Markets at Otavalo!

Otavalo Travel Blog

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We got up early in Pasto and got on a bus to Ipailes which is right at the border between Colombia and Ecuador. We had heard from past travellers that Ipailes was a very unattractive town, and this was backed up by our Footprints guidebook - however on getting there we both agreed that it was far better than Pasto and also wasn´t as polluted either! We passed some fantastic scenery on the way down through a deep gorge. The landscape was much like the Canterbury region back home with barren hills and clear rivers. Really nice!

Once we arrived we got a taxi to the Santurary of the Virgin of Las Lajas, a large church built in the weirdiest place. I had seen pictures beforehand, but did not imagine it to be in the location it was. I expected there to be roads on either side, but instead it has been built at the bottom of a canyon (of the Guaitara River to be exact)! So bizarre! We still had our packs, and had to carry them the 15 mins down to the actual church itself from the road.

The paths are lined with stall holders which are mostly selling religious artifacts and candles. We had many strange looks, they were probably thinking ´those stupid gringos!´

The church itself is very gothic in style, and very very beautiful. The inside is quite stunning also, although was too scared to take any pictures as there were so many people in there praying. We took turns at having a look around, while one of us looked after our bags. There were also lots of plaques on the walls leading to, and around the church which explained miracles the church is acclaimed for. There were so many and I wish we knew more Spanish to read some of them.

We then hiked all the way back up and caught another taxi for the border to Ecuador. The border itself is really strange. I guess we imagined that it would be barred up somehow, but infact it´s a road with police directing traffic and offices on either side.

Otavalo Indian, where we bought our alpaca jumpers.
We got our exit stamps for Colombia and then walked over the border (which ísn´t really like a border in our opinion, its just a clister of shops and buildings together anyway) and got our entry stamps for Ecuador. No problems! It´s rather strange because while walking between the borders, there is big billboards, one welcoming you to Colombia and the other to Ecuador. There is also a farm, with the house on the Colombian side, and most of the farm and farm road on the Ecuadorian side. Interesting isn´t it?!

Another taxi ride later and we were at the bus terminal of Tulcan in Ecuador. We had barely got out of the taxi and had 2 guys asking where we were going, saying ¨Otavalo¨ they grabbed our bags from the boot and ran towards a bus rolling away. We hadn´t even paid the taxi driver yet! One of the people from the bus ended up doing so as the taxi driver didn´t have enough change for us (a common occurance in Ecuador so we have been told) and we ran and jumped on the moving bus.

Our cool alpaca jumpers!
I guess this is one of the joys of being in South America - everyone wants to sell you something so therefore you are usually never lost for long and makes travelling a whole lot quickier and easier!

We arrived in Otavalo and got a taxi to the hostel which we found was full, so had to walk to another anyway. We grabbed something to eat and then went out to have a good look at the markets. As it was Saturday the streets were packed full of vendors. Plaza de Ponchos was full of stall holders, there is just too much to have a look at! We ended up buying some jumpers made from Alpaca wool, a decorated knife, and chess set. Another thing that struck us - people here speak some English! Amazing!

The Otavalo Indians are also everywhere, they are so beautifully dressed.

The children look so cute aswell, they look very different to the average Colombian which is something we didn´t expect as we were only a few hours away from Colombia. However, crossing the border we felt a different atmosphere about Ecuador, the towns also look different and the way in which they dress is very different.

The markets comprise of bright colours, so pretty to look at. There are artifacts from all over Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia in every colour you can imagine!!

We are off to the capital, Quito tomorrow. It is only 2 hours away so we will leave later as we need to have a good look around the markets once more!

Gringo Info

Money (based on 2 people)

Colombia side:

  • Bus ticket Pasto - Ipiales $12,000 COP
  • Taxi from Ipiales bus station to Las Lajas - $8,000 COP
  • Taxi from Las Lajas to border with Ecuador - $15,000 COP

Ecuador side:

  • Taxi from border to bus station - $3.
    50 USD
  • Bus ticket from Tulcan to Otavalo - $6.00 USD
  • Lunch - $5.00 USD
  • Accommodation - $10.00 USD
  • Shopping - $55.00 USD (ie Alpaca top $13.00 USD etc)

Total: $95.50 USD

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Otavalo Indian, where we bought ou…
Otavalo Indian, where we bought o…
Our cool alpaca jumpers!
Our cool alpaca jumpers!
Nathan modelling his.
Nathan modelling his.
photo by: Ils1976