree with a deep historical value in both Spanish and native Kichwa stories. The El Lechero tree is used for several ceremonies and is also the burial ground of unnamed children. This tree is revered by the area tribes and protected fervently by them. It felt very special to be walking there and photographing this ancient relic.
As we left this area we spotted a cute pack of pigs on the roadside and had to capture these images to share with you!
Then we went to have a look at a crater lake called Laguna Cuicocha. This lake is fed by a natural spring that bubbles up and fills the mouth of a volcano. There are two small islands in the laguna. A hike partway around the rim provided beautiful views. But this area did not allow overnights, so we moved down the road to another gorgeous campsite. Ecuador has impressed us with the endless beauty.
We visited some of the only recognized ancient ruins in this country, Cochasqui Archeological Park. They are considered pyramids, although they are quite different then pyramids we have seen before. Each of the structures had a long ramp leading up to the top. Although most of the earthen mounds are indistinct, this model shows the details. We camped in the parking area and then jumped on a tour with a group of pre-teen school kids. It was a lot of fun to see the area with them and hear their endless banter. And we saw our first herd of wild llama!
When we left this National Park we headed down a dirt road that would take us to a volcano hike. The park staff told us the road was passable with high clearance. It started out that way, but quickly deteriorated to deep ruts and technical driving! Once we realized that we should not continue, we had to perform some magic tricks with large rocks, logs and very slow speeds. Having high clearance and 4×4 was also key to our shenanigans. But the truly scary part was the sheer drop-off on one side and narrow cliff face on the other side. And all this in reverse!! But Mike successfully backed the big rig down the one track, dirt road to a wide spot where we could turn around.
After that dramatic adventure, we were ready to relax for a bit. See our next post for our visit to the Equator and some thermal springs!