As I found myself with an extra day in Quito, I decided to day trip outside the city to Otavalo.
Getting to Otavalo was very straightforward. Find a bus that heads to Terminal Carcelén, Quito’s northern bus station. Then find a bus company that heads to Otavalo. Buses leave every 15 minutes. The ticket is $2.50 + 20¢ fee to enter the bus terminal.
The ride was fairly quiet minus the 80’s movie they blasted on the TV. It took about 2 hours to get to Otavalo including stops to pick up passengers along the road.
My first stop was Plaza de los Ponchos, the tourist marketplace. Great name! Since I went on a Friday, the market was quiet. The sellers smiled at me as I walked by. They didn’t seem too interested in selling.
If I actually had a home to display items, I would get a hammock, a stuffed alpaca animal, a chess set with Otavalos as the cheese pieces and some Ecuadorian shot glasses. Maybe a poncho too. But I was able to control myself and walked away empty-handed.
It was interesting to walk around the city. I love the clothes of the Otavalos. For the women, white blouses and dark sheets wrapped around to look like skirts. Their long hair is tied with a knit rope. All the men have long, braided hair, although they tend to stick with Western clothes. The one thing I noticed, they are all small people. I felt like a giant walking by them!
Another thing I noticed about Otavalo… There’s a lot of music stores!
My next stop was Mercado Municipal 24 De Mayo, the city’s biggest market. From the outside, it looked massive. But once inside, it felt small.
I had lunch at a random counter selling fried tilapia with potatoes for $2.00. It also included a big bowl of chicken soup and orange juice!
I wandered a bit more and discovered Cafetería Shanandoa – The Pie Shop. OMG… Pies… All kinds of fruit pies for $2.00 a slice. I had the passion fruit one. They know their pies!
I also tried some coffee at Café Plaza Sisa, but then a group of annoying French hikers invaded my space by smacking their backpacks in my face. Sigh… But the coffee and view of the plaza from the cafe was great!
My trip to Otavalo was short and sweet since I wanted to get back to Quito before nightfall.