Ecuador Market days

Ecuador Market Days

Market Day brings everyone out.

Otavalo in Ecuador is home to one of the largest markets in South America . It has to be said it is one of the most enjoyable alfresco retail experiences we have had here.Up for grabs are handicrafts of every description – ceramics, jewellery,paintings, musical instruments, carvings and a dazzling  array of weavings and textiles. Otavalenos are known for their exquisite weaving and textile skills, and are the most commercially successful indigena people in Ecuador.
Many looms work across the country-side producing  chunky sweaters, hats, gloves, trousers, tablecloths,hammocks,  indigenous ponchos, blouses, belts and tapestries all of which can be snapped up on Saturday’s  (the main market day).    The whole town swells into a sea of bright colours and atmosphere as people hunt for the best bargain,
and oh yes these people love to bargain with you.

Some of the ladies were 100% matching

Some of the ladies were 100% matching

The indigena people wear traditional clothing.   Women wear white blouses all embroidered with flowers, long wool skirts, woven belts, canvas sandals and strands of beads.  Men wear felt hats, blue ponchos, calf-length pants and braid their hair into one long strand.
Both the women and the men look fantastic.

There is also a pet market, oh yes.  This is certainly worth a visit for its atmosphere and  general chaos.  Here you can buy cows, goats, sheep, screaming piglets, dogs, guinea pigs, hens and chickens – day old’s that they sell you in paper bags !  It was fascinating to watch people bargain with each other over the cost of each animal.  Once the deal was done it was off to the local food stall to order some chicken or tripe soup which was boiling on portable stove tops, crispy fried fish, or suckling pigs ears. To  wash it down chicha – (fermented corn or yuca drink)  from plastic buckets.  What a brilliant day out,
definitely not to be missed in Ecuador.

Ecuador Market Day

Otavalo market, Ecuador

Otavalo market, Ecuador

Otavalo market, Ecuador

Otavalo market, Ecuador

Otavalo market, Ecuador

This guy is thrilled as he just made a dollar for working as a model for 60 seconds.

This guy is thrilled as he just made a dollar for working as a model for 60 seconds.

The local ladies are dressed incredibly well

The local ladies are dressed incredibly well

DIY dentistry is a big thing here.

DIY dentistry is a big thing here.

Sarah inspecting the blankets.

Sarah inspecting the blankets.

Some of the poorer souls were eating whatever they could.

Some of the poorer souls were eating whatever they could.

Just about anything could be found for sale.

Just about anything could be found for sale.

Really no idea why this girl was tied up.

Really no idea why this girl was tied up.

While we visited the North of Ecuador, we stayed with Graham. Graham is an Australian dude who now lives near the town of Ibarra and runs his gardening business. He loves for overlanders to come and visit and stay a few days, and he certainly made us feel very welcome there. It was not easy to fire up the Mog and hit the road after a week of Grahams hospitality, but we did manage to uproot ourselves and get to Colombia.

Graham with the boss of the house, Lea.

Graham with the boss of the house, Lea.

Categories: colombia | 4 Comments

Ecuador Overland

Ecuador Overland by camper truck

Ecuador is situated on the equator on the Pacific coast of South America, bordered by Columbia to the north and Peru to the south and east. Despite being a very small country it really has so much to offer. You can experience different landscapes in a single day. The country has colonial cities, cloud forests, fabulous Andean peaks, Amazonian rain-forest, wonderful people and the great Galápagos Islands. If interested in reading about these islands you can read our Galapagos blog post here

New year celebration in Ecuador

This couple of life sized puppets were ready for the midnight bonfire.

This couple of life sized puppets were ready for the midnight bonfire.

We crossed the border into Ecuador just before New Year and we stopped in the small town of Vilcabamba. It is famous with longevity all throughout Ecuador due to the simple and stress-free lives and the fresh Andean air. The area has beautiful scenery, mild weather all year round, never too hot or never too cold, and perhaps it’s the laid-back vibe which attracts so many people, mainly for retirement. There tends to be a sort of ‘gringos ‘ boom judging by all the big new houses dotted in the hills. The positive side is that jobs in tourism and construction are booming so young people have little ambition to leave this great area. It really was a great find of a place in more ways than one for us. We parked our truck about two blocks back from the main square for three nights, nobody even blinked an eye-lid, thus we were able to walk everywhere. Wandering through the little streets its amazing what you find. We found a French Bakery, as you do in Ecuador, with the second best baguette and bread in South America – Rurrenabaque in Bolivia topping the list so far. Bread is generally not so nice here as it is all made with way too much sugar for our liking, should I say my liking. Then to top it off we managed to find a Swiss man making his own Granola and Chocolate, enough said I had to hold Merv back from the chocolate, think of the budget I said, lol. It’s amazing how such small things are big things when traveling. Every now and then the taste buds need a treat!

