Ecuador Stories and Tips

Day 22 – April 2: Otavalo-Quito

OTAVALO:

The market in Otavalo opens at 8am, and the stores in Cotacachi open at 10am, so Otavalo was our first stop of the morning.

We had a nice breakfast in the lovely breakfast dining room at the hacienda and packed up our bags. Our taxi driver, Santiago, drove us into Otavalo about 8:30am. It was Good Friday, but the market was in full swing. Many people were still setting up their booths, and there weren’t many shoppers yet. The sun was out, so I tried to get a few photographs of the colorful wares.

The main products in the market are knit sweaters, blankets, knit hats with ears, alpaca fur wall hangings, woven rugs, jewelry made of silver/shell or seed beads or red coral, panama hats, hammocks, chess sets, t-shirts, baggy pants, white embroidered shirts, purses and bags of various sizes and shapes, and woven ponchos.

Bargaining is the norm. I was able to bargain down about 20%. My husband does better – more like 30-40%.

COTOCACHI:

Santiago drove us to Cotocachi next, which is about 10 minutes away ($4 for a taxi). Since it was Good Friday, we could see part of the parade and the beginnings of a festival. The town has a pleasant central park with a few shopping stalls and would be a nice place for a picnic lunch.

Cotocachi is known for leather, and no wonder! The main shopping street is lined with leather shops. We walked 4 blocks of it, and still didn’t make it to the end.

The main products sold are leather jackets, purses, bags, and belts. I had read in an old travel book that you could buy leather jackets for $35. There may have been bargain bins with jackets for $50, but most were $65 and up. Great quality though, and it was hard to chose!

We ended up with 3 jackets ($65, $80, $100), 5 coin purses ($1 each), and 1 belt ($8). There is no bargaining, but you get a 10% discount if you pay with cash.

I also have to mention that the people everywhere in Ecuador are so nice. We had a miscommunication about when our driver was to pick us up. A woman at one shop went to another shop to use their phone to call the Hacienda Pinsaqui for us. Both shops helped us get a hold of our driver, and we didn’t even buy anything from them. They really went out of their way to be nice, and we encountered that around the country.

I was glad we pre-arranged a taxi to pick us up in Cotocachi. Athough we saw taxis, they were all occupied, so it would have taken quite a while to get out of there ($3 back to the hacienda).

QUITO:

We had a driver and a minivan with DVD player for the drive back to Quito ($60). The Swissotel is nice, but wow, what a contrast to the hacienda!

The night before our arrival, the rock band "Guns and Roses" had played a concert in Quito. We saw a couple of the band members working out in the gym, and my husband actually rode in the elevator with Axl Rose and two of his tall, blonde, gorgeous "friends".

My son could not wait to get to the swimming pool, but unlike our last visit, they were requiring everyone to wear swim caps in the pool. This is a new one on me – I have never been to any pool that "required" swim caps. They sold swim caps there for $3 each. I must admit this really annoyed me…. It cost us $9 to go swimming with our son, and we looked ridiculous!

It was our last night in Ecuador, but my son was not feeling well, and we were all pretty tired (plus we have a 4am wake-up call!), so it was room service pizza and repacking for the evening.

CLOTHING:

It was a bit chilly in the morning in Otavalo, but for most of the day, I wore cropped pants and a sleeveless shirt.

It was a bit rainy in Quito and colder, so I needed warmer clothes for the evening.

I liked having my swimsuit cover up to wear to the pool at the Swissotel.

FOOD:

Breakfast at the hacienda was table service (included), and you had a choice of eggs, pancakes, fruit, juice, rolls with jelly, coffee, and hot chocolate.

We grabbed a sandwich for the drive back to Quito. The driver stopped at a sandwich shop in town, which seemed to be a health foods store as well. We got large ham and cheese sandwiches on baguette-like bread for around $2 each. They also had some Ecuadorian coffee beans for sale there for $5/pound.

Dinner was room service Hawaiian pizza. They claim is the "best pizza in town," but I am guessing that isn’t quite true. It was pretty good though.

The Swissotel rooms also come with some complimentary fresh fruit, juices, and candy bars.

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