Day 3 – Otavalo
This morning we left towards Otavalo. We were very lucky as we had a beautiful and clear morning and were able to see most of the volcanoes on the way. We saw Cotopaxi, Cayambe and Antisana! Our first stop was in Cayambe, a small village where we had a traditional biscuit and leaf cheese breakfast. It was really cool to visit a real oven and to watch the ability this people had with the doe! Italians move aside!
We continued to the Otavalo market, which is one of Ecuador’s highlights and most visited places. Personally we thought it was too touristic for our taste, but it is a great place to shop for all kinds of handicrafts and tapestry! A lot of colors and variety to choose from! We bought this very nice jacket for Debbie and little souvenirs for everybody else and left for Peguche. This waterfall was very nice in a very short walk from the parking lot, but nothing breathtaking or a must-see, nevertheless it was a very nice visit.
At lunch time we headed to Iluman, where we had the great experience to visiting an otavalean family and share a day with them. I have to be honest though, we were expecting a very humble home. Don Alejandro had a three story house with a back yard that they had arranged with a small bungalow for our lunch.
After meeting the family and greeting with about 30 people we sat down for lunch and were shocked to learn that this house and the whole project was developed by EC Travel, and that during this past two years they had worked with them into this concept. We were also amazed that around 40 indigenous villagers from Iluman were directly involved with this part. Estela, Alejandro’s wife prepared a delicious fritada for us.
We were talking happily when the moment of truth arrived: A roasted guinea pig that Estela had prepared for us! Rafael had explained to us that it is very impolite to reject food in the Otavalean culture (in all cultures, I guess), so we decided to give it a try! It was actually not that bad I have to tell you, but it still didn’t feel right to eat what I had for pets when I was little! But definitely worth the try.
After this musicians and dancers gave us a really cool display of their culture. And at the end a Shaman came and made a traditional cleansing of Stephanie, a german girl that joined our group for this day. It was really interesting but at the same time we did not know he was going to spit liquor into her face! I could tell how shocked she was the first time that happened!!
At the end of the day, Alejandro and his family showed us some games that are apparently played when mourning their death so they wouldn’t get sad. After all this day we had to call it early, we were totally tired!
We stayed this night at Hacienda Pinsaquí, a beautiful hacienda outside of Otavalo. It was a great choice for us, but the rooms were too rustic for John’s taste. For me however, sleeping in this wooden floor bedroom with this colonial bed next to the fireplace was just perfect!
We were all set for a good night rest and prepare for the next day!
Day 4 – Otavalo
Very early wake up call today, 6 am as me and John really wanted to visit the animal trade market in Otavalo. I have to tell you this was one of the most exotic experiences I ever had. Dont take me wrong, I am all in favor of animal rights and the way the handle animals here was far from what we are used to. But to see how the interchange occured was amazing.
We then went back to the hacienda, checked out and left for Cuicocha. This volcanic crater-lake is truly majestic. It has two small islets in the middle and we took a boat ride inside the crater! John didn’t care much for this part because we were put with like 20 more people in a small boat, but made it anyways…We had lunch at a restaurant with a view to the lake and headed towards Cotacachi.
Cotacachi is a small little town North of Otavalo famous for its leather production. Here we basically went crazy shopping! There was some really cool jackets, purses, shoes and everything that you can make out of leather haha, it was really cheap as well!