Market town

Otavalo Travel Blog

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Our second stop through Ecuador was the town of Otavalo about two hours north of Quito.

We researched the bus to Otavalo online and it all seemed to say that the bus station was at Terminal Terrestre. Thankfully we had been told off-hand a few days earlier that that bus station is no longer in use and that there is a newer one to the north of the city centre. Sure enough we asked the hostel owner and the new bus station to Otavalo is from Terminal Carcelen. It took a fair while to get there from Old Town, I think we paid about $US6. We had also heard bad stories about the bus to Otavalo but it turned out that the bus was nearly empty so we just took the back row and watched a violent Mexican movie from around the 1970-1980s. Spoiler alert: the good guy, who was also kind of bad, dies in the end.

At Otavalo we got a short cab to the hostel and checked in. We stayed at Hostel Chasqui and it was a great choice. The owner Roberto gave us a choice of the available rooms, and then showed us all the sights of Otavalo on a map. The rooms were decent size for the price.

Otavalo is a really nice town, not too big and definitely more laid back and friendly than Quito. The central grid of streets are easy to get around and there are lots of decent places to eat. When you get up above the low building level, like we did on our hostel roof, it is a great view over the town and to the surrounding peaks.

Unfortunately not long after we got to Otavalo I came down hard with travel sickness and spent most of the next 36 hours in bed, so my Thursday was a write off. The others made better use of the day and did the big walk around Lake Cuicocha. I'll admit that I was fairly jealous to miss out on that but it was out of my control.

On the Friday I was feeling good enough to get out of bed and do something. We decided to go check out the Peguche waterfall, which is about an hour walk from Otavalo. The way we went was along an old abandoned railway, and took us past some of the poorer buildings in Otavalo compared to the town centre. Apparantly there is an entrance fee to the waterfall but we didn't see anyone, so we just headed down the path. The waterfall wasn't huge but it was running very fast and the mist from the impact spread out a good way. After hanging around there for a bit we headed back.

Saturday is the most famous day of the week for Otavalo, when they have their renowned markets in the middle of town. They are really big - it takes a long time to get your way through it all and sometimes you get disorientated when you are walking around the centre of it! We walked around for a good couple of hours and struggled with our attempts to drive a fair bargain. Despite being a well known market for tourists you still need to know your Spanish as much as ever, so if you are not fast on your feet with that then it is a lot harder to win your side of the haggling process. I got some much needed sunglasses, and the others bought a few things including Panama hats, a woven face mask, jewellry, and a blanket. I'm not really into a lot of the market style things being sold but it was definitely worth going just for the sheer size and colour of it all. People who get into what are typically sold at markets would easily spend all day there.

We were originally going to head out of Otavalo to Banos that afternoon but we didnt feel too pressured for time so we stayed another night. The rest of the crew had a big one on the town that night, but I was still feeling the effects of travel sickness lingering so I did the lame thing and stayed back at the hostel (fail). I am glad I am travelling for so long because half of my Ecuador adventures seemed to have fallen aside to the gringo curse and I need to make up for it!
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Otavalo
photo by: Ils1976