After an eight hour bus journey from Guayaquil, we arrived at the bus terminal in Quito and hopped in a cab to our hostel. We’ve heard mixed reviews about the city – some say it’s a colonial delight, others warn about the risk of being robbed – but we’re here for a week or so whilst we visit various sights in the surrounding area as well as exploring the city’s own offerings.
We’re staying in a lovely colonial town house in the upmarket ‘La Floresta’ area, a ten minute walk from the busy ‘La Mariscal’ or ‘Gringolandia’ as the locals like to call it. Although it’s a hostel, it feels more like a homestay – we are sharing the bathroom with the owners and have to walk through their kitchen to get to ours. It’s strange at first, but after a few days it’s like a home from home.
Our first trip out of town is north to the Sunday market at Otavalo. Although we’ve been to our fair share of markets, we’d heard that it’s supposed to be one of the best, so we decided to check it out. Whilst some people stay overnight, or visit on one of the ridiculously overpriced tours, since it’s only a couple of hours from Quito we just hop on a local bus on the morning of the market.
Otavalo itself is worth a quick wander round before heading to the market, with the usual colonial plazas and cute churches but I’m glad we didn’t spend any longer here. The market itself is well worth a visit. Although there are the usual llama jumpers and woolly hats that you’ll find in every South American town, there’s also a lot of stuff that you won’t have seen before. The prices are cheap too – Rich managed to get some half decent Panama hats for little more than $10 each and I picked up a gorgeous chunky knit wool hoodie for $25.
The market is huge, and of course, after a while it can get a little repetitive but we managed to spend a good few hours wandering the stalls before getting bored. Of course, some of it is pure tourist crap, such as the numerous stalls selling dream catchers made of fluorescent, mass produced feathers, but there are some real gems and we came away with a few bagfuls of treasures including jewellery, a wooden figurine and even a bizarre rainbow balaclava type thing which has to be seen to be believed.
There’s also a food market and if you’re brave enough you can try the freshly roasted pig or the fried fish. If you’re feeling a little less adventurous there’s plenty of yummy fruit and veg as well as fresh bread, herbs and spices. We opted for a nicely ripe avocado and some bread rolls – at $2 both a delicious and cheap lunch for the bus home!