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Otavalo is a small city about ten miles from Cotacachi, and Saturday is market day in Otavalo. Not any market, mind you, but the world’s largest indigenous market. Folks in native dress flood the city, bringing with them products of every kind. It was a fun and educational experience. We were especially drawn to the food section, where beautiful food products were displayed for sale–fruit, vegetable and meat. I told Kathy that if I lived here I would buy way more than needed, since it all looked so good! Berries in barrels, gizzards in grates, pork in pots, carrots in crates–you get the picture–in row after row after row. Nothing was left unsold. Right beside T-bone steaks were whole cow hearts. Chicken, when purchased, was put in a bag and chicken feet were thrown in for good measure. Potatoes with dirt attached, straight out of the garden, were in huge gunny sacks. We noticed many fruits of which we were not familiar, and we purchased some to take back to the hotel for an evening snack. Want pigs’ feet or cow feet–no problem. Green eggs or brown eggs or bird eggs–your choice. Hamburger was ground right in front of you. Each stall was active, people shelling corn, peas, beans; butchering meat products or scaling/filleting fish. Everything was orderly and nicely displayed. How I wanted to get some of the fresh ground spices, but we are early in our adventure, and I didn’t want the hastle of custom’s checks. All around the market rose the Andes mountains, and the air was cool and fresh.
I purposely did not eat much for breakfast, believing that the market would have food stalls. It did, and I had a hard time deciding which indigenous food to select. I saw a large steaming caldron filled with rice, noodles, potatoes, and vegetables. I decided that this was the one I wanted. The proprietor scooped the ingredients from the top down to the bottom of the cauldron, where it mixed with a seasoned broth, before plating it for me. What I didn’t know was that she was frying an egg which went on top of the concoction. It was a good concoction. Price–$1. The proprietor’s young daughter had fun watching the “gringo” try to eat her mother’s food.
We went to the indigenous clothing section and watched people knit, crochet, sew, and embroider wonderful clothing and shoes. Kathy, on my prompting, purchased two embroidered belts. They will look good on her beautiful self.
We took a taxi rather than the bus to and from the market. Easy peasy, although the taxi cost 10x’s more than the bus. The bus would have been 75 cents for two for the fifteen minute ride. You can do the math–cheap. Almost everything here is about 1/3 the cost of home.
Once back in Cotocachi, we noticed that the Kichwa people were thronging the cathredral. We learned that it was communion day for first time communicants. Beautiful. We then walked the streets and breathed in the fresh mountain air. Priceless! WEG