Queer Adventures in Otavalo, Ecuador
2019 March — No wifi. No cell service. No window to the outside. This is a tough one because it is the first studio Airbnb we stayed in. It is a very good size and it is very well furnished. We had been having some talks about how a studio would work if we decided to settle down for a bit.
The location is great because it is very close to everything we need. The town is already super small, kind of like Baños. We started going through wifi withdrawal. At first it was exciting. We started making note of all the things we could accomplish while free from the distractions of technology. This got me very excited. It made us consider that we should plan regular wifi-free trips so that we can progress further in our various projects, travels, and quality bonding time.
However, in hindsight, I wish I had a few things:
- Music pre-downloaded so I could have more songs that help me focus or just pass the time. The only songs I had pre-downloaded were APESHIT — The Carters, Jocelyn Flores — XXXTentacion, and SAD! — XXXTentacion.
- Games: matchbook puzzles, handheld game systems, playing cards, travel-sized chess, travel-sized Go, a rubicks cube, anything to keep me entertained for a while.
First thing we did after taking a load off in the airbnb was walk to the artisan market Plaza de Ponchos. I was extremely impressed. It was the first time I felt a strong urge to buy something. I got a nice wallet for the sake of form and function. It was totally my style. Since 99% of purchases in South America happen with cash, I had to get a new wallet that could handle cash. The wallets we used while in the States are ideal for holding cards — not cash. Because who uses cash anymore back there?
While we were in Otavalo, it was still Ley Seca, which actually began during our last few days in El Centro Historico. This is a period of 4 days around the annual elections where the sale and consumption of alcohol is illegal. So you can’t buy alcohol during these days at all and if you stock up before Ley Seca with the intent of having some during that time, you can get in trouble if you are caught and fined. It starts Friday at noon and ends Monday at noon. It’s surprisingly easy to do. We found that during Ley Seca, we had a monstrous sweet tooth. Perhaps without alcohol, we revert back to our childhood selves of craving candy and chocolate and pastries. It was actually a lot of fun walking through the candy isles and finding bright, colorful, fun sweets! Plus, Otavalo has a lot of places that sell pastries. We’d smell the sweet smell in the air and follow it until we were there.
Nearly everyone we saw around Otavalo looked super fresh. By “everyone” I mean all the men. All the women wore traditional garments. I don’t know how to describe the men’s look except that it’s a mix of fresh city style and farm style.
Near the stalls, there was a woman and her daughter selling soup. It was an interesting soup made up of pig ears, pig nose, and a mystery flesh called “tripas” which is actually various intestines of animals. The meat portions were accompanied by maiz, mayo, onions, and aji. The flesh was so chewy, it would have taken me all night to finish it. Luckily, Viviana was there to eat it with me so nothing went to waste. The bowl was only $1.50, so that was pretty sweet.
On the second day of our stay in Otavalo, we got internet! Although it was spotty and not totally reliable, it was still internet and we still had regular boring adult things to do online that should not be neglected for a week. Luckily, the studio was super cozy. It’s a nice and quaint shelter without any distractions. Perfect for getting work done.
Because the town is so small, everything is super close. We cooked all our meals. We only ate out twice while staying here. Once on the first night, and one more time towards the end of our stay. We were only a block away from the artisanal market. This was both a blessing and a curse. Since all the stuff they had there was such good quality and so beautiful, it was hard to pass through there without spending at least $20. However, it is totally worth it. It is a well-known market around the world with our money going back to indigenous communities. So many tourists were splurging in this market. Wednesdays and Saturdays are the primary market days. Saturday was especially packed. The market spilled out onto the streets of the town. It was massive! I bought a cool travel chess set for us to play as we continue our journey throughout South America. Maybe if we meet some cool people, we can invite them over to play chess!