a good crowd in Vilcabamba main square for free live music

a good crowd in Vilcabamba main square for free live music

We bumped into , as you do, two friends Pierre and Monique and we celebrated the New Year with them over lovely grilled steaks and wine. Mind you the Ecuadorian wine needed a lot to be desired apparently, but I always take the safe option and drink the local beer, it never disappoints. A live band started playing about 9 pm and even by this time the atmosphere was electric, so just imagine what it was like 3 hours later, superb. The plaza was filled with people of all ages, babies asleep on their parents shoulders to grannies on walking sticks. Even Merv had a sleep but not in a sleeping chair (Tim Willoughby) instead a hard bench, but he still managed, as he said if you can’t beat them, join them, lol. Fantastic to see such a mix of people all waiting for 2014, enjoying the music and the warmth of the evening. Atmosphere just oozed from everybody. Throughout Ecuador people ring in the new year by burning elaborate life-size puppets in the streets at the strike of midnight, followed by launching explosives into the sky, hence throwing caution to the wind as far as public safety was concerned, was great. These explosives continued until the sunrise. The next morning all that was left was a pile of ashes outside people’s houses, street corners, shops, restaurants, but by midday all traces of the previous nights partying was long forgotten, everywhere was clean.

New years eve display of puppets destined for burning at midnight

New years eve display of puppets destined for burning at midnight

elaborate display of puppets involved in a medical emergency

elaborate display of puppets involved in a medical emergency

At midnight, the fires get going

At midnight, the fires get going

The fires attract local daredevils, well lubricated and feeling no fear

The fires attract local daredevils, well lubricated and feeling no fear

Cuenca

Museum in Cuenca

Museum in Cuenca

We were back traveling through the mountains again, we just can’t seem to leave the Andes behind us, but then who really wants to with such good views on offer. The city of Cuenca was our next stop. A beautiful old colonial city and it seemed every corner is graced by either a church, a shrine or a plaza. We had a great visit to Museo del Banco Central – Pumapungo here. This museum has an entire collection of traditional costumes of Ecuador’s indigenous cultures. For example coastal farmers of the western lowlands and highlands, several rain-forest groups, and last but not least the shrunken heads (tzantzas) from the Shuar culture. I must say they looked a little scary. It was sad to learn that some of these cultures are slowing dying out due to people destroying their homes in the rain-forest , hence they have to leave, leaving their cultures behind. For them adapting to ‘normal’ life, must be so difficult, what a shame this is happening.

ecuador overland

Looking for a new kettle. We’ve gone through 2 so far, and bought our third one here.

So to the coast , 30 degrees in temperature and humid, but before getting there we stopped at some hot water springs in a non-descript place – Jesus Maria. Before getting there we stopped at a little petrol station for ice-cream, sat outside and over came this man and his two daughters to chat to us, really about the truck. He was driving a truck himself so was interested in the beast that had parked beside him. All the usual stuff, going to, coming from, is it 4×4, how much water do we carry, solar, how many kms per gallon (yes in Ecuador we are back to gallons),

Hot springs make for public baths!

Hot springs make for public baths!

what country are we from etc, etc., .Half an hour later he asked us where we were going to sleep for the night and we said at the Hot Springs. Great he said, follow me I will show you the way and the best place to park your truck overnight . It was right beside the pools, a huge area, no low trees or wires involved, just a river crossing, a doddle for us. We decided to wait until the next day to use the pools, but once we stepped out of our truck we were met by a jolly lady Amelia (no english) offering us empanadas. (Pastry filled with cheese, meat or vegetables and cooked in hot oil). Amelia brought 2 chairs for us to sit on, plastic of course, but never the less, a quick wipe of the table, oil heated up, pastry rolled out with a coke bottle, no fancy rolling pins here, cheese popped in, into the hot oil, and one minute later dinner, scrummy. Oh, it didn’t stop there. A family joined the table chatting a little to us and then amongst themselves. Amelia was delighted to see such a bit group arrive, it was all hands on deck as 25 empanadas were ordered, mind you she still gave us preferential treatment. In the meantime one of the younger

Great Empanadas from this lovely couple.

