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Otavalo and the Line of the Equator

Otavalo, Cayambe, Quitaso Sundial (the Line of the Equator) and Quito


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Day trip today to Otavalo and the line of the Equator.

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On arrival at Otavalo bus terminal I helped two Canadian tourists who didn't know how to get to the handicraft market and had no map - I said they could join me and Dave because we were going that way and I'd been there before so I knew my way around. It was nice to help out. Once they'd left us, Dave and I carried straight on to the animal market. Although people were packing up, there were more animals than when I was there in April with Emma, Kate etc. Llamas in one open-backed truck, pigs being hauled into another, loads of ducklings, chickens, guinea pigs, geese and some rabbits.

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It was a very hot day, so after leaving the animal market we walked along one side of the daily market and then headed to the church to sit inside in the coolness and rest for a little bit out of the hubbub. As we walked in a recording of the famous waltz by Strauss started playing really loudly - slightly surreal given the surroundings. Dave sat down, I moved off to go outside to the public toilets, but then I noticed a girl in a bright pink dress standing at the main doors ready to go down the aisle, surrounded by her family who were also dressed to the nines! There was only a very light sprinkling of people in the pews. We made a swift but discreet exit and sat on a bench outside in the shade, instead.

After I'd been to the loo and we'd both had a bit of a sit down and a drink, we moved on to the handicrafts market. It spread out even further along the side streets than it had done in April. As well as handicrafts, it contained stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, bread rolls, flours, maize, beans and pulses. We bought ourselves a lovely colourful woven holdall each, I got myself some new alpaca gloves and a lovely leather belt with a colourful woven pattern going down the middle lengthways, and Dave got himself two shirts with a pattern on the front.

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After leaving the market we had a quick, very late lunch at a cafe - a humita, a sandwich each and a quimbolito (like a sweet version of a humita, but with an even more spongey texture).

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Then we jumped on the first bus we came across with the destination 'Cayambe' displayed on the front windscreen... the purpose of this being to get to the line of the Equator.

The bus journey from Otavalo to Cayambe took just over an hour and cost only 75 cents. At Cayambe we took a taxi three kilometres down the road to Quitsato Sundial, where I had been before in April. We received the same interesting talk as I had done then (see this blog post here for the details of that), looked round and took some pictures.

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Once we got back to Quito we rested for a bit before going out to a Middle Eastern restaurant for dinner. It was very similar to the shawarma places in Guayaquil. I enjoyed my chicken shawarma wrap but Dave wasn't so keen on one or two of the things he got on his mixed plate. A couple on the table next to us were smoking hookahs provided by the restaurant.

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Posted by 3Traveller 10:11 Archived in Ecuador Tagged market buses dave quito otavalo andes ecuador cayambe ecuadorian_cuisine quitsato_sundial the_equator Comments (0)

Ziplining during the day, thermal baths at night...

Baños


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A quiet and very relaxing morning today. First of all we wandered round town doing some shopping and looking at the sugar cane stalls and the men slinging and pulling around long piles of toffee-like mixture (taffy) from hooks at the side of shop doorways.

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While Dave was in a handicraft shop I suddenly thought of lighting a candle for Dad in the Basilica, so that's what I did.

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Then we moved on to one of several massage parlours lined up on the other side of the main square and had amazing hour-long full body massages for only $20 each.

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We left the place afterwards completely relaxed and ambled over to the Central Market where we had some lunch at a stall.

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Dave had seco de pollo, which he loved, and I had a delicious llapingacho, which is a plate of fried cheese & mashed potato cakes, a fried egg, fried slices of chorizo sausage, rice, chopped beetroot, shredded lettuce and a big chunk of avocado.

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At 12 we went on our next excursion... ziplining! The setting of this was spectacular, set in forested mountains close to Baños.

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On at least two occasions we ziplined from one side of a valley to the other. There were a total of six lines with a bit of hiking to get from each one to the next.

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On three of them we sat in the normal position, on two we got to lie in a 'Superman' position and on one we ziplined hanging upside down.

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It was all fantastic. Just to top it all off, as we returned from the final zipline to the where we'd been given the equipment at the start, we passed a house with four incredibly cute puppies who came up to us to say hello. I think they were Golden Retrievers.