On day we took a trip to Cascada de Peguche. We got up there by bus, then it was a beautiful and leisurely hike to get to the waterfall. It was cute to see other couples having a romantic moment by the waterfall. It felt like a double date. Near the waterfall was a cute looking town area. There were llamas and small fields of crops and stands selling things. It was magical. We continued hiking around. We crossed a precarious rope bridge suspended above the water. On the other side was a serious hike. The incline was intense. We were breathing hard afterwards. But it was humbling because there are people that do that every day while carrying goods and small children. Once again, it was a reminder of how just living in certain places can keep you fit. I admire that very much. Fresh air, sunshine, lush green forests, and waterfalls are a million times better than going to a stuffy gym.
When we made our way out, we were in the small town where the bus had dropped us off. The hike left us pretty hungry, so we got an almuerzo there. It was being run by a very cute family. They were so nice and gave us an extra bowl of soup. While we ate, stray dogs took shelter beside us and under our table. Meanwhile, we had a wonderful view of the countryside. It was so relaxing.
After we ate, we decided to walk back to our airbnb. It was a beautiful walk. There were train tracks people were walking on, so we did the same. We passed by another cute couple seated beside the train tracks on a stone wall above a creek. There was a fallen tree that was perfect for sitting on down by the creek. We walked off the train tracks and began making the descent down to the creek. When we got there, we saw that cows were grazing right across from the water. It was beautiful. Once again it was like another double date. The couple above us sitting on the stone wall overlooking the creek, and the two of us on the fallen tree right beside the creek. We continued our journey back to the main streets of Otavalo. We passed through a residential area and then made it to the city. The walk took about an hour, but it was totally worth it.
The next day, we did more exploring. We passed by a super cool fish market that was right next to a big beautiful produce market! There were two young people spinning poi. I wish I had brought my poi along so that we’d have a conversation starter.
La Cosecha is a cool place to hang out. It is right across the street from the artisanal market. It is also the place you go if you want to find all the Americans in Otavalo. It is a very nice place of course. Great beer too. It’s a good change of pace and a great change of scenery. We sat in one of the private rooms in the cafe and got a lot done while drinking beer.
The next day, we took a cab up to Parque Condor. Unfortunately, they were about to close in 20 minutes and it was going to cost $10 per person to enter. This was way more than we were willing to pay for such a short amount of time so we decided to start walking back into town while passing El Lechero. The view up there was spectacular. We took our time making our descent. The road was a cobblestone road. On one side was a corn field and on the other side was the vast expanse laid out before us. We could see el Lago San Pablo, mountains, the town, and beyond! It was magical.
Then we saw the sign for Àrbol Milenario “El Lechero”. It’s a tree that is thousands of years old. There is a super cool legend associated with it. We went there and were met by yet another cute young couple laying out on the grass by the tree overlooking Otavalo. It was so precious. Viviana and I found a log to sit on and enjoyed the view as well.
Instead of continuing the walk via the road, we took shortcuts through fields and forests. It reminded me of when I was a child and would play outside and adventure in the woods with my siblings. We eventually ran into a woman who was working the fields. She made conversation with us and it was super nice. She spoke Kichwa and Viviana was able to say a few things to her in Kichwa. She was very sweet and very happy to see us. We kept walking through fields passing pigs and other farm animals until we made it back to the town.
Later that night we went to where the artisanal market is usually held, but this time, it was filled with food stands. We shared a bowl of tripas and then went to Cava Caran. It’s the bar and brewery below La Cosecha. It was such a cool spot! The vibes are amazing and the people that go there all look like people we could potentially party with. A very young, hip, craft beer scene. We got the sampler of 5 beers. They were delicious and a lot of them were very strong. A nice change of pace considering most beers you can buy at the store are super light beers.
In the middle of the night, I woke up feeling a bit off. I figured it was because I had drank too much and was hungover. I went to the restroom to freshen up and try to get back to normal. Turns out, I was actually sick. I spent the whole day in bed running to the bathroom occasionally. Viviana took care of me — feeding me bananas, toast, and water. The next day, I felt so much better! I was extremely hungry after my body spent the day purging all its contents, but otherwise, I was ready for the world again! What better way to celebrate than to go to the market and do some shopping! We bought a lot of things this time because it was Saturday and the market had stretched right out to our front door. We finished our shopping spree tried on everything we bought, then began packing for our next adventure.