Monday, September 23, 2013

What Beauty! Oh, and another couple of Bus Mishaps!! Otavalo and Cotacachi, Ecuador

On Friday morning, we boarded our bus from Banos to head for Quito, where we would change busses to ride to Otavalo for an overnight stay so we could experience the famous Artisan's Market.

It took roughly 3.5 hours to get to Quito. But the whole way was filled with gorgeous scenery of all the different volcanoes and snow covered peaks and mountains!! Simply gorgeous!!





Upon disembarking in Quito, we made our way through a very modern terminal to get our tickets to Otavalo. We waited patiently for the bus to arrive at our gate. As it was an outside uncovered gate, we were glad the weather was beautiful. A bus pulled into the gate, Mike asked him if it was going to Otavalo, he said yes, and we proceeded to have our luggage loaded on. 

Sitting on the bus waiting to leave, another bus pulls up beside us and I look and it has the bus number on our ticket. Mike jumps off and sure enough, we were on the wrong bus! So off we go having to get our luggage unloaded off the one bus and loaded onto the correct one. After settling in, Mike reached for his iPhone only to discover it was missing out of his pocket. No way to find out if it's on the miss boarded bus. So we just had to "write it off". Big bummer!

Arriving in Otavalo, we were quickly deposited at out hotel, which was quite nice. Perfect location as it turned out as the market set up was right at our corner street. We quickly made our way out to explore and enjoy the rest of the gorgeous day. But after a quick walk around the square, we began looking for a place to eat as we hadn't really eaten all day and I was needing to eat.

Turns out we ate at a restaurant right next to our hotel. A lovely place overlooking the street so we could people watch. Once we were fed, we were off to explore more!


Once darkness fell, we began to explore finding a bar that looked interesting. After wandering up and down streets, we decided it would be a good idea to start following the young adults since they all seemed to be headed in the same direction. Well that was really smart!  We indeed found a great place called La Taberna. What a really sweet spot!  So enjoyed it!

After a nice night cap, we were more than ready to head back to our room to tuck in for the night with great anticipation for the market the next morning. 

The new day brought more beautiful weather and not a cloud in the sky!  After a perfect breakfast at our hotel, off we went to discover the market experience that was right at our doorstep. Rows and rows of beautiful indigenous crafts with color screaming at us as far as the eye could see! I had to be satisfied with buying some stunning jewelry as we can't afford the weight in our already maximized luggage. But, OMG, if I was wanting to start an export business on a small scale, I would go crazy here!  Enjoy Mike's pictures and video so you can get some bit of sense for how incredible this market is!


The one thing we enjoyed was that it's low season so we weren't fighting the elbow to elbow crowds. We could actually enjoy the experience leisurely and look at the merchandise up close and personal. 

At just before noon, we headed back to check out after successfully buying jewelry and a leather with embroidered belt for Mike. A quick cab ride to the bus station and we were, again, quickly boarded on the bus to Cotacachi. 

As I boarded, I had to get around 3 men who were standing in the aisle to get to empty seats beyond. Then Mike boarded and had to get around the same guys, which was even more difficult. Once around them, he checked his front wallet pocket of his pants and found his wallet missing. He immediately started screaming at the top of his lungs, in English  - and, trust me, he has loud lungs! - "who has my wallet?! I want my wallet back now!!"  He was determined no one was getting off that bus with his wallet. 

He then remembered to speak in Spanish !!  The next thing you know, one of "those" 3 men pointed to the floor where Mike found his wallet. Thank goodness!!  These are the most dangerous times when you are in crowds of any sort, busses, trains, or streets. He finally made it to a seat with wallet in tact! And, we were then on our way for a 20 minute bus ride to Cotacachi. 

We got off the bus at the corner of the main square and found ourselves just a few doors from our Hostal. Easy check in, drop off bags, hookup to the Internet, and we were out and about discovering town. 

Another beautiful quaint town of about 8,000 with stunning views of mountains in every direction.  So can understand why this would be a place expats would gravitate to.


As we were invited to attend the grand opening of La Fontana restaurant and then live music at the Monkey bar that evening, we set out to find where they were located. This actually took us on a trek up  and down "Leather Street". And, that's no joke!  Leather shops with unbelievable products at unbelievable prices!  Talk about restraint!! OMG, I want one of everything!!!

