Otavalo market and Cayambe, Day 4

Indigenous Quechua woman, Otavalo market, Ecuador

Quito and most of Ecuador is situated in the southern hemisphere, yet 60 miles north of the capital  in the northern hemisphere lies the highland town of Otavalo which is famous for its eclectic market.  And it’s an agreeable assault on the senses: loud, brash, brightly colored, and overflowing with stuff to buy and taste (textiles, tagua nut jewelry, musical instruments, dream catchers, leather goods, fake shrunken heads, indigenous costumes, hand-painted platters and trays, purses, clothing, spices, raw foods and spools of wool to name but a few items).  There may be a few more machine-made alpaca weavings on display than in years past, but the market is so vast that it’s easy to get lost in the spirit of Ecuador.

The market attracts the local indigenous Quechua people (direct descendants of the Incas) who make the weekly pilgrimage from the surrounding villages to buy and sell their wares.  The women, in particular, can also make a buck or two posing for the camera and their gruff-looking, weather-beaten faces almost break into a smile as I hand over the cash, although woe betide anyone who tries to take a photo without paying.  Those ladies turn real mean real fast when they’re cheated.

You can’t take a tour of Otavalo without attending a weaving demonstration – the guides simply won’t allow it.  Presumably they get a kick-back if you purchase something.  In which case, Christi and I must be very bad tourists because the only thing we come away with are a few photos (and our first view of a llama).

Fifteen miles south of Otavalo, back towards Quito is the small commercial center of Cayambe.  This town is the place to experience bizcochos (a flaky, buttery, irresistible biscuit).  Traditionalists argue that the finest bizcochos are baked in a wood-fired oven, most famously at Bizcochos de San Pedro, although everyone agrees these biscuits are best served hot with string cheese or dulce de leche and a steaming mug of coffee.

Blog post by Roderick Phillips, author of Weary Heart – a gut-wrenching tale of love and test tubes.

 

 

 

 

 

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