Great Empanadas from this lovely couple.

members of the family, 13 years of age, spoke to me in Spanish and I answered as best I could, and then he asked me in English, do you speak English. Obvious answer. The next hour I spoke to this lovely young boy Gonzalez, with excellent English skills. He wanted to know all about Europe and how it was different to Ecuador, its people, its culture and of course what I thought of Ecuador. Only one answer for his question really having been greeted with such hospitality in one afternoon. In return for the history lesson about Europe, Gonzalez gave the best tips for Ecuador. They haven’t disappointed yet. The hot pools were closing for the evening so I went to pay the lady, one dollar is all she charged, and not only that she gave me one to go. I insisted on paying but Amelia was having none of it. Later on in the evening we heard a knock on our door, and it was our friendly truck driver who showed us the way, checking were we ok, did we need anything. Not only was it him and his family, but he had managed to muster up two English speaking students to help with the translations. We were overcome with such kindness and friendliness we really did not want to leave this place. Of course the next morning Amelia had a great hello for us, more empanadas were cooked for us once we had had our soak and whether we wanted them or not we were treated to BBQ bananas also filled with cheese, all for one dollar. All done with smiles. Everything starts really early in Ecuador, so the first family arrived to the pools at 6 a.m, oh yea. Not long after we got a gentle knock on our door asking us to move our truck as we were parked in prime pay parking area ,but insisted we did not have to pay. Of course we obliged.

New(er) Tyres

ecuador overland

Star motors where we stayed for 2 nights.

Next stop was some TLC treatment for the Mog in a garage in Guayaquil. Starmotors used to be a Mercedes garage but now it has the dealership for MAN trucks. Our friends Jurgen and Ruth from happyfeetontour had been there, and recommended them. They also VERY kindly left 4 part worn tyres there for us as they put a brand new set onto their MAN truck. Luckily we had the exact same size!

We got a full service done, even the brake fluid was all replaced, and a full set of new belts fitted to the engine as well as all oils and filters. The total bill was about $550, which we thought was pretty fair. The oil alone comes to almost $200.

New and old. Ours is the closer/lower one.

New and old. Ours is the closer/lower one.

Just in time. This Tyre owed us nothing, and was like this for the last 50km of it's life with us.

Just in time. This Tyre owed us nothing, and was like this for the last 50km of it’s life with us.

All wheel up! Fresh tyres on their way.

All wheel up! Fresh tyres on their way.

 

ecuador overland at chimborazo

A bit chilly when we visited Chimborazo.

On leaving the garage we felt that the Mog could now fly so we headed to the mountains yet again. The coast was just so humid it didn’t make for pleasant living. Volcan Chimborazo stands at 6310m and is Ecuador’s tallest mountain with a glacier on the top. It is now extinct but its peak is also the furthest terrestrial point from the center of the earth. Climbing Chimborazo is possible but only for the well-acclimatized experienced mountaineers, obviously we didn’t fit into this category so we viewed from our truck. We stayed overnight in this park with the many hundreds of vicuna (related to the Llama) keeping watch over us. Early the next morning we managed to get glimpses of this wonderful mountain,in between the sun and showers of snow. Such a difference in the climate in just 8 kms from where we slept overnight! Up at this level you can have many seasons in one day but this adds to the whole beauty of these wonderful sites.

Looking back from from Chimborazo, as it got lower you can see it's warmer and greener and farmed.

Looking back from Chimborazo, as it got lower you can see it’s warmer and greener and farmed.

getting a peek at Chimborazo

getting a peek at Chimborazo

As most of you know by now, we don’t like to spend too much time in cities and towns, we prefer the countryside and seeing how the local people really live. Well in Ecuador the country areas didn’t disappoint. We did a great loop The Quilotoa Loop which was a bumpy road off the Panamericana into the more rural farming areas of the country.

Ecuador Overland

Lake in a Volcano crater. How cool is that?

