12.10.2009 - 15.10.2009
Crossing the Colombian-Ecuador border was a snap. We picked the best time to cross over- monday afternoon during a heavy rainstorm. Best time to cross as it seems no one wants to get wet except for us- the crazy tourists from New York. The border crossing was so easy that we accidentally walked right into ecuador without getting any stamps or visas and no one said anything. We eventually saw the error in our ways and had to walk back into Colombia, get our exit stamps then walk back into ecuador. The entire process took about 10 minutes where we found ourselves very wet sitting on a minibus heading to Tulcan. The spare change from back home that i was going to chuck back in Bogota came in handy as our $2 in coins got us a ride to town, entry into the public toilets, and a coke. What a deal! From Tulcan we quickly jumped on to a bus heading to Quito (which seem to leave every 15 minutes) ready to jump out beforehand in Otavalo. The driver did one of those roll moves where we had to quickly jump off the bus before it actually stopped and before we could look up- poof he was gone. Oh well. We asked a few locals how to get into town- everyone gave us different directions which tends to be a popular thing to do in Latin America- even if people don´t know where something else, they really want to give you an answer, it´s best to just go with the flow and start walking. You're bound to end up somewhere.
Otavalo is about as charming as a city can get. The streets are paved with cobblestones, the sidewalks are meticulously swept, and the cathedral welcomes you easily into the city center where dozens of Indian women move with steady determination with their cactus woven sandels. It makes one feel foolish for being winded walking for 20 minutes with a backpack when these ladies with long black braids, crisp white embroidered shirts, and long black skirts carry a baby on their back tied with a colorful shawl while carrying large bushels of onions in one hand, a sack of potatoes in the other. Even ladies well into their 80´s carried huge loads of reeds, baskets, and herbs. I had no excuse to be tired of walking. We found a hostel that offered camping about 4km away from the town with a view of a volcano and lovely hour walk (downhill) into town where we met many a chicken, pig, and puppies to entertain us along our way.
The major attraction to visit Otavalo is the Saturday morning market but after visiting the Wednesday market, we felt that we had a substantial taste of market life. The handicraft market was a bit too sterilized and arranged purely for tourists, we spent an hour walking the market before getting hungry and annoyed that we couldn´t buy anything so we headed out in search of food. The star- i think of Otavalo is the food market! Here you wonder stall after stall of ladies selling beautiful potatoes, pasta, mounds of rice, spices all amid huge racks of meat, a pig´s head dangling off a hook where you can sit at a stall in the center of it all- eat a hearty almuerzo for $1.50 next to an Indian woman covered in gold beads and watch the daily interactions of all the locals. Fantastic! We bought a strange pod like fruit with some hairy white seeds in the middle which where all the rage with ladies spitting out the pods like they were ball players throughout the streets. Adam´s search for a Charango were over as he laid eyes on one 3 days into Otavalo at the market. It has now become our travel companion as we venture on towards Quito.