An Otavalo life

Ten days in and around Otavalo. Strong indigenous culture. Best market in South America. My challenge here will be in wanting to buy everything. I am typically not a ‘shopper’ but I think Otavalo goods are beautiful.

I walk towards the town center, looking for a hotel in my guidebook. At the correct intersection, I don’t see it. A preteen boy encourages me to check out his family’s hotel. At $12, it will do for a night. The next morning, I discover I was looking right at the hotel I was searching for. Proof that I was exhausted and dehydrated after a full day of bus rides.

I search for a new hotel to base myself, and think I have scored. Gorgeous courtyard, looks really clean, attractive rooms, friendly employee. Normally $15, but they agree to $12 if I stay a week. Later I discover truth in the maxim ‘if it looks to good to be true…’

Room settled, time to explore. My stomach threatens rebellion, but I am determined. Search for the two spanish schools; I plan to complete one final week of classes here. The most recommended school is closed all day. I schedule classes at the other, starting the next morning. Wandering above town, I meet 4 musicians and a videographer. They invite me along for their photo session. The next 3 hours are spent shooting photos in 3 locations of Fernando, Tomas, Jhon, and Eduardo.

Afterwards, Fernando invites me to his home. No way I will refuse that. I meet his family; his wife Veronica offers to show me some local sights the next day. I arrive home much later than usual.

The stomach rebellion begins. I am up all night. I make it through 2 hours of morning class before finally giving in. I race back to my room, and barely leave for 36 hours. And discover my room is not such a deal. The bathroom smells of raw sewage. I switch rooms. Same problem. The family plays the lobby TV constantly at high volume. Even after I tell them I am very sick, they are more concerned with me paying them than letting me recuperate in peace.

After 2 nights, cured thanks to antibiotics, I leave my hotel. For $1 more I end up at a hotel that is possibly the best value in Ecuador. Happiness.

I seek out Fernando and Veronica. I never met Veronica for our exploration date, and had no way to contact her to cancel. I explain I was sick; she offers to take me out the next day.

We walk to Peguche waterfall, then after take the bus to Ibarra and walk for 2 hours around laguna Yahuarcocha. The lake is infamous for a 500 year old battle in which the lake was turned red by the bodies of at least 20,000 Cara warriors, killed by the conquering Inca.

The market. The temptation is too great. During my 10 days in Otavalo I visit regularly. Alpaca blankets, sweaters, scarves, ponchos, hats. Tablecloths, paintings, jewelry. I buy too much, but also not enough.

I stop at a store to look at belts. I have a thing for leather belts, and own many of them. The owner and I start talking, I explain I want one with a design. He will custom stamp whatever design I choose. While he creates my belt, Jose plays Neil Young. Jose excitedly shows me his bootlegged CD collection. He is convinced I love 70’s classic rock, even when I tell him I certainly do not. In Ecuador, rock music seems to only consist of the 70’s and 80’s. I write a list of more modern options, hoping to introduce him to great bands. I admire my new custom belt. $10.

I feed my chocolate addiction at a small tourist-oriented coffee shop. I typically prefer local spots but crave higher quality chocolate. I meet Diana, whose family owns the stand. This 16 year old wants to be a chef, and helps make the stand’s baked goods. We talk for an hour. I almost moan with pleasure as I eat the freshly toasted yumminess of a peanut butter and jelly bagel. Some local boys look on in amazement; they can’t understand why anyone would want to eat peanut butter.

Fernando and Veronica invite me to the Intag valley, where some of Veronica’s family lives. The rural valley is supposed to be very beautiful. I am delighted by the invite and the opportunity. A great way to end my Ecuador trip.

To be continued…

(the photos look better big so click on one to enjoy!)