Otavalo

As part of our whirlwind visit to Quito, we decided to take a day trip to Otavalo, a town famous through the country for its Saturday market. Otavalo is home to a large population of indigenous people, and they make an amazing array of handicrafts, particularly woven textiles. If I ever got a chance, I would love to visit where they actually make the stuff, because it is pretty amazing.

Joel and I visited Otavalo 4 years ago on my first visit to Ecuador, and I was pretty impressed then. I knew I wanted to go, but we weren’t sure if we’d be able to fit it in. It’s a 2 hour bus ride from Quito, so it’s a big time commitment just to get there and back, and we were on the fence about whether it would be worth it to make the girls go through that (have I mentioned that they throw up pretty much without fail every time we ride a bus?), but in the end it was definitely worth it.

After getting off the bus, this was the first thing that caught our eye. I think those are green onions sticking out of its ears. What, you’ve never seen a restaurant with a complete roasted beast dressed to greet you at the entrance?

The next thing the girls saw were these little guys. Always an attention grabber.

And then I saw this. (Even in Spanish, you know a 30%-off sign when you see it.)

And then this. I know this may not look like much, but for someone who has been completely starved for craft shopping in the last 4 months, this was a sight for sore eyes, even though I didn’t buy anything.

The market is HUGE. It spills out of ever shop and fills the streets with booths selling piles and piles of handmade goodness. It’s so completely overwhelming, especially when you think of how many hours went into all the handmade wares for sale. Thinking of just the hours weaving is dizzying. I didn’t photograph even 1/100th of what there was, since I was carrying a squawking toddler most of the time, but you can kind of get an idea of how big it was.

We walked.

And walked. I wanted to find piles of yarn for sale, as I had seen when we came 4 years ago, but was out of luck. I did find one shop selling yarn in the end, but the selection was pretty limited, so it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.

Ah, the textiles. The textiles.

Our first time in Otavalo, I was pretty moderate with my purchases, but this time, I didn’t hold back. The girls each got a traditional Otavalan dress, an alpaca sweater (so soft and cute) and a new drum.

The drums were as effective as cow bells for keeping the girls from getting lost in the crowd. And they helped keep the girls’ spirits up while we trekked along. I highly recommend them. 

Stacks of Panama hats with an array of hand-woven hat bands. Bonus trivia: Panama hats actually originated in Ecuador, but received their misnomer because they were shipped to the States through the Panama Canal.

We ate at the same little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that Joel and I ate at 4 years ago. A little harder with 2 kids, but still delicious. We had fritada, which is absolutely what you must eat when you go to Otavalo. I don’t know the name of the restaurant (sorry) but just look for a window with a woman laboring over a huge wok-looking thing filled with potatoes, chunks of pork, and other delectables sizzling in hot pig fat. Mmm.

I took a few pictures of the girls on the bus ride home. They were just too adorable in those sweaters.

Thanks for the good time, Otavalo. ‘Til we meet again.