Volcanic hikes.

Otavalo, Ecuador

Hello Ecuador.  We said goodbye to Peru and made our way to Quito, Ecuador for the next leg of our trip.  Right away we set off for a smaller town northeast of Quito, called Otavalo.  Otavalo is most famous for their large market, but is also surrounded by three large volcanoes, Imbabura (15,190 ft), Cotacachi (16,388 ft), and Mojanda (13,986 ft), which make the landscape pretty incredible.  Two of the three volcanoes are completely inactive.  The other is dormant so we had nothing to worry about, otherwise I assure you we would have reconsidered the itinerary.  It took us almost two hours from Quito to get to our little lodge, high up in the Andes mountain range.  We were glad to make it as all of the previous travel was starting to catch up with us!

Not your average farmers market.  So the main draw to Otavalo is their massive market, especially on Saturdays.  We are not talking about a little farmers market here, we are talking about rows and rows of handmade textiles, blankets, wooden goods, jewelry, instruments, dream catchers, leather goods, spices, wool, and the list goes on.  The prices are extremely reasonable and negotiating is encouraged.  While this area has a large agricultural focus due to the fertile volcanic soil, the market is a large revenue source for the town.  The increase in tourism, however, has also decreased the amount of handmade items available.  While this is certainly a negative, in some of the smaller surrounding towns you can be assured that you are buying handmade goods.  Regardless, the market is a great place to learn about the community and contribute to the locals, which is at the core of sustainable tourism.

A hike of volcanic proportions.  It’s not everyday that you hike on a volcano.  We jumped on the opportunity to do a hike on the Mojanda volcano, which is at 14,000 feet.  It was an incredible experience because we had the place to ourselves.  Walking for a couple of hours with no one else around was really peaceful, but also a bit spooky.  Also, because the weather changes so quickly at altitude, when the clouds roll in and a thick layer of fog encompasses you, it feels slightly eerie.  I will just be honest here and tell you that the title of this section also coincides with how I was feeling about the altitude on this hike.  Pretty much over it.  Perhaps (by perhaps, I mean definitely) I had a mini meltdown as every step felt like I was running a 10K, and every gasp of air felt like I had an elephant sitting on my chest.  Luckily Russ was there to pull me of the metaphoric volcanic ledge.  I pulled it together to finish the hike and now we can check volcano hike of the list.  Although I am not sure that was on the list.  But who cares, after you blow your lid (see what I did there) on the top of a volcano, it automatically goes on your bucket list.

R&R.  So this blog is short and sweet because we spent a lot of our time in Otavalo resting and relaxing after our Machu Picchu travels.  This was definitely the place to do it.  The views were spectacular from our lodge, the locals were very friendly, and it was extremely cold in the evenings, with no heating besides a wooden stove, so it made it easy to cozy up and rest here. 

Next up….The Amazon!  Lot’s to report on here, so stay tuned for our next blog post from the jungle!