After dinner and a game or two or pool we went back to the hot thermal baths to try out their evening session, which runs from 6-9.30pm. It was busier and more touristy than when we went during daylight - on that occasion we were the only tourists there. This time four out of five of the pools were open. We did several rounds of going in the hot one, then the bigger cold one, then the extremely hot one downstairs then the small circular cold one next to it and then back again to the hot one upstairs.

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After eventually leaving the baths we explored the waterfall area next door before going back to the hostel.

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We shared an amazing pizza there before going to bed tired but extremely happy.

Posted by 3Traveller 15:30 Archived in Ecuador Tagged waterfalls market basilica hostel dad dave banos ecuador ziplining explorations ecuadorian_cuisine freshwater_swimming thermal_baths Comments (0)

Cuenca with Dave

Montecristi (Panama) hat


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By 8.10 we were on the bus to Cuenca. The scenery on the way was as spectacular as ever and we arrived between 12 and 12.30.

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We walked from the bus station to Bauhouse Hostel (sic), passing some streetsellers with baskets of guinea pigs on the way.

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Dave had a snooze once we'd got there but I went out to the launderette to get some washing done... as soon as I arrived at the main square I noticed that a parade was going on with soldiers in ceremonial white and either black or navy blue uniforms. They were raising and occasionally twirling batons and some trumpeters played at one point. Drums were beating as well. I was really pleasantly surprised because as far as I was aware there was no festival or special occasion today.

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After taking some photos of the parade I went on to the launderette and got most of my clothes done. Once they were in the dryer I went back to the hostel for 40 minutes and then returned with Dave. I picked up my clothes and then we went to the same small traditional Panama (Montecristi) hat workshop where I bought Dad's hat for Christmas. Dave will be 30 in July and I wanted to get him a hat as an early birthday present from me, because we won't be in the same place on his actual birthday. Unfortunately, when we arrived we found that it was all locked and shuttered up! I'd thought it was open until 6pm on Saturdays. Instead, we went to a different place nearby and Dave tried a few on before settling on one.

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After I'd paid for it the guy put it in a cloth bag shaped like a hat.

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On the way back to the hostel to dump our stuff, I suddenly remembered about food for our long bus journey to Banos tomorrow and the fact that we would have to leave too early to get our free breakfast from the hostel, so we went on a quick bakery hunt. The ones I found didn't have what I was looking for but then we passed by a streetseller at the side of the pavement - mostly they sell fruit and vegetables, with the occasional basket of chickens or guinea pigs, but this one had a big basket filled with plastic bags of buns. There weren't any sweet ones so I bought a bag of about ten with cheese in the middle instead.

After dumping our stuff we headed out again. Dave brought his DSLR with him and between us we got a few photos of different parts of the historic centre.

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Then we had some dinner - I had a lovely dish of white fish chunks in white sauce and vegetables, with rice as a side, and Dave had 'churrasco', a large thin steak with two fried eggs, rice, avocado, chips and salad. Lovely. Then another few photos, now it was after dark, and back to the hostel to pack for tomorrow.

Posted by 3Traveller 04:53 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains market hostel dave andes ecuador procession cuenca unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

Easter Saturday: Otavalo Market

Quito and Otavalo


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I was the first of our group to sit down for breakfast this morning and while I was waiting, I experienced an earthquake tremor! Just a minor one but I did feel the earth shake a bit and coffee cups rattle on the table. Then Kate arrived and just as she was agreeing that it must have been an earthquake, it happened again and she felt it.

After breakfast we got a lift in the hostel's minibus to one of the bus stations, where we hopped on a coach to a town north of Quito called Otavalo. It is famous across South America and beyond for its street markets, in particular the big handicrafts market that reaches its apogee on Saturdays. It took over 2 hours to get there and the scenery was spectacular.

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On the way there some ice cream sellers appeared on the bus at different points - Kate bought a coconut ice lolly (the best ice lollies she had ever had, apparently) and I bought a lovely chocolate one.

We knew there was a morning animal market in addition to the handicrafts market and the daily market, so we made a beeline for it as soon as we arrived. Before we did that, however, we had to go on a toilet hunt. We looked inside the church on the main square - it looked really interesting so I will definitely look round it properly when I come back here with Dave in June - but they didn't have any toilet; luckily, after we had exited from there Mark then spotted some public toilets nearby.

Market sellers had spread across the town even outside the official market areas, so there was lots to see on our walk. Unfortunately the animal market had mostly finished by the time we got there, so almost all the big animals had been sold other than a few sheep, but we did see little pens and cages of guinea pigs, pigeons, chickens, ducklings and a rabbit.

