Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Otavalo, Ecuador

After crossing the border from Colombia into Ecuador, we breathed a huge sigh of relief and headed to the quaint little town of Otavalo. Hidden in a valley surrounded by three massive volcanoes (Imbabura at 4630m, Cotacachi at 4995m and Mojanda at 4263m), the smallish town of 30,000 or so inhabitants seemed even smaller. We were welcomed by very friendly and hospitable people, great and cheap food, and tons of fun stuff to explore.

Below you can see our view from the border, which consisted of someone pulling up bags from the Ecuadorian territory into the Colombian territory and into the bushes...

The clouds are hiding one of the massive, and luckily extinct, volcanoes.

The number one reason for our journey to Otavalo was the Saturday market held year-round in the town centre. The market was huge and consisted of many handcrafts, art works, jewellery, furs, clothing, traditional textiles, etc. We picked up some Christmas gifts to mail home and a few presents for ourselves.

A funny-looking pig and a roast boar.

For a fun day-trip we headed up the hillside to Otavalo´s Condor Sanctuary. We took a cab and on the way, our driver educated us on the different plants grown in the town. He pulled over a couple of times and ran outside to pick us some eucalyptus, quinoa and other random plants to touch and smell!

The bird sanctuary had not only Andean Condors (the largest birds in the world that is nearing extinction), but many different kinds of raptors, owls and eagles.

Below are adult condors, whose wingspans are around 3.2m (well over 10 feet) long!

We opted to walk the 6 or so km back to town along the muddy farm road, which was nearly deserted, except for a few pig and cattle farmers and a sweet little old lady who offered for us to buy the cute puppy she was carrying (it was soooo tempting, but Tyrone unfortunately said "no"). As soon as we left, thunder started to boom in the direction we were headed, but we luckily made it home before the rain started!

We passed San Pablo del Lago on our way home, which looked like it was being hit by the rain.

Just before we got to our hotel, we got to see an amazing panorama of Otavalo in all its glory. Enjoy the video below!

And just for you, Mom (Nina), here is the hostal\hotel room we stayed in! It has a second smaller bed on the other side of the room, a beautiful view of the hill outside, cable TV (with HBO), private bath, etc., all for the reasonable price of $16 per night!

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