Good morning from Peguche, Ecuador. A small indigenous town right outside Otovalo. We left San Augustin about 4 days ago and headed to Popoyan; 126km, 6hrs. A ridiculously bumpy mountain road. Not the worst so far, but I wouldn’t call it enjoyable.
We didn’t do much in Popoyan other then go to the gigantic Walmartesque grocery store called Exito. We grabbed the fixings for egg salad and sauteed spinach. Rolled back to the Hostel and made one of the best meals we have had in a long time. Off to bed early so that we could grab yet another bus to Ipiales, the Columbian border town. Another 6hrs later we arrived in Ipiales, stomachs grumbling and not yet ready to venture on the additional 3hrs to Otavalo.
We crossed the border into Ecuador the next morning. The bus guys were ridiculous. Pushing and shoving each other in an attempt to steer us to their respective buses. We chose the least hostile among them and were off to Otavalo with 5 other passengers. I honestly thought we would be waiting hours, but they left with only 5 of us on a huge bus. Luckily, the trip went quickly and we arrived in Otavalo fairly refreshed. A quick hike up hill to the little town of Peguche. This was touted as an indigenous village. We were thinking thatched houses and a lot of poverty. But I guess even indigenous people like proper concrete houses with electricity and running water.
Since we arrived in the afternoon, we had a celebration with Pilsner, the local Ecuadorian beer. Finally, we are started to see an upward swing in the quality of the beer. We cooked ourselves some lunch in the industrial restaurant kitchen. Why they gave us access to this kitchen I have no idea, but if we would have had 14 things to cook at once, we would have been set on stove space. It was kind of funny, we cooked and talked to the kitchen crew as they too were cooking for the restaurant. After our bellies were full, we set off on a quick hike to a waterfall. It was nice to walk again. The waterfall was pretty. We followed the diverted water way back into town. Passing sheep herders and futbol matches along the way. The whole time Volcano Imbabura, a picturesque volcano of 4,609m, looked down upon us from its post.
That brings us to yesterday, wonderful yesterday. We crawled into our bunk beds nice and early in anticipation for our 5am wake up call. The large animal market was calling our names. We arose before the sun. This was a tad dificult for me, but luckily Todd was ready to see the market and capture the day. We set off down the old railroad tracks and walked the 45min into town. Watching the sun rise over the volcano and illuminate the town and its beautiful surroundings. We weren’t quite sure where we were going, but figured that following the people who were walking with cows and sheep was a good bet. We were right.
arrived at the market at the wee hour of 6am; prime large animal bartering time. It was packed! The entrance held the chickens, all sizes and ages, the rabbits, ducks, and guinea pigs. Chickens everywhere; in crates, on strings, being slaughtered, you name it. We saw a little girl assess a chicken; checking its wings, feet, breast, peak, everything. She did this a couple of times before mom pulled out the money and payed for her well chosen chicken. The little girl snatched it up proudly and slung it under her arm as she moved on to look at the baby goats. It was such a sight to see. I am assuming it was her first opportunity to pick out her own chicken and was she ever proud and excited. Dancing around gleefully.
After the small animals, we were in the pig, goat, and sheep pen. All the animals ranged in age and size. We saw some of the biggest pigs ever. I don’t think a line backer could have taken out these pigs. And lets not forget the kids, so cute. Todd is convinced we need a goat when we come back to the states. We definitly wouldn’t need a lawn mower. And the sheep, some with full woollen coats other a little bald. The way they stick out there tongue and bhaa is hysterical. Todd and I sat there for a couple of minutes just laughing.
After that it was on to the large animals; cows and horses. More cows then horses and a lot of rowdy, pissed off ones at that. I guess I wouldn’t want to be auctioned off either. The neat thing about it all is that the market was dominated by indigenous people. The ladies wearing the gold necklaces thickly woven around their necks, embroidered ruffly shirts, long black skirts, bracelets and earings to match, hair tide up with rope in long thick ponytails trailing down their backs, and black shawls hung diagonally from their shoulders. Some wore hats, others what looked like fabric laid on their heads. The prominence of the indigenous people reminded me a lot of Guatemala. It was a wonderful sight.
At this point, Todd and I were in dire need of some coffee. Luckily, there were stands lined up and ready to feed all that arrived at the market. We sat down for some coffee. They were also making empanades at this stand. Now, I have only eaten soggy, not so fresh empanades, so I wanted to try one of these delicious and hot morsels. It was worth it; hot, light, with a touch of cheese in the middle. A great snack to accompany my coffee. Todd was eyeing the stall next door which had huge plates of food.
A quick relocation to the tent next door and within minutes we had huge plates of fried egg, 3 potato pancakes, marinated beef strips, shredded lettuce, onions, and tomatos topped with some spicy salsa. Finally, spicy food again. We feasted on the best local meal I have had in a long time. It cost us a grand total of $2.20. They use the US dollar here so we don’t have to mess with conversion rates for a while. On a side note, I didn’t realize how many countries depend on the dollar as their main currency. Interesting stuff.
Off in the near distance we could see Volcano Cotacachi, 4939m, and its snow capped peak. 20km from the equator and the mountains here are covered in snow. Not what I expected at all, but it was beautiful. We finished breakfast and headed to the artisan market. Our early rising left us wondering around a market that was still being set up. So, we hit the food market. They can grow everything here, I mean everything. We walked and gawked at the variety; eggplant, squash, tomatos, arugula, beautiful chard, 5 types of potatoes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, kale, colrabi, red cabbage, wonderful green onions, basketball size cabbage, etc. I could go on for a very long time. It was a beautiful, colorful sight. I could live here just because of the food diversity. So much more then tomatos, onions, carrots, and potatoes. Finally!
The artisan market was colorful. Weaving is huge here so there was an abundance of blankets, shawls, scarves, etc. I really wanted to buy a gold necklace like all the beautiful ladies here, but gold and Irish skin are not a good combination, so I went for coral. And it is pretty. Just a wonderful day taking in the community and the surroundings. And all before 10am. Luckily, the cock fight started at 11am so we had an afternoon activity, which I’ll let Todd describe.