Check It Off My List!

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.

Giant cabbages at the Otavalo food market

Giant cabbages at the Otavalo food market

Typical items at the Otavalo Poncho Market

Typical items at the Otavalo Poncho Market

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.

Making a pan-flute

Making a pan-flute

The family of musicians playing for us

The family of musicians playing for us

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.

A hand-made beaded hummingbird

A hand-made beaded hummingbird

Guinea pig or “Cuy” (“Quee”)

Guinea pig or “Cuy” (“Quee”)

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