After finding the location, we stopped in to a sweet patio restaurant for just a snack and something to wet our whistle. The perfect spot in a beautiful garden under a huge avocado tree. Mike wants one! And, a lemon, lime, and orange tree, too! LOL

We returned to our room to get ready for the evening events. And, we were off back to the restaurant where we had an outstanding all you can eat dinner with amazing Italian dishes. Yumm!  This place will certainly be a success!

And then it was time for live music at the Monkey Bar!  Julian and Cassie arrived at the same time. They own a Bed & Brew, where they brew micro beers and we were going to stay there but their water went out so we stayed in Otavalo instead. Anyway, Julian also plays a mean guitar and has a superb voice. He was part of the live music group. A joy to meet them!

Joel, the keyboard player, singer, and equipment guy had been there for awhile already getting everything set up. A real pleasure to meet him also. 

But the coup de gras for us was getting a chance to finally meet Dan Prescher, travel writer and editor of International Living. He also happens to be a stupendously fabulous singer/guitar player!! A voice that just melts my heart!!  His wife, Suzan Haskins, also writer/editor for IL, was there, of course. We had met Suzan weeks before when we were in Bahia. In fact, it was Suzan's idea to get these 3 guys together to play while we were in town. THANK YOU, Suzan !!
Video snippets of music:;

Monkey Bar

Joel at keyboard, Julian & Dan

Cassie & Joel

Guess who!

The Triple Threat Trio

Cassie, Me & Suzan
What a fabulous evening of terrific music and meeting new friends!! Even my Facebook friend, David Sasaki, came out for a bit to meet me. Such an honor for the whole evening!!  Needless to say, after much libation, fun conversation, and fabulous music, we made it back to our Hostal a bit after midnight.

Sunday morning came way too early for me with noises from the reception area beginning at 6:30am. Our room was right behind the desk area and we hadn't really been all that pleased with it especially for the price we were paying at $35/night when compared to other cities and towns in Ecuador. So after a nice breakfast with real coffee, we set out to see more of town on market day. 

Walking up the street next to the cathedral, we saw a beautiful old building with an interesting patio restaurant. We went in to check out the menu only to discover it was a hotel also. We looked at each other and said "just ask". So Mike did. After negotiating a $79/night rate down to $50, we looked at a room. Well, it was a corner suite with lots of room and stunning views. 

Mike further negotiated the rate down to $130 for 3 nights ($43.33/night) including all taxes and breakfast included!!  Within one hour we were packed up and had carted our luggage across the city Square to the opposite corner to our new digs!!  So nice, I didn't want to leave for awhile. So we just unpacked and enjoyed!!

Cathedral & Imbabura

It was time to get back out to discover more of town, which we did. We walked and walked in and out of leather shops, and trying to find Mike a small pocket flashlight. He always has one but the one he had, had petered out on him. After much searching, we were unsuccessful. But, tomorrow the hardware stores will be open and we're hoping for success. 

Mid afternoon we found ourselves back at the Monkey bar to try and watch some football. We ran into Cassie & Julian, and Dawn & Pete for the night before and sat down and got to know each other better. Not much football was being watched and they weren't the games that really interested Mike so we headed back to our new place.

It was our intention to have dinner in the patio restaurant, but by then it was past 5pm and it was closed. So we turned around and headed back to Trebol, a small US owned pub down by Leather Street. 

We were surprised that they were serving beer on Sunday. The laws on that are interpreted so differently everywhere we've been!  Anyway, Mike was a happy camper !!

Since the place is so small, you can't help but to start talking to everyone around you. Then Joel from the music trio the night before walked in and we all had a grand time talking about all of our travels and comparing notes. There were 8 of us including the owner and 3 were for the Chicago area and I had lived there, so half had a Chicago connection. Small, very small world!  Another fun evening!

I sit here working on this blog this morning while listening to the musical garbage trucks.  Love them!  Had those is Panama and Costa Rica too but not as much. Another sunny bright day to go explore!  Time for breakfast, so take care mi Amigos!! Until later with more stories of our journey...

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