We had a one night stopover in Quito. Next morning we took our bags a couple of streets away to hail a cab. Unfortunately half of Quito was having road re-surfacing so cabs couldn't get to the hotel door. We eventually flagged one and set off for the new north bus terminal. It was about a 30 minute drive. I wonder how the cabbies make a living. The fare was about four pounds. It costs over eight pounds at home to go two miles.
As in all South American bus stations there are numerous ticket offices for individual companies. Gringos with rucksacks are usually going to the same places. As we approached the offices people were leaning out of the windows shouting 'Otevalo' 'Otevalo' at us. They were correct; we were going to Otevalo but who to choose. Nearest window I think.
It's a two hour ride and the fare was $2 each. The bus was fairly busy and the usual array of sellers got on and off. The journey was very pleasant with great views. A man with his wife and baby were sat opposite us. I got out some sweets and he looked very intently at us. I held out the bag and offered him one. His face lit up and he gratefully accepted. He then took one for his wife as well. Two new friends.
We arrived at Otavalo terminus. As always it's a bit chaotic. Buses are moving around, people are walking everywhere and taxis are driving into the bus area. Oh well. Straps away on the ruckies and a cabbie stops and in we get. 10 minutes and $1 later we are at the hostel. We are met by the young guy on reception. Big smiles and lots of handshakes and he takes us to our room. Nothing fancy but it has a great view off the terrace. He then gives us a guided tour and takes us to the roof where he lays out a map and points out all the places of interest.
We came to Otavalo because it has a huge market every Saturday. There are three separate markets. One for clothing and trinkets, one for textiles and food and one for animals. We really came to see the animal market. People come from all over the region to buy and sell. We had been told we would have to suspend our ideals about animal treatment. This was a local market with a big tradition and it was very much a case of being welcome but watch don't judge.
The animal market starts around 7am so we set an alarm. As we were also going to the clothes market we sat in bed with Google translate to find some Spanish equivalents of market chat in England. We wrote down phrases like 'Mate you're having a giraffe. I've got kids to feed',' I ain't shelling out folding stuff on tat' and 'Large? Who you calling fat'.
Bright and early we set off for the animal market. Just follow your nose. Before we reached it we saw people on the roadside selling chickens. As we approached the market we saw two chaps having a battle with a pig. They were trying to get it in their flat back. The pig was having none of it. They pulled it and pushed it but were getting nowhere. The pig is a strong animal and it was squealing....well like a stuffed pig. In the end one pulled from the front and the other lifted it by its tail. That seemed to do the trick.
The main market was on a large piece of open ground next to the main road. There were lots of flat backs and lorries. It seemed to be split into sections. One area had chickens, guinea pigs and dogs. Another had cattle. The last had pigs. Them pigs are honorary beasts. They don't do anything quietly. Lots of squealing and farmers being pulled every which way.
Hands up if you watch 'Countryfile'. We love Adam's farm. Now Adam would have recognised what was going on but I'm sure he would have cringed at the methods. We watched one family walk along with a big grain sack. They bought a puppy, a couple of guinea pigs and a few chickens. They put them all in the same bag then went off to their car.
We saw piles of grain sacks all moving, filled with chickens. A lady had a wire pen full of guinea pigs. People bought six at a time and she plucked them up and put them in a bag. Piles of chickens lay on the floor with their legs tied together. People would walk away with half a dozen in each hand hanging upside down.
It was fascinating but a bit distressing at the same time. The RSPCA would have a thrombo but this has been going on for centuries. Look but don't judge. Who am I to tell these people they are wrong?
Next stop breakfast. Jill needs her strength if she is going clothes shopping. The clothes market is full of fabulous textiles and clothes in the most vivid colours. Trust me you could spend a fortune turning yourself into a hippy!!
There is a bit of bartering and a bit of bantering. I took off my T shirt and tried on a top and the lady said I was beautiful.....SOLD!
It was a few hours of fun buying things that won't fit in our ruckies.
In the evening we went in search of food. The place we intended to eat was full so we went to the pizza place a few doors down. So glad we did. They had a four piece band with a guitar, ukulele type thing a drummer and a pipe player. They played their socks off. Lots of energy, lots of singing they were great. I even bought their CD. Probably blank but I'll find out when we get home!!
Today we decided to go hiking around one of the lagoons. It was a return to the bus station. Lots more shouting and we were soon on a local bus. 25 cents each for the fare. We arrived at Quirosa. As we got off the bus a chap came over and said' Laguna?'. Twenty seconds later we agreed the fare and we are sat on a bench in the back of his pickup truck hurtling up to the trail head. Great fun.
He dropped us off and we set off on the trail. It was reckoned to be a five hour hike. In the end it took us three and a half hours but we do tend to march. It was a fantastic trail. Basically a mixture of high ridge walking with some jungle. Below was the lagoon. It is like Crater Lake in the USA. Formed by the top of a volcano falling back inside itself and forming a stopper. We had a great walk.
The trail ended at the Mirador restaurant which is set on high overlooking the lagoon. The owner came out to greet us. Beer is cheaper here than down at the lagoon he cheerfully said. In we went for a cold one sat in the restaurant looking out at a view to die for. As we started to leave he said 'Where are you going?' 'Quirosa' we replied. 'I'll take you cheaper than a taxi' he said. We hopped in his flat back and off we went. Jill and him chattered away in Spanish while I admired the scenery.
We were soon back in town and on the bus back to Otevalo. It was a fab day.
Tomorrow we are leaving Ecuador and heading into Columbia. I've told Jill if she ever leaves me she will know where to find me. I've loved Ecuador. It's mountainous, green and lush. The people are so friendly. The men are pig ugly and the women are far and away the prettiest I've seen in South America. I could happily live here.