September 24, 2009
Day 10 - Otavalo - first day
Hotel Eugenia, Quito
Today we were starting our two day trip to Otavalo and surrounding towns. Many of the towns and villages nearby are famous for their own particular crafts. Cotacachi is the main place for Ecuadorian leather products. In San Antonio, they specialize in wood furniture and carvings. And of course Otavalo is famous for its textiles and the Saturday market.
Bright and early Daniel and his faithful companion, Carlos, picked us up. As today was Friday, we were going to go and see the surrounding towns and sights, so we could save Saturday for the Otavalo textile market and the famous “Animal Market”.
We took a leisurely drive up and up and up, then down, down…Along the way we had magnificent views of the other existing volcanoes and the agricultural diversity of the area, and particularly this area is known for growing a large portion of the Roses and other flowers supplied to the United States. There are vast green houses all along here.
We stopped at a small shop called “El Danzante” (The dancer). An old established place that sold ceramic and clay-like art. But actually it was made of something similar to dough (unfortunately not edible), that was then either left to dry or hardened in ovens. An amazing array of articles form small Christmas ornaments and dolls, to elaborate renderings of Noah’s Ark.
We visited another “Mitad del Mundo”, Middle of the Earth monument and then on to Cayambe. As I mentioned, some of these smaller towns were all focused on a single industry. Cayambe’s claim to fame is the “Biscochos”, cookie like biscuits that are not normally sweet. We visited a small shop where they were busy churning out 1000’s, that were hand rolled and baked in a hot wood fired stove. Of course we had to try some (I mean it was already 10:00 and no second breakfast in sight). And what better way to have them then with a hot cup of chocolate, at least that is what Tami thought. Well she took a large sip and it melted all the skin off her tongue. Not good in the pain department, but a great way to lose future weight.
Daniel provided us with a good feel for the landscape and its folklore. One of the tales was of the volcanoes, Mojanda and Imbabura. They threw large stones across the valley. But Imbabura’s didn’t go quite as far and his rock fell short near Peguche, which is revered by the pre-Incan people and even today they have a waterfall where thousands of people come for the summer solstice (June) to be blessed by a Shaman and bathe in its waters. Mojanda and Imbabura fought each other for the hand of Coatachi, who became Imbabura’s wife and they had Pichincha, an active volcano.
We then stopped in at a small home that was a nice surprise. Inside was a older gentleman who created musical instruments. He gave us a demonstration on making a pan flute and then proceeded to demonstrate his proficiency on at least 8 different instruments, all of which he builds.
We then visited Cotacachi and it’s leather shops, but being from Phoenix we could not use any of the exquisite jackets and outerwear. So Tami bought a small leather wallet and we had lunch. Tami ordered the Sea Bass, which was the size of a dinner plate. She couldn’t eat it all, so we took it with us and gave to an old gentlemen in the town square. He was very grateful.
Our next portion of the whirlwind day took us to San Antonio, no not Texas, but the small town famous for its wood furniture and carvings. There were some fabulous beds and dining tables, but as they didn’t fit in my backpack, we didn’t get any, only a few small carvings.
As we were driving around, we noticed that many people were waiting on the sides of the road for the bus. Not at a bus stop, just anywhere, and the bus stopped. Also apparently the lines dividing the road and the signs designating “no passing” are for decoration only.
These people passed anywhere, sometime four across, on a two lane mountain road! But we didn’t see one accident, and no one shot at each other when cut off.
We ended the day by us checking in to the Hacienda Pinsaque, a former textile mill that has elegant gardens with peacocks and horses.