The roads are suddenly quiet, traffic free and well maintained, a welcome relief after all of the potholed congested roads we had driven in Colombia.
Passing Laguna de Yahuarcocha (Lake of Blood in Kichwa after 30,000 were killed by the forces of an Incan emperor), we check in at the campsite which has a few other campervans parked up before heading into Ibarra to stock up on some supplies at the brand new local mall getting a new sim card for the phone and the car washed…
Back in camp, we meet a couple of cyclists who had been having quite a hard time cycling around the country and are feeling a lack of motivation at the moment! Martin is in need of a beer, speaking with the owner who is interested in knowing more about Ferry Xpress whilst I take the opportunity to set about reorganising everything in the car. It’s time for a clear out so everything is emptied, things get thrown out and the rest all goes back in before dark.
The campsite is comfortable and probably one of the best equipped one so far with good hot showers, internet, plenty of green space and best of all, they sell beer, much to Martin’s excitement!
Our first night camping since arriving in Ecuador is a peaceful one and since we don’t have to travel to far today to get to the capital, Quito, around a two hour drive away, we take our time packing up and cooking breakfast. It’s a very rare relaxed start to the day compared to most!
On route, around a 20 minute drive away, we make a stop at the colourful and famous Otavalo market. The main market day is Saturday when it is packed with visitors and vendors and stalls spill out onto neighbouring streets. As it’s midweek, it’s relatively quiet as we wander around the rainbow stalls within the Plaza de los Ponchos selling a huge array of intricately woven scarves, wall hangings, blankets and throws made of Alpaca wool, bags and paintings among other handicraft items made by the indigenous Otavalenos.
Almost everyone is wearing traditional clothing, the women are dressed in white blouses with flared lace sleeves and strings of golden necklaces, long woollen skirts and head cloths known as fachalinas, the men in felt hats and ponchos. The market has taken place here in Otavalo for hundreds of years and is one of the most important markets in the Andes, the centuries old artisan practices attracting Ecuadorians and foreigners alike.
The indigenous Otavalenos have been weavers since pre-Incan times and the small indigenous villages outside Otavalo are home to families who wash, spin and dye the wool, creating exquisite weavings.
We come away with a small bounty of scarves, hats, a bag and an alpaca blanket, if only we had more space in the car!
The drive to Quito takes us past the equator and into the Southern hemisphere via the Sierra highlands, through the mountains and snow-capped volcanoes, past rose farms and green pasturelands on perfectly paved roads with stunning views around each twist and turn. Looking forward to exploring the capital tomorrow!