This weekend, some friends and I went to Otavalo, which is about 2 and a half hours north of Quito by bus. Otavalo is a smaller town that is legendary for its Saturday markets. The volcanoes Imbabura, Cotocachi, and Mojanda surround Otavalo, and the population is made up mostly of Otavaleños, an indigenous group that still dresses and lives traditionally.
We got there late on Friday night only to find that we had arrived on the first night of Yamor, which is an annual harvest festival and the biggest festival celebrated in Otavalo, lasting 8 days. There were TONS of people there for the opening festivities, which included a parade, lots of beer and street food, and music. Our reservations at the hotel had not been saved, so it's a good thing we spoke Spanish, or we wouldn't have been able to get a hotel room what with all the people in town! The hotel ended up being spectacular and the five of us paid $15 for the night and breakfast.
We got up early on Saturday morning and decided to go to the animal market first. This is where the Otvaleños buy and sell all sorts of animals: sheep, pigs, cows, chickens, ducks, puppies, turkeys, etc. It was loud and crowded and dusty, but it was really cool to see this part of their culture.
After the animal market we went to the Feria de Otavalo, which is the main market and the highlight of the trip. This market was probably 4 blocks wide in every direction, beginning with the central plaza. There are booths after booths of handmade things: gloves, socks, bags, tapestries, hats, jackets, jewelry, chess sets, trinkets, pottery....anything you can think of, it was there! And imagine the beautiful bright Latin American patterns and colors. I didn't know where to look next! The artwork is by far my favorite...Ecuadorian art is beautiful. The prices are very cheap, but the vendors will raise the price when they see you if you're white, so we got some good practice with our bartering skills and were usually able to buy what we wanted for a decent price.
It was a long day of walking around with our backpacks and purchases, but was absolutely worth it...so much fun! We got to see another part of Ecuadorian culture as well as buy some beautiful things. Also, seeing the mountains on the way back to Quito was absolutely breathtaking. I'm hoping to go back again near the end of the semester with my host mother- she said she would go with me to get me better prices. Here are some pictures from the weekend!!
One of the tapestries in our hotel room.
The animal market!
Traditional Otavaleño dress.
The beginning of the main market.
An example of the bright colors and patterns you see everywhere.
Some of the artwork-this is my favorite market item.
Amanda, me, Josephine (she's from Norway!) and Gina eating lunch.
One of the many murals we saw.
Feria de Otavalo! This is in the main plaza.
More jewelry! I am gonna come home with more jewelry than I will ever need!
A really cool street lamp.
The fruits and vegetable market.
El Imbabura: a volcano!
El Imbabura again.
El Cotocachi (another volcano, I think)