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Shop til you Drop in Otavalo

A respite from Quito's dangerous ways

25 °C
View The Epic Adventure of Mr & Mrs VB on The VBs's travel map.

The Saturday after our first week of langauge school presented us with the oppertunity to practice our Spanish at the famous Ecuadorin market in Otavalo.

It was on this drive to Otavalo tha we witnessed our first sign of loco driving in South America. On the way up to a blind corner we witnessed a car overtaking a car overtaking a bus! Obviously the locals are used to this because the oncoming vehicles that rounded the corner quickly swerved to the side avoiding a head on collison by what looked like centimeters.

Our first stop on the way to the main artisan market was to the animal market, where the local people came down from the hills that surrounded Otavalo to sell and trade their excess animals. In no particular order we could have bought cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, roosters, baby chicks, ducks, baby ducklings, guinea pigs, cats, dogs in any number of states, alive, dead, unconcious, stunned, almost dead, almost suffocated... well you get the picture. We're pretty sure the RSPCA would have had a field day had this market occured in any of the countries that we all come from but we guess its just the norm in this part of the world. For the most part we could accept the conditions the animals were kept in at the market. however, watching a grown man taking a running kick at a pigs face just to show the little old lady wanting to buy it that the pig had a bit of spirit was just a step too far along with the caged kittens. There were so many kittens in the cage that they were stacked upon each other and had no room to move. We wouldnt be at all surprised if the ones on the bottom were dead.

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Rick, The English speaking, Spanish speaking Dutch guy who is currently working at the school ascertained that a cow would set us back $250US if we were interested in making a purchase, and thats before enerting into the bargining phase!

Moving on from the animal market we arrived at the Artisan Market in Otavalo town. As we started to wander up the side street towards the main centre of the market a couple of things became apparent, firstly we were going to spend money, secondly we could have spent a lot of money, thirdly we didn't have enough room in our bag to go crazy, fourthly that were going to have to find a post office to send home the few small things we were almost certainly going to buy and finally we should only visit markets when on holidays of less than a month!!

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The Otovalan Market is almost soley run by local countryside men and women who turn up week in week out in traditional dress. The girls typically wear a coulourful dress with blouse, gold coloured bead necklaces, a felt hat and their hair tied by by a colouful hand woven band. The gentlemen were in three quarter trousers, sandals, possibly a felt hat and their hair was tied back in a single plait.

The first thing we noticed about Otavalo is that we didn't feel in fear of our lives wandering in amongst the locals, this is something that Otavalo definitely had over Quito and the Mariscal. The markets were proven to be a prime photo taking opportunity as the colours of their wares were bright and colourful. Although every time I stopped to take a photo the store owner or worse the small child of the store owner would come over to try and sell me what ever it was I was taking a picture of. The phrase "solo mirando por favor" or I'm only looking thank you definitely came in handy.

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Giving a run down on the things that were available/we would of bought if we had the space included, Alpaca blankets, Alpaca ponchos, Alpaca scarfs, t-shirts with comments about boobies.....of the blue footed kind, colourful beanies, colouful beanies with in built scarfs, alpaca woolen gloves, HAMMOCKS!!!!, masks of ancient Incan gods, silver earings and broaches, pendants made of precious stone and silver, necklaces and earring galore, a chess set of Conquistadors vs the Incas and a Panama hat, although the Panama hat was actually first designed and made in Ecuador and should therefore be referred to as an Equadorian hat!

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We spent a total of 3 hours in the market and came out with our wallets still intact, barely. Meeting up with our fellow bargin hunters at 12:30 for lunch we found out that Richard, one of our fellow bargin hunters apparenty has a hard time saying no and not just because his Spanish is at the very beginner level. We thought we'd made a few too many purchases, We're suprised there was anything left at the market for us to buy after Richard had done the rounds. From what we can remember he left with a painting, an Alpaca sweater, a jewellery set including earrings, necklace and bracelet, another set of earrings and matching necklace and an obligatory panama hat for himself.

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Moving on from the market after lunch we visted a nearby waterfall with a sufficient spray back that even 10m away from from the actual fall we walked away with our bum and back of legs completely soaked, thank god for quick drying trousers!

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The drive back to Quito was less adventurous than the drive to Otavalo but we still thought the drivers were slightly loopy!

Posted by The VBs 19.11.2009 18:02 Archived in Ecuador Tagged backpacking

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