Here we encountered indigenous markets, a beautiful lake, a village that was full of painters who are keeping the stories of the Andes alive through their pictures. The beautiful Laguna (lake) Quilotoa offers stunning views from its craters rim and in the distance you can see the peaks of Cotopaxi, another of Ecuador’s great mountains. Most people speak Kichwa in the area . Transport is very infrequent so when we met a bus or a truck it was full to the gills, people even sitting on the roof. All the little villages are linked by muddy bumpy roads, but soon the road is irrelevant as you are so engrossed with its breathtaking views. Mind you in a few places we hoped the road would not get any smaller . Some of the wires overhead were just that little bit too low for high trucks, care had to be taken ….. We already

even the steep hills were well utilized as farmland.

even the steep hills were well utilized as farmland.

had pulled down the electricity line to a lady’s house in Peru, we didn’t want to have to pay to fix another one…… .Its all farming along this route mainly vegetables and dairy. The fields are meticulously tilled and sown by hand. In some cases an ox pulls the plough. These farms are on the edge of slopes so using a tractor would not be for the faint-hearted. The cows were milked by hand out in the field with their 3 legged stool. Brought back memories of my childhood. In one field there were only 3 cows, each one being milked by a different person. Grass is very plentiful in this area, due to the climate, so strip grazing was in operation.

Cotopaxi

Parque Nacional Cotopaxi was our next adventure for two days. As morning views are the best to see this million dollar view of 5897m we slept overnight there. The closest you can drive to and park at is at 4810m . Many wild horses live in this parque, also deer, llamas, fox, owl, all of which we saw, but the rare spectacled bear escaped us. The snow on the mountain top is getting less and less due to global warming. There are many great walks and hikes throughout this parque, some of which we did, also great off road areas , and many wonderful places to sleep with stunning views. During the night you would hear a pin drop due to the parque being so tranquilo.

ecuador overland

This was new, even for us. how to keep warm sitting in the back of a pickup. bet the people in the pickup on the left of the photo are jealous!

The clouds were swirling around, and at times dropped visibility down to almost nothing. 5 minutes later, sunshine.

The clouds were swirling around, and at times dropped visibility down to almost nothing. 5 minutes later, sunshine.

The road down from Cotapaxi brought us into as many clouds as we drove out of.

The road down from Cotapaxi brought us into as many clouds as we drove out of.

ecuador overland at cotapaxi

It finally peeped out of the clouds at us. This was the view from the free camp site.

All National Parks are now free throughout Ecuador. Excellent news for overlanders!

Equator

ecuador overland

I felt like I was a hobbit in middle earth – one foot in each hemisphere.

We also drove across the Equator! We stopped off to mark the occasion, and found a nice monument set up to mark the spot. We did a quick check of our GPS to make sure it was in the right place (It is), and we had a little look around. They had set up the orange “chimney” in the middle of a circle, and it acts as a solar clock. Depending on the time of the year, the shadow is in different places, and at different times of the day, it’s a different length. What is really cool is that on the equanox, at mid day, the sun is exactly over the equator, and is at its highest point in the sky, so it shines down the chimney, and lights up the mirror they have on the bottom of it.

The white lines you see in the photo are white stones, and they show where the tip of the shadow from the chimney will be on the summer solstice and the winter solstice. Really cool! We told the guide who was there about Newgrange, the Irish structure that lights up inside on the winter solstice. He was a little shocked when we explained that the Irish built it almost 5000 years ago, way before we showed the Egyptians how to build pyramids. Ok. I made that bit up, but Newgrange WAS built in about 3200 BC.

Just checking. All is correct. big line of zeros on the gps.

Just checking. All is correct. big line of zeros on the gps.

balance an egg

We were told that at the equator it has a magnetic power to allow you to balance an egg on it end.

balance an egg

See, egg balanced. And yes, I know the photo is out of focus. give me a break – its the first one!

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Andean Christmas Traditions

After the highlights of the past few months, we wondered if we could get back into “normal” traveling mode, which to us means following our own path and seeing what sights or events that we come across. We’re quite happy to take it all in, the good, the bad and the ugly. After our trip to the Gal├ípagos and having just hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with our friends Claire and Robin, we were wondering what would come next that could possibly hope to complete with the highs we had been experiencing. This is Peru – We should not have worried.

On the road again after Cusco

Andean christmas

an old Volks home overlooking Cusco

First off, we had to leave Cusco. This is not an easy task to manage as it’s an easy place to spend as much time as you have. That, and the small narrow streets leave many drivers of large trucks with a cold chill down their backs, but leave we did. We miss Cusco and its strange charm. Definitely there are way too many people selling massages, tours and enticing you into their restaurants, but behind that it is a nice place to visit.

