Yesterday our group toured the northern towns of Otovalo, known for it’s artisanal market and Cotacachi, known for it’s leather goods and an increasingly popular location for expats. Upon departing from Quito, we stopped at a scientific site which proclaims that it is the “true” location of the equator based upon GPS and other scientific data. Of course, the name of the country of Ecuador means equator! Otovalo is a relatively small town known for it’s huge market square where predominantly indigenous people sell all manner of colorful items such as blankets, ponchos, art work, etc. We visited on a Sunday which is not the major market day yet one can become lost within the maze of aisles which run this way and that through the market. We were told that on Saturday, the major market day, that there are several times as many vendors as we saw on Sunday.
A short distance farther north we reached the small city of Cotacachi. Many of the place names in this region are named after the large number of volcanoes nearby. Our tour guide Jonathan’s father is a “volcanologist” and Jason is very knowledgeable about the history of and myths surrounding these imposing mountains. In Cotacachi we were treated to dances performed by native young girls and children and at the end us gringos were invited to join in and many did so to many smiles and applause from those who did not participate but never the less, enjoyed the spectacle. The dancing was followed by a lunch of local food which was enjoyed by all. Finally, upon leaving Cotacachi, we visited a volcanic crater which had filled with water forming a beautiful lake at an elevation of about 10,000 ft. All in all, from 8 am until 7:30 pm it was a memorable last day of touring the beautiful country of Ecuador and we did not even get to the coastal towns, the Amazon or the Galapagos Islands! There are many reasons to return to Ecuador but perhaps upper most is the kind, welcoming, gracious personality of it’s people.