Otavalo and Cuicocha Lake

Otavalo is a small town located about two hours north of Quito. It was the final destination of our 2-week trip to Ecuador. The place is most known for its indigenous crafts market, and the Otavalo people are considered the most economically successful indigenous group of Latin America.

 

We arrived there on a Friday afternoon and headed to Parque Condor, a foundation which rehabilitates birds of prey. We were excited to see these magnificent birds up close. The place is located on a steep hillside just outside of town.

because it sits on a hillside, there are views in every direction

views from parque condor

 

views from the amphitheater where the flight demonstrations are held

views from the amphitheater where flight demonstrations are held

We timed our visit to be sure to see the flight demonstration. Here are a few of the birds we saw during the demonstration.

cara cara

cara cara

 

he called this one peluche

he called this one peluche

 

harris hawk

harris hawk

 

pechinegra

pechinegra

 

grey eagle

grey eagle

 

i got to hold a small bird

they let those that wanted hold a small bird

After the demonstration, we stopped by the andean condor area. This was the bird we were most excited to see up close.

andean condor

andean condor

 

an andean condor's wingspan can be as large as 10 feet

an andean condor’s wingspan can be as wide as 10 feet!

As we stood there watching the andean condor, it flew straight toward us, then ran away to the back of the cage and flew back toward us again…and again…and again. It must have done this 20 times in a row while we just stood there in awe. Here’s a short video clip:

Later that afternoon, we visited the food market.

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food market

 

simply adorable

simply adorable

 

ordering a fried plantain

ordering a fried plantain

That night, we enjoyed dinner at Mi Otavalito. The food was delicious and accompanied by traditional live music.

Although it was only Friday, Carnival celebrating had begun, and we encountered “carnival foam” and water balloons attacks on every block.

carnival spray

espuma de carnaval (carnival foam)

IMG_0146

jay got foamed

 

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and I got foamed…it was unavoidable. the younger kids got us the most

The next morning, we experienced the Otavalo crafts market. It’s a tradition which stretches back to pre-Incan times. Although the market takes place every day in the town’s main plaza, on Saturdays, the market takes over the town, stretching out over blocks and blocks of city streets. When we awoke on Saturday morning, people were setting up booths on the street in front of our hotel. The market stretched on and on in every direction we looked. It seemed like a lot of work for everyone to haul in their goods, set up their booth, and put everything out on display, just to tear it all down at the end of the day. I wondered, of all the product each one took so much time to put out on display, how much did they actually sell? It didn’t seem like there were enough people buying things to support all the product that was on display. But, I suppose enough people must buy or they wouldn’t be here.

otavalo market

otavalo market

 

the otavalos unloaded huge bags of items for display

sellers unloaded huge bags of items for display

 

artwork

standing in plaza de ponchos, the heart of the market

 

lots of bags!

so many handicrafts!

I bought a scarf, a bracelet, two pairs of earrings, and a sweater. Which is a MAJOR shopping spree for me, as I usually never buy souvenirs (I just take a lot of pictures). Although it’s completely acceptable to negotiate when purchasing, the prices were low enough that I didn’t bother. I really wasn’t too interested in buying the sweater I got, but the lady was such a good and persistent salesperson, I finally caved. And she kept lower the price every time I tried to walk away. Pics of my purchases…

this scarf in the gray/blue color (on top of the pile)

this scarf in gray/blue color (on top of the pile) – $7

 

red bracelet

red bracelet from this selection – $2

 

two pairs of earrings ($1.50 each)

two pairs of earrings from this stand – $1.50 each

 

hooded alpaca sweater $18

and, a hooded alpaca sweater – $18 (to which Jay said “you’re not going to wear that out on Friday nights, are you?”)

After spending a couple of hours perusing the market, we headed to Cuicocha Lake to get one last hike in before leaving Ecuador. We paid $10 each way to get there by taxi (it’s about 30 minutes away from Otavalo). The name “Cuicocha” comes from the Kichwa indigenous language and means “Guinea Pig”, so called because the large island in the middle of the lake resembles a guinea pig. Starting from the visitor center, the hike is an 8.5 mile loop that takes you around rim of the crater. The hike starts with a steep climb up to the rim, and then winds up and down around the lake.

at lake cuichoga

at cuicocha lake

 

it's surrounding by beautiful farmland

surrounded by beautiful farmland

 

on the trail

on the trail

 

climbing up to the rim

climbing up to the rim

 

the further we climbed up, the better the views

the further we climbed up, the better the views

 

if you look close, you can see the trail behind me (on top of the rim)

if you look close, you can see the trail behind me (on top of the rim)

 

never get tired of seeing all the wildflowers

never got tired of seeing all the wildflowers

 

view of the valley below

view of the valley below

 

the island on the right is the one shaped like a guinea pig

the island on the right is the one shaped like a guinea pig

 

sections of the trail went straight through the mountainside like this

sections of the trail went straight through the mountainside like this

 

tiring our legs out before the flight home!

tiring our legs out before the flight home!

 

at the highest point on the trail!

at the highest point on the trail!

 

so scenic, it almost looks fake

making our way around the lake

 

from this spot, we could see just how far we had hiked

from this spot, we could see just how far we had hiked…we started at the white structure you can barely see in the upper right hand corner of the lake

 

the last 1.5 miles were on a paved road, which was kind of disappointing...but it was entertaining to see the cows trekking along down the road

the last 1.5 miles were on a paved road, which was kind of disappointing…but it was entertaining to see the cows trekking down the road

 

back where we started!

back where we started!

That wrapped up our adventures in Ecuador…unless, of course, you count the 8+ hours we spent at the Quito airport that night, waiting for our flight home which was delayed. We finally departed at around 4AM and made it back to Denver just in time to cheer on the Broncos in the Superbowl! What a memorable two weeks!

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli

4 responses to “Otavalo and Cuicocha Lake

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