We took two flights to return back to Quito. We had one more day of our trip. As soon as we arrived, we noticed a huge temperature change. Because the islands were considerably warmer than the mainland, we felt like Quito was colder, much like summer weather in Canada. At dinner that night I was shivering because I was so used to the warmer Galapagos weather.
On the last full day, we went to Otavalo, a town north of Quito known for its markets. We had a form of biscotti on the way, where we picked up a local woman who sang traditional songs to us on the bus on our way to the Otavalo. In Otavalo there were 2 main markets were went to. The first one was a food market, where the locals sold meat, fruit, pasta, beans, and vegetables, including giant cabbages. The second market was called a Poncho Market, where vendors sold belts, sweaters, ponchos, artwork, and many other items. Most of the clothing was made from alpaca wool. Here, I felt that the locals were very aggressive and pushy – if you show the slightest hint of interest in an item they will try their hardest to sell it to you. However, this is how they making a living, and their craft takes a lot of work. I respect their dedication. We were encouraged to barter – to lower the price of things that we wanted. But most of the time I was satisfied with the price.
We continued north to the town of Cotacachi (known for it’s leather products), and on the way we stopped at a home where a family makes musical instruments. The man showed us various instruments from Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. He even made a pan-flute (they call it a “paya”) right in front of us. One of the highlights for many people while on the mainland, was that the family sang for us, while playing drums, guitar and the pan-flute. It was so powerful and full of sound. The family also made beautiful beaded hummingbirds that they hung from plants.
We arrived in Cotacachi for lunch, where I finally had the chance to try guinea pig, which they call “cuy” (pronounced “quee”). It was $16 US and it was prepared as a full meal on top of avocadoes, potatoes and plantain. Four of us split one just to try it. It wasn’t too bad, aside from it still looking like a guinea pig with the claws, the teeth and the eyes looking at you. There wasn’t much meat and someone compared it to duck meat. Me, being a biology major I decided to dissect it, including taking out its brain- definitely took me back to first year biology when I dissected the rat! That was one of my goals while on this trip, so I am glad I did it, and can check it off my bucket list!
– Vincent Evans-Lucy