Otavalo Market, Cotacachi and Centro Historico

Centro Historico — Old Quito

Friday night (11th of September), Emily’s host mom offered to take us out to Centro Historico to explore the colonial centre of Quito. I am a sucker for colonial architectural style, so my favourite part was taking in the surrounding buildings in the Plaza de la In11960143_10153630974748126_6667770912156232363_ndependencia (Plaza Grande). We walked around, exploring the sights, glad to have a guide with us (shout out to Sonja), while we wandered in the dark. Sonja brought us down the steep street La Ronda, the oldest street in Quito, which is filled with expressions of culture: singing, dancing, food and artisans. We were approached by a vendor who sold us all scarves for $2/each! At a cute little restaurant we all were able to fit in we ordered empanadas, 11998944_10153630985563126_6200799757898885198_nand I got some chocol11990619_955953901130250_3775033151256417247_nate which here means hot chocolate, and I even got it the traditional way — with cheese to put in it!– it was really good! We got to buy and try soDSC00153me traditional dulces (candies) as well which was exciting.

Hotel Plaza Grande is this incredibly beautiful and fancy hotel in the plaza, so we made sure to get a regal photo shoot in.

Walking around I saw so many things I want to do: beautiful churches I want to visit, museums to explore.. I will be going back during the day hopefully this weekend to explore more of what it has to offer!

Otavalo Market 

Otavalo is a city north of Quito which hosts a widely renowned Indigenous Market. On saturday 12 of September, me and 7 other girls from the program as well as one extra friend Tim, headed out for Otavalo at 8am. It was about a 2 hour drive north from Quito. The views along the way from the windows of the van were spectacular. It really gave us some perspective: while we carved our way through the mountainous terrain, we were awestruck at how incredibly difficult it must be even to build roads here. We arrived in the fray of what is the Otavalo saturday market, and went about exploring what there was to see. Mainly Indigenous vendors sold many key handcrafted items. Alpaca wool products (my personal favourites) were among the most expensive crafts, including sweaters (~$18), socks (~$5), blankets (~15), bags, ponchos and scarves. 11059357_10203680018359857_8260783987140062343_n Textiles were also widely available, including products from them such as traditional Ecuadorian striped pants, shirts, and even overalls. 12003339_10203680015199778_3230638245731629453_nAccessories included purses, backpacks, duffels, jewellery, handwoven headbands and hair scrunchies. It was an incredibly fun and intriguing to be in the thick of it all, and gave us all the opportunity to use our developing Spanish skills to barter with the vendors (which we did pretty well with it seems). In addition, there were vendors selling fresh produce and food to the shoppers. Next time around I plan on trying cuy (guinea pig), and buying some produce as well.

That being said, 11181745_10203680017599838_3527520158238861571_nI am definitely returning to Otavalo at least one more time before I leave for Canada in the spring!

Cotacachi and Imbabura

Next up, the driver of our personal van drove us a little farther north to Cotacachi, a town known for it’s leather. 11836834_169269356740034_5864556348095032396_nThe driver chose 11937455_10203680039720391_3092863932829207382_na restaurant for us, (which was good, but pricey, next time I will just eat at the market) and it was nice to sit down indoors after hours in the hot hot sun at the market.

We walked around a bit, but not so much for the shopping aspect, as at this point most of us had spent12019821_10153630963873126_1356392509022227012_n the majority of our cash earlier at the market (I only had $2 left).
We then went on to drive to the ecological reserve, and its incredible lakes. At Laguna de Cuicocha we hiked up a trail parallel the the water’s edge, and were able to overlook the breathtaking view from higher up. I had to cut my hike a little shorter than the rest of the group due to a combination of pain in my unhealed ankle and an
inability for my lungs to accDSC00199ess DSC00212enough
 oxygen, but my seat offered me an excellent chance to connect with my experience.


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