In Otavalo Ecuador their Andean market is famous, especially on Saturdays, where it spreads from its location in Plaza de Ponchos to the nearby streets and alleyways. Most visitors spend only the day in Otavalo but if you have time we recommend that you stay longer.
Why you should stay longer in Otavalo?
We spent four nights in Otavalo staying at the Hostal Geronio and enjoyed the sights of this Andean Market town. On one of the days we toured with native travel company Runa Tupari Tours for a 5 hour private tour to three local indigenous villages, Lake Cucicocha and Peguche Waterfall.
Las Cascadas de Peguche (Peguche Waterfalls) is only 3km from Otavalo.
On arrival in the small town of Fakcha Llacta we came across a film crew setting up to film a local indigenous women folk group.
The 2km walk to the falls through the country side full of Eucalyptus trees brings back memories of home, Australia. The smell of the Eucalyptus is strong around us as we head towards the falls. On the hill we can see the local Sharman’s shelter. He conducts the many ceremonies here at the Cascades for the locals who believe that the water cures rheumatism, cleanses the spirit and is the focal point for the equinox celebrations every year.
There are two viewing points, one on the bridge as you look upwards to the Cascades or you can trek up the hill to the left to a wooden viewing platform. We recommend if you have time to head up the hill towards the viewing program.
Making our way from the Cascades to the outskirts of Peguche we meet with Jose Luis Pichamba who makes and plays traditional Andean musical instruments. In what seemed like only minutes he created a musical instrument from bamboo and was playing a tune for us. Jose demonstrated his playing ability on instruments all shapes and sizes and one that looked very familiar to our own Australian Didgeridoo.
Heading down a dusty bumpy old track to Carabuela we visit Jose, an 82 year old artisan weaver. He is small, wiry and extremely strong for an 82 year old man. We offer to help him out and take over the carding of the wool but we realise that we are no match for his strength and experience. He chuckles at our attempts. Apparently they are the last in the village that work in the traditional way. His daughter is now assisting him in the business. Our last RTW trip Duncan bought too many scarves from local weavers in South America and Turkey and vowed this trip no more scarves. How can you walk out of a production such as this without at least one more scarf?
Next we head to the community of La Calera and the group of women who make jewellery out of the local seeds. Their work has become famous and now can be found in markets and stores in Paris. Profits from their jewellery assist in the funding of their local schools. We love to see this return back to the local villagers and to assist Jane just had to buy a new bracelet.
Lunch time and we head to Cotacachi for a set menu at a local restaurant which was tasty and ample. There was even a vegetarian option. We had some time to explore the town and to visit the leather market which it is famous for.
Our last stop is to head towards Lake Cuicocha. A spectacular caldera at the bottom of Cotacachi Volcano. Lake Cuciocha means the Lake of the Guinea Pigs. On the weekend you can experience a boat trip around the lake to see the many birds and underwater geysers that bubble up to the surface. There is a hiking trail around the top of the caldera but you must allow 4-5 hours. A word of warning if you are going to hike this trail do not do it on your own, there are thieves around.
Cost of tour with Runa Tupari = USD30 per person
Website: Runa Tupari Tours
Duration: between 5-7 hours
Have you travelled to Otavalo?
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