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Next to the market I noticed a stand making and selling the same type of delicious batter things that I saw in Ambato at Carnival, so I bought and ate two; then some of the others bought one.

Indigenous Otavalo people still wear traditional dress and take great pride in it, even the young people who you'd think would more likely to wear modern clothes. Everywhere we saw women wearing their traditional bead necklaces and bracelets, distinctive white blouses with elbow-length flared laced sleeves and flower or other embroidering over the chest area, dark skirts, coloured bands round the waist and hair tied back with a cloth band. We also saw some men wearing their traditional clothing - white trousers, dark ponchos and hats.

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On returning from the animal market we explored the daily market a bit more. This was extremely untouristy, filled with butchers' stalls, lunch counters, fruit and vegetable stalls, general stalls with tins and packets of food as well as sacks of maize, flour and other grains, and stalls selling non-edible household goods.

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While walking past one of the lunch counters Kate noticed that it sold 'cuy' - guinea pig! The others all decided to have some for lunch but I originally decided I wouldn't, because I knew it would be fried and I've had that before in Bolivia five years ago; I remember thinking at the time that although it was nice fried, I'd have it roasted or as part of a stew the next time.

Guinea pig is expensive in Ecuador so the others decided to have just one between them. They sat up at the side of the stall on an inbuilt bench and waited 25 minutes or so for the dish to be prepared. At one point one of the women at the stall asked if they wanted to take photos of the guinea pig being cooked, so Kate went over and took a photo. Apparently it was indeed being fried in a pan, was flattened a bit and didn't have any fur on it - the same as what I had in Bolivia. When it arrived they each got a quarter on a plate along with toasted corn, some sort of boiled corn, tomato and onion salsa, potato in some sort of sauce, some tomato and lettuce. They also brought me out a plate and we thought that it was included in the $25 we'd paid for our meal, so I accepted. It was tasty but somewhat hard to get the meat off the bones. Of course, once we'd all finished eating it turned out that it wasn't included after all, but it still worked out as $6 each which was pretty good value.

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The famous handicrafts market (Plaza de Ponchos) was our next destination. I was tempted by a lot of things but didn't buy anything because I knew I would be coming back here in June with Dave. I can tell I will be loading myself up then! Kate and Andrew bought a lovely piece of artist's work that they plan to get framed and put up in their house, Kate also got a little carved stone turtle keyring and Andrew bought something that he thought was a carved wooden axe-shaped ornament that turned out to be a pipe. Emma and Mark also bought things but I've forgotten what they were.

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Instead of going straight back to Quito, we then caught a bus to the town of Cayambe.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:37 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains birds market sisters quito otavalo andes explorations ecuadorian_cuisine traditional_customs Comments (0)

Cuenca to Guayaquil

Cuenca

We got up early this morning. Breakfast was scrambled eggs, toast, jam and juice. Once we'd had that we headed out to a launderette for my benefit, then once I'd found it, which took longer than I expected, I stayed there while the others went back to the hostel to use the toilet and pick up Mark (who hadn't had breakfast before we left due to a mix up).

After I'd put my clothes in the dryer we went straight to the market in San Francisco Square. Kate and Emma ended up unknowingly buying the same type of alpaca jumper, which was the same or almost the same as the one I bought from the same place last November! Mark and Andrew both got alpaca jumpers too. I had helpfully written down some useful phrases so they could haggle a bit and ask for different sizes. After half an hour or so I went back to the hostel to check out before going on to the launderette, with all my stuff, to collect my clothes. Then I rejoined the others at the market. Once they'd finished there I walked to the bus station, but the others went part of the way with me so that I could show them where the Skeleton Museum was.

The first part of the journey back to Guayaquil was enlivened by a natural remedy salesman who gave a long speech, handed out products from his case to every passenger who would take one (talking as he went), gave another speech and then walked back up and and down to collect money from the passengers who wanted to keep the products and the products from those who didn't. This was all in Spanish, and he spoke very quickly, but I understood that the claim was that it was some kind of remedy for children which could also help cure cancer, stomach problems and other medical issues in adults.

Posted by 3Traveller 08:18 Archived in Ecuador Tagged market spanish hostel buses sisters andes ecuador cuenca guayaquil unesco_world_heritage_site Comments (0)

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