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Otavalo

Written on: Saturday September 8th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Author: Julie

Hola!

Every Saturday, in a village north of Quito named Otavalo, a large open-air market is assembled. In the early hours of the wee morning, as the sun rises, indigenous people pour into Otavalo to set-up their stalls for the weekly market. Everything one can imagine is for sale: vegetables, fruit, wool blankets, traditional and modern clothes, jewellery, live animals, meat, home hardware, tourist kitsch, it's all there for the right price.

Descending from the bus, we were swept up in the flow of people moving towards the market. The narrow, cobblestone streets of Otavalo were full of stalls with only narrow spaces between each to navigate down the street or onto the sidewalk. We first walked around the main square where most of the clothing is sold. Row after row, stall after stall, we were blinded by the bright colors of the cloth for sale, of the blankets, mitts, hats, socks, pants, tops, children's outfits, traditional clothes, women's underwear, etc. Fine thread and wool was sold by the spool. Touching sweaters and wall hangings we were surprised at how soft they were and the quality of the material. This was no cheap gringo market, but a true market where products made with talent and skill were available. I, of course, wanted to buy everything in sight. A blanket for the bed, a pair of pant to wear at the end of the day, a new wool sweater to keep warm during the evening, but I was limited by the space of my bag, which in the end was the saviour of my budget for the day.

As the afternoon progressed, we became hungry with the help of the wonderful smells in the air. Little braziers were set-up wherever there was space between stalls. Pork, chicken, beef, fish, potatoes, rice, lentils, and many, many foods we couldn't identify. Walking along the streets were vendors selling various types of ice creams, popsicles, sweets, desserts. After walking into a restaurant and walking out again due to lack of service, we were stopped at a stand where white fish was being fried and served with potatoes and a tomato salsa. The smell was amazing! We just had to try it. We ordered our fish, paid the 2$ for the plate and sat down at a table with 10 other locals. The taste of the fish melted in our mouths, not a piece of meat was left on the bones. We seriously considered eating a second one although we weren't hungry anymore just because the taste was so good. 

After lunch, we walked to the food market section. Again, row after row and stall after stall of vegetables, herbs, spices, and fruit lined the streets. Behind each stall sat usually a woman with a young child enticing us to buy her produce. It was hard to resist the grapes, strawberries, and blackberries that seemed to be so fresh that they must have been picked the day before. Unfortunately, we didn't want to expose our stomachs so early on to unpeeled fruit, but it was hard to not buy a small bag and take the risk. After the fruits and veggie stands, came the meat section, which is an endless source of fascination to us North Americaners who are used to seeing everything wrapped, sterilised and refrigerated. On hooks, hung various pieces of meat, exposed to the air and the flies. Pigs heads sat on stall tables starring back at us. Any piece of the carcass was available for sale including tripe, brain and intestines. No thank you, we said politely. 

Once we had our fill of the market, we headed back to the bus terminal, jumped on the first bus back to Quito for 2$ for the 2 hour ride and relaxed in our seats. The bus quickly filled and off we were to ride up and down the Andean peaks. On the TV, 2 Fast 2 Furious played in Spanish. We think the driver might have been watching the movie along with us as at times he took the sharp corners going downhill at such speeds that I felt like it was only my strength of will holding the bus upright on its 4 wheels. Kevin slept almost through it all. We arrived safely back at the terminal and we hopped the TroleBus back to our hotel area to crash in bed early. 

 

From Germain on Sep 11th, 2007

Absolutely amazing guys!!! Wishing you both the best of luck on your journey.