|The dizzying variety of what was available at the market|
|From above, a sea of tarps, the famous market|
Now, how to navigate....
|Otavalo lovely temperature for hiking|
Getting there looked tricky, but with the abundance of buses in this country, we made the change easily. No sooner than getting off the first bus, the ticket tout of the next bus had us get aboard his bus and away we went. We were not sure if it was the right direction as all the info said we had to go to a different terminal to get from Quito to Otavalo. "No worries," said the tout (we think, spanish not being our first language.) Sure enough we got to an intermediate town then leaped upon another bus which, as usual, was just about to depart to Otavalo with seconds to spare.
|Colonial charm of Hotel Dona Esther with inner courtyard|
Condor park was mind blowing and a unique experience where we saw Andean condors, eagles, owls, falcons and hawks which rehabilitates these and other birds of prey. The most incredible was the
Our wanderings took us further afield, a walk around a lake in a collapsed crater 14 km on a hot day took its toll although we were now used to the altitude. There was a indigenous festival to mark the solstice where offerings are made to the lake, villagers carrying racks of fruit and vegetables and a pole live trussed chickens.
Next day we took an organised bike ride, driven up to 3500 m then a slow ride meandering through farms and villages to a town where leather goods are produced and sold. More Christmas presents!
The last day our guide took us high up another volcano, yet another lake in a collapsed crater. Unfortunately it was cloudy but the walk up through the paramio (alpine tussock) was extraordinary. Our guide explained a lot of the indigenous culture and the lore behind the festival we had seen on the first day. The locals party and dance for several days to awaken Pancha mama for the spring crop planting to thrive. Apparently the festival is also an opportunity for neighboring groups to discuss and resolve local issues, although in the past this could also lead to violence. Now there are strict rules to avoid bloodshed.
Last bus rides to take us to our accommodation by Quito airport, we were old bus pros now, getting off at a remote motorway toll both, cross the highway on an overhead pedestrian bridge then catch the airport bus on the other side. No need to go all the way into Quito northern bus station. Cost $2.80 each instead of the $50 taxi ride we were quoted! The hacienda where we stayed was once in the countryside but the area is now being built up due to the proximity of the new airport.
Quito city is spread out along a narrow valley 35 km long and is surrounded by deep canyons and skinny plateaus, on one of which lays the airport, 45 km from the centro of Quito. The next morning with heavy hearts we boarded our last internal flight to take us back to Guayaquil, where our adventure started 6 weeks ago.