Given that my single most favorite thing about South America is the amazing open air markets, I was overjoyed to spend a weekend in Otavalo, wandering aimlessly around the blocks and blocks and blocks and MORE blocks of various markets that spring up each Saturday. We started the day with the prepared food market, sampling fresh juices, plates of noodles, rice, veggies and fried eggs with salsa and a delicious salad made from several different types of corn, lentils and other veggies (also topped with salsa, as always). Even though we ate next to whole fried pigs, apples in mouth, we avoided the meat and skipped the entirely autonomous live animal market nearby. Sure, it`s great to buy all your food locally and kill/harvest the meat yourself, but it was still a little too sad for me to visit.
I spent the rest of the afternoon strolling down crowded streets, bargining with vendors and buying things I`ve been wanting to buy for months. Colorful patterns, wooden musical instruments, woven rugs and hammocks, traditional dresses, painted wooden bowls and Andean paintings lined the sidewalks, blocking off roads in every direction around the center of town. Food vendors pushed carts, selling fried platain stuffed donuts, papas and meat sticks, empanads and a variety of beans and baked corn. In the main plaza, huge sacks of spices and herbs lined one sidewalk, in every shade of orange, red, yellow, green and black. Smoke billowed up from barbecuing meat inside food stalls; steam rose from huge pots ladies stirred. The town radiated life, movement, color, laughter, discussions and community- markets create an open space for people to come together, one reason I love them so much.
After the artisan and textile markets, we wandered over to yet another fruit and veggie market to browse. Dogs meandered through, grabbing any scraps of meat or discarded food, as the market winded down for the day. We escaped the afternoon rain storm and took shelter in our hostel for the night. The next day, we set off for Bogota, my (first and) last South American destination.
I started this trip with one of my best friends, Angela, who had fallen in love with Colombia and had been there ever since we began. We crossed paths just as I was crossing the border back to Colombia and she was leaving, coming into Ecuador. We got to spend a couple wonderful but short hours catching up before Chris and I caught another bus onward. I felt as if I was coming full circle, having started the trip with her in Colombia.
The bus from the Colombian border town of Ipiales took 24 hours to arrive in Bogota. While the bus was fairly comfortable, had a bathroom and made sufficient stops, I was still happy to know it was my last long distance bus journey…. until the next time I travel, of course.
One street (Photo: Chris)
Tiny part of the artisan market