Ecuador – Day Four: Laundry Lady, Otavalo Market, Indigenous Artisans & Eucalyptus Ice Cream

Waking up to birds chirping and roosters crowing is music to my ears. Today was one of the most anticipated days of the whole trip. We’ve all saved our money for shopping at the famous Otavalo Market, the largest artisan market in all of South America. But first, we had to swing by a local laundry to pick up all our work clothes we dropped off late yesterday to be laundered. Now we all have a few more clean clothes for the trip, which is great for everyone else…I brought the largest suitcase and since I significantly over packed, I’m good.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos from the Otavalo Market. A bit overwhelmed at the thought of bargaining for goods and all the artisans making a concerted effort to show me their products, I left my camera in my back pack the entire time. But here’s exactly what it looked like.

I was able to negotiate pretty well until the last item I bought; she wasn’t budging on her price for the scarves I wanted. There were nearly 50,000 scarves for sale in the entire market and she had the 3 I wanted most after scouring the entire place for the perfect colors. So, I paid her what she wanted and walked away still feeling like I got a good deal. They were handmade from alpaca, for pete’s sake!

Our lunch in downtown Otavalo was wonderful. Our tour guide, Effe, takes us to the best places. Our appetizer was popcorn with traditional Ecuadorian hot sauce. This hot sauce is served with everything and it’s incredible. Everyone wants to know how to make it. And for lunch, another grilled chicken entrée…

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Effe planned an afternoon of learning for us with some local artisans. First, we visited a textile weaver who makes the most intricate designs on his traditional loom. He showed us how he dies his alpaca wool with flowers and walnuts, then how he spins the raw wool into yarn. It was quite the process and he was such a kind man.

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Next, we visited a local musician who makes flutes out of bamboo. We watched him make one of his small flutes from start to finish, then he played several of the instruments he’s handcrafted. It was phenomenal how quickly he was able to make one set of flutes with a small carving knife on a tiny stool. Absolutely amazing!

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Dinner was a big treat. Las Palmeras treated us to a cooking class. We learned how to make empanadas and steamed trout. For dessert, plums with eucalyptus ice cream which was very interesting.

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The rest of my evening, well…I’m blogging with a glass of Argentinian red wine and then off to cozy up to the fire in my cottage.

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Tomorrow…off to Baños.

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