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dannygoesdiving This is a blog & photo journal of the trips that I (Danny) and Jo (wifey) have taken over the past few years.

Ecuador - Otovalo

ECUADOR | Tuesday, 22 September 2009 | Views [651]

Otovala - animal market - a guinea pig is selected from the crowd.

Otovala - animal market - a guinea pig is selected from the crowd.

Otovalo has been an Andean crossroads since pre-inca times, when jungle traders would travel here on foot. Today its a 20th century version with a craft market everyday !!!

Although it is probably the most cliche destination in Ecuador outside of the Galapagos, do it right and it becomes a 'Must do' destination and for me was one of the highlights of mainland Ecuador

The word on the street was that Saturday was the day to visit as this is principle market day - not just for tourists to buy their tacky souveniers, but also for the locals to do business in the food and animal markets (and the latter 2 are the places to concentrate on).

I travelled on a local bus from Quito to Otovalo on Friday ($2, 3 hour journey). I wanted to avoid being one of the busloads of tourists that come for the Saturday market - the idea was to get in and get out before the masses descended !

I was the only tourist on the bus and as usual everytime the bus stopped, vendors jumped aboard trying to sell everything from water and fruit to packets of seeds. It was experiences like this that really stuck in my mind.

Once there, I walked to the Plaza de Ponchos (the main square and where the craft market is based) and found a hostel off a sidestreet. I wandered around for a while and joined a queue of locals for some chicken & chips, which were being served from an alleyway in between two shops. $1 40c and delicious.  Found a bar for a couple of beers then had an early night as I wanted to be up at dawn for the animal market.

Up at dawn and walked the kilometer to the edge of town where I was advised the animal market was located.  I passed the real early risers heading away from the market, with live chickens under their arms and piglets on rope leashes.

The market was crowded with both people and animals. It was busy, chaotic, noisy, smelling and all set to a stunning backdrop (and only a handful of tourists). There were a wide array of animals for sale, including cows, lamas, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats, rabbits & guinea pigs.  I enjoyed wandering around the market watching people trading and going around their daily lives.  To realise that this has been going on for centuries - it was such an authentic experience, but probably not a number 1 destination for vegetarians :)

I wandered around for about an hour, then with stomach runbling I headed towards the food market.  The market was also heaving with activity, there was a wide variety of local produce, from colourful, tasty fruits to somewhat less appealing cows hooves and chickens feet. I wandered the stalls before joining a crowded table of locals for some breakfast (much to their amusement) - a large bowl of very tasty soup for $1. I found eating in the local food markets a great way to enjoy typical Ecuadorian food at great prices.

Breakfast completed I headed back to the Plaza to wander around the artizans market.  It was not recognisable from the previous day, not only did the market encompass the plaza, but extended down all the side streets with vendors selling anything and everything.  It was still only 9am, so I could wander pretty freely as the stalls were still being setup and I seemed to be the only one buying as opposed to selling.  It soon became evident that whilst there were alot of stalls, they were all pretty much 'same, same'.  I haggled over a 'throw' for our dog chewed sofa, a small handpainted picture (on stretched pigskin) of Cotopaxi & Indigenous life, as well as a necklace for Jo.

Sights seen, food eated and purchases made, I walked to the bus station.  It was only 10am, I'd seen all I had wanted and not seen more than 20 other tourists.  I jumped on the bus to Quito, settled down and looked out the window just in time to see a full busload of other tourists arriving for the market. 

If you get the chance - don't miss Otovalo.

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