Saturday I went to Otavalo, known for having the largest market in the world!I was so overwhelmed by everything though that I couldn't even buy anything!It was definitely overstimulation!
The next day I took a bike tour from Lake Cuicocha (meaning guinea pig lake since the islands in the middle look like guinea pigs) through Cotacachi, a town known for its leather goods.There was a Hungarian girl who took the tour with me and we both huffed and puffed our way along the mostly downhill 17km route.In the leather town (Cotacachi) we visited the culture museum where we saw the weaving machines and how they made the special sandals they use there.There were also photos and replicas of some of their costumes from some of the special cultural dances that they have.After lunch we continued on to the Peguche waterfall. It was small but nice.Once I got back to Otavalo I decided to try the market again since it was closing up and less overwhelming.I bought some typically dressed dolls and a change purse from one of the vendors and ended up talking to her for quite a while.She and her husband told me about a wedding they were going to the next day.There the weddings are always on Sunday and are celebrated for 3 days - first day at the husbands family's house, 2nd the wife's family and the 3rd the padrinos (best man & matron of honor) house.The 2nd day at the wife's house they do a ceremonial face washing w/ special herbs.They also told me about a costume dance party for the saints Pedro & Rafael that was going on that night in their town which they invited me to.I went w/ them to the nearby town of Illumani and we picked up their 5 kids and went to the main grassy area where there was a band playing and several people dressed up and dancing in a line kind of like a parade or conga.Several men were dressed as women.(It went on for 3 days and it was a competition - whoever had the most resistance, dancing the most would win something at the end.)It was fun to watch.There were also these 2 poor live chickens hanging upside down.Someone eventually has to rip or cut the head off or something and then has to bring 12 chickens the next year.It was really awful to see those poor hens hanging alive and uncomfortable.After the dance was over the band played a new tune & people got out to dance in couples.I got to dance w/ a typical Otavalo man who was a lot shorter than me!After the party the family asked me if I would like to be the godmother of their youngest daughter, Kelly, who was almost 7 and still not baptized.I was honored and said we would keep in touch and hopefully when I come back next year I can do it.They also taught me some words in Quichua which is totally different from Quetchua in Peru which I didn't realize before.It was so nice spending time w/ them!
The next day I took a tour to Laguna Mojanda where I climbed up a mountain called Fuya Fuya in just over an hour!The view was great w/ several other mountains around - Imbabura, Cotopaxi etc.I could even see Quito!We also saw either some kind of hawks or condors right above us. After lunch I joined a group of Germans on a Pueblos Indigenas tour (Indigenous towns).In the first town we saw a man using his hands, mouth and feet to weave little mini baskets that fit inside each other like Russian babooshkas. It was amazing!Next, we saw them knitting wool hats then went to 3 different weaving loom places - one making ponchos that take a really long time, one making chompas (sweaters) where we got to try the weaving process (it was fun!), & the other specializing in big tapices (wall hangings) w/ a huge loom.
My last morning in Otavalo I walked to the Socava cave that ended up being just a simple altar to the virgin.I then walked up to the big white cross and almost got attacked by crazy barking dogs on my way back down.I then started my walking adventure towards el lechero (a sacred tree) during which there was a really scary part where there were over 20 dogs running around and barking at each other.One approached me and I barked back really strong and he went away thank God!I hate stray barking dogs!!I was so freaked out!I walked for a while, up & down hill several times & asking several people how to find the illustrious tree.When I finally realized where it was it was too far for me to walk back to but thanks to my camera zoom I was able to get a so-so picture of it as well as the San Rafael lake below.I then continued walking to the Peguche waterfall in order to find the guy selling an indigenous Juego del Sol game that I had seen advertised.It was not easy but I finally found him - it was definitely a morning of hard work and exercise!I went back to Quito that afternoon where I got to see my friend Nadia for about an hour before she went running to Guayaquil! No more adventures for the day.