TRAIN AND OTAVALO
Ecuador is famous for its colorful indigenous markets. The most famous of them, Otavalo, explodes into a sprawling smorgasborg of exotic colors, sounds, and smells every Saturday, as thousands of local artists and crafts, people bargain with an international mix of travelers.
Transportation: In group
Activities: Cultural, recreative
|From Quito we head down the temperate valley of Guayllabamba, where cherimoyas (cherimoya or custard-apple) and avocadoes grow in abundance and the road opens out into the Andean highlands. Otavalo is the biggest and most important indigenous market in all of Latin America. The colorful main handicraft and textile market spills into the streets from the central Plaza de Ponchos whilst the cacophony of the animal market is kept to the outskirts of town. The produce market impresses with the sheer number and color of the locally cultivated fruits and vegetables. The friendly Otavaleños are more than happy to talk about their crafts and traditions and will expect you to haggle a bit on the price. From the busy market we will head out to a restaurant to taste the local flavors in a variety of typical regional dishes. After lunch we continue to the town of Peguche to visit a textile and handicraft workshops and learn, from the hand of the owners, the ancient techniques and secrets used in the making of this wonderful piece. A good example of this is the use of an insect for dyeing the wool. In this town we will also stop by an Andean musical instrument workshop, where the musicians, who also build the instruments, will do a short performance for us. At the end of this long day we can sit back and relax at the Hacienda Pinsaquí or Hostería Chorlavi.|
|We head north to Ibarra and at the train station we will board La Libertad train for a special journey on the train tracks to the valley of Salinas de Ibarra. The train takes us to the Afro Ecuadorian community in Salinas passing through the dry Andean forests, over hanging bridges, along a precipice and through mountainside tunnels. The vegetation gives way to large fields of sugarcane and further down to plantations of cotton. At Salinas we will be welcomed by traditional songs and invited to lunch at the Gastronomy Centre run by the community, where delicious dishes made with local produce will be served. In the afternoon we begin our journey back to Quito, stopping in Ibarra to taste their famous ‘Helados de Paila’ (fruity sorbet-like ice creams prepared in large bronze pans over a bed of dry ice). We wind our way back down the Avenue of the Volcanoes to Quito.|