Day 9: On the Road to Otavalo

Day 9: On the Road to Otavalo

Today we left the mystical cloud forest of Mindo to travel to our next destination: Otavalo. We drove the road back to Quito (gaining thousands of feet in elevation) before continuing on from there. The most interesting aspect of this journey was just how much the scenery changed over the course of a couple hours. We went from rainforest to a less tropical forest, and finally on to what looked suspiciously like the American Southwest, canyon and all.

Canyon view from the highway

One of the towns we drove through had a lot of flower shops along the side of the road, the colors of which contrasted starkly with the barren landscape. It turned out that these flowers came from a farm a little farther down the road that was larger than the rest of the town. It was also interesting to see how much bamboo was utilized in the construction and maintenance of the surrounding buildings, used for both the ladders and scaffolding.

We then arrived in the town of Peguche where we first stopped at a local artisan shop and learned about Ecuadorian weaving through a presentation, which included how they made the wool soft and dyed it using natural colors. The woman who worked there had two types of looms, one with a foot pedal and a completely manual one. One of the quilts she made on the manual loom took her multiple months to make. Following the presentation we shopped around the store, looking at the variety of handmade wool products. Most people left with some sort of souvenir, whether it was a sweater, socks, or poncho.

Learning how to spin wool

We then drove a couple minutes down the road to the start of a “trail” to another incredible waterfall. I say “trail” because it was a slightly more rough cobblestone road that was only open to pedestrians. It was a much easier hike than the last waterfall we went to, which was perfect for a travel day. Like all of the other natural sights we’ve seen in the country, it was breathtaking. We only had a couple of minutes to explore the river, but we found a woman with two dressed up llamas that we paid to take pictures with (definitely a highlight of the trip).

Our last stop before the hotel was another artisan shop, this one a music store. We were greeted with a presentation about the different types of musical instruments used in the surrounding countries, which was fascinating. Two other people came in and gave us a full performance using two guitars and a large drum. Then we had an opportunity to explore the different instruments for ourselves, which we quickly learned were much harder than the store owner made it seem.

Handmade tapestry