When I arrived in Otavalo I found myself breathless. I found myself sucking in air occassionally and running out of breath when walking up the streets. No wonder the elevation here is about 8,000 feet.
I also found myself breathless from the beauty of Otavalo both in the territory around Otavalo, the beautiful cobble streets and beautiful buildings and the warm and friendly people who were mostly indigenas who predated the Incas.
This is my guide, Sisa, who toured me to the surrounding craft villages and natural scenery at the Cascadas de Peguche.
It is always a challenge crossing country borders, and I found that going from Colombia to Ecuador fairly easy. From Pasto, I caught a collectivo to Ipiales, Colombia and then another one to the border town of Rumichaca and another collectivo to the border. I then walked first to the Colombia Immigration to stamp my way out of the country. I then walked a few hundred feet to the Ecuador border where I filled out the normal immigration paperwork which was reviewed and then my entry immigration stamp was added to my passport.
Colombia Immigration Office
Following that, I walked down to where the taxis and collectivos were waiting and got a collectivo to Tulcan, Ecuador. Each collectivo cost less than a dollar. From Tulcan, I caught a bus for $3.75 all the way to Otavalo.
Quite a challenging road through the mountains on the way to Otavalo.
After checking into my hostel, I ended up walking about town starting with the Plaza de Ponchos where each day the vendors set up their wares to sell to tourists and wholesalers.
Otavalenos are mostly the indigena people who were here before the Incas and Spaniards. They are well known for their amazing textile-making skills and leather work. Many of them working at the markets and in businesses throughout town wear their traditional clothing. The women wear white blouses that are embroidered with flowers and other fanciful designs, black or blue long wool skirts, woven belts, and gold stranded necklaces. The single women sometimes wear a wool scarf with a knot on the left side and the married ones have the knot in the middle. The men wear dark felt hats, white shirts and high water white pants. The men braid their hair in a single strand and the women wrap their long hair with a woven wrap.
These indigenous people are the most financially sucessful business people of all indigenous people in all of Ecuador.
Following the Pancho Plaza visit, I headed to the public market where meats, fruits, vegetables, and other goods were sold. They also had food stalls where you could have cheap local meals if you could get overthe smiling pig.
Here are some of the sights in Otavalo beginning with Plaza Bolivar where the government building an a Catholic church are located and was the site of the Inti Rayi festival that I just missedl
I took a day tour to some of the craft villages around Otavalo and Laguna de San Pablo and Laguna de Cuicocha--a caldera filled deep blue, clear lake in a national park. My tour was through Ecomontes Tour and my guide was Sisa and driver was Edwin. Since I was the only person on this guided tour, instead of it being $40, it was $60.
We first stopped at a woven grass mat craft shop where a couple of young girls tried to show me how to make these mats. Sisa said it takes them about 4 hours to make these mats that use the reeds they gather from around the nearby Laguna de San Pablo. I tried my hand at mat weaving, but no way could I make one in 4 hours---more like 4 days.
Her brother is using a backstrap loom to make woven bracelets and I ended up buying two of them. He was very happy to get paid for his work.
We then stopped by a music instrument making shop and here are all of the types of instruments they make here ranging from rain sticks, flutes, rattles, and horns. The artists was off performing at another fiesta nearby, but we saw the raw materials he started with in making these instruments.
My last stop was at the busy bus terminal where I found my ride to Quito by just listening to the conductor chanting Quito-Quito-Quito by the bus bound for Quito. I got on for the two hour ride for just $2.50.