The past two weekends I have gone to two cities- Otavalo and Cotacachi. The first weekend I went with 6 other girls and we planned to hike both days, but since it was raining the first day, we looked around the famous Otavalo market.
The market is amazing. There are hundreds of stands set up selling all sorts of things from hats to jewelry to daggers. The art is incredibly beautiful and the jewelry is unique and authentic. I walked up to one jewelry stand where the woman was selling Mayan calendar earrings. I looked at them and the woman, who was obviously not Indigenous, started speaking broken English to me. Now, I really hate it when Ecuadorians speak English to me. I think it is very disrespectful to assume that I don't speak a word of Spanish. I said no thanks to the woman and started walking away when I heard her ranting in Spanish about how Americans are so cheap and disrespect her work. So I turned around and went back to the table and explained to her that she had offered an Ecuadorian a pair of earrings for $8 and then turned to me and offered them to me for $22 in English. She was a little stunned that I had understood everything and finally agreed to sell them to me for a lower price.
There are other things, however, that I don't mind paying a little extra for. I met a man who had a booth filled with art- not just art he bought from the distributors, but art he painted himself. I really liked his work and talked to him for a little while about his life here. Every morning he sets up his stand and carries all his art to the plaza and on Sundays he travels to Quito to do the same thing. It is a hard life and I can't imagine he makes a decent living off of selling his art since there's not much of it.
On Sunday, we woke up early and took a bus to Cotacachi, a town close to Otavalo that is famous for their leather goods. However, we were there to hike around the Cuicocha lake which is a lake formed from an extinct volcano. The hike took four hours and for most of the hike we had amazing views of the lake and countryside. After, we went into town and bought a few leather goods and then headed back to Quito.
The second weekend, we took a bus up on Friday afternoon and met up with my friend's boyfriend and his friends. We went to one of their houses which is an old hollistic/meditation house with an amazing garden and many statues. We played music and then went on a hike to a waterfall after dark. The waterfall was straight from the movies- fireflies lit up the forest and the waterfall reflected the moon. The guys played traditional Andean music and we returned to the house where we salsa danced.
We woke up the next morning to one of the boys telling us he would give us a yoga lesson. Well, the yoga lesson lasted two hours and included an ancient story. It was cool, but the guys were giving us weird vibes so we all left and went into Otavalo for lunch and then headed back to Quito.
I love the feel of Otavalo because it is so Indigenous. All the women wear the traditional dress and I can strike up conversations in Kichwa with almost everyone in town. I really want to spend more time up there with a smaller group so that I can explore the non-touristy areas.