We took the road back to Nasca, the same one we drove up with Claire and Robin. We normally hate driving the same road twice, but since we were going in the opposite direction to the last time, it seemed like a whole new place to us. Even the weather was different. When stopped to try photograph the vast expanse of desert and mountain to

Nasca to Cusco road, not for the feint hearted

Nasca to Cusco road, not for the feint hearted

explain how wild the place is, a Japanese gentleman came cycling by, as you do. We were moaning about it taking us 2 days to get from down from Cusco (3,600 metres above sea level) to Nasca(about 500 metres above sea level), but he was planning on 10 days to get from Nasca to Cusco. Hope he made it!

 

 

 

This 2 day trip for us was over a week for this hard working cyclist

This 2 day trip for us was over a week for this hard working cyclist

We got caught in some road construction work, and as the only traffic moving was coming towards us, I thought I would take the opportunity to show some of the trucks that they have in Peru. For most of our blog readers, sorry about this, but we have some truck fans who might get a kick out of this.

We decided to travel up Peru pretty quickly, but we also made a few quick stops on the way to see some of the lesser known sites, such as this one at Caral. Basically, the Incas are what Peru is famous for, but for hundreds of years before the Incas were around, other groups were building cities, pyramids, sacrificing people, irrigating deserts for agriculture and fishing the oceans. Loads to see in Peru!

Food vendors stalls from almost 1000 years ago.

Food vendors stalls from almost 1000 years ago.

old Pyramid is hanging in there.

old Pyramid is hanging in there.

Us, out for our first horse ride in South America

Us, out for our first horse ride in South America

We were on our way to see the mountain range known as the Cordillera Blanca, where our friends Jurgen and Ruth, and Phil and Angie had spent some time and said it was super. And so it was. We were tight-ish on the number of days remaining on our trucks TIP form (it’s Customs “passport” while in Peru), so we decided to just spend 3 nights, 4 days there. Our first day we decided to spend horse riding, it seemed a little easier than hiking all over the place but I (Merv) had not quite figured on it working some muscles that had not been exercised in quite some time! While out riding with Diane from the Lazy Dog Inn, we learned that they run volunteer programs, a School, a textiles program, a cafe all for the local community. They were due to run their annual Christmas “Choclatada” in a couple of days. A Chocolatada is basically like a

a bit different to the view through the windscreen, but it's still nice!

a bit different to the view through the windscreen, but it’s still nice!

sports day from when I was a kid, followed by the kids getting a present of a toy, and a cup of hot chocolate. We asked if they needed any help, and we were quickly signed up as a couple of Elves and helping our in any way we could.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andean Christmas Traditions at the Lazy Dog Inn

Wayne would be the chief elf....

Wayne would be the chief elf….

Diane was on toy giving-out duties, the small kids had to be carried by Mums.

Diane was on toy giving-out duties, the small kids had to be carried by Mums.

I'm not sure the kids all got Sarah's english instructions - they certainly did not follow them

I’m not sure the kids all got Sarah’s english instructions – they certainly did not follow them

Each team had an elf with the teams flag color, which matched the color of the ribbon on the kids arms

Each team had an elf with the teams flag color, which matched the color of the ribbon on the kids arms

Good old fashioned games like Sack Races

Good old fashioned games like Sack Races

Tug of war

Tug of war

Obstacle course

Obstacle course

Controlled mayhem is the best was to describe things

Controlled mayhem is the best was to describe things

The huge drum was the hot chocolate being prepared

The huge drum was the hot chocolate being prepared

The view from the Lazy Dog inn is spectacular

The view from the Lazy Dog inn is spectacular

The schoolhouse, built by Diane and Wayne is great.

The schoolhouse, built by Diane and Wayne is great.

The Caterpillar company helped out with a few toys....

The Caterpillar company helped out with a few toys….

For us, to be involved in a community event that was held on such a local and intimate level was superb. We had witnessed some great community events before, but we had not had the chance to be quite this involved in it, and it was great! our plans for a few days hiking went out the window, but we felt we got a lot more from those few days by being involved with the Lazy Dog Inn and their programmes.

Categories: Peru | Comments Off on Andean Christmas Traditions