Vida La Vic #5 Otavalu, the largest market in South America

I’ve mentioned Parque La Carolina before in my first blog, but to quickly recap it is a huge park near my neighborhood where you can find any activity you’d want. There’s soccer all over the place, a dog park, a small paddleboat pond, dirt bike area, a skate park, food stands and more. One more thing they have is basketball courts, with plenty of pickup games on weekend mornings. I decided to take a run by the area Sunday morning and see if I could join a pick up game. After walking around the courts , someone on a court asked me something while signaling to group. While I didn’t know exactly what we was saying, I took that as an invitation. I had guessed correctly. I had a slow start with a mix of rust and adjusting to playing at the altitude but ended up playing for a couple hours. The Spanish I knew got me through the game as well, and ballin’ is a pretty universal language.

My big trip from this week was a tour to Northern Ecuador to visit Otavalu Market and some of the surrounding scenery. Otavalu Market is the largest outside traditional market in South America, with over 40 blocks of tents filled with colorful items to purchase. Our group arrived with over two hours to grab some lunch and shop, and it’s good to know we had a cut off time because I constantly found myself buying things. Otavalu translates to blanket of the people, to represent how warm the locals are. The tour guide let us know people are great here, just be prepared because they are salespeople. Bartering is a given, and if you don’t at least try then you’re probably getting ripped off. There were some gifts I’d been planning on grabbing, and some stuff I took home I had no intention of buying….people here are convincing. I also knew of one item I knew I had to get in Ecuador, the Panama Hat.

              My junior year in college, I was fortunate to have to opportunity to study abroad in England. During that time I had the chance to travel through several countries for a month and I wanted to get something from each country as memorabilia. I wanted it to be more than a keychain though, when I came up with the idea to get a notable hat from each country. I’m not talking a baseball cap, I’m talking stuff like Robin Hood Hat from England, a beret in France and the Gondola hat from Italy. So when I learned about the Panama Hat, it was quickly on my to buy list. They are lightweight hats that are handwoven from straw, I got a pretty basic one however the nice ones can go for really high prices. While they are called Panama hats, they are local to Ecuador and not Panama. During the building of the Panama canal, an Ecuadorian businessman started selling them to several workers to protect them from the heat. They became very popular and known as the Panama Hat, the name stuck since then. When I went to buy, I made sure I had some haggling practice with some smaller items. Went in with a plan, and executed to get a great deal on it.

Panama Hat Victor









After spending time (and more money than is should have) in Otavalu, our tour went to go see some of the nature Northern Ecuador has to offer, one of which being the Laguna de Cuicocha. It’s an enormous crater lake that formed at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano. We took a boat ride around the clear water, our guide pointed out the occasional bubble coming up from the floor. This was caused by the volcanic pressure escaping from below since this is an active crater lake. The guide provided more information about the lake, and how it was formed. Thousands of years ago, a glacier was actually near the area and the heat of the volcano melted it into the lake. Now the area has become an ecological haven for several species of birds and other animals living on the islands formed in the middle of the lake.

Our final stop of the trip was to the waterfall of Peguche, a waterfall that’s almost 20M tall. It’s has significance to the local people around it, and has an interesting mythology around the inside of the waterfall. Rumor has it, that inside the waterfall is huge cauldron of gold . Sounds easy enough except for that it’s guarded by two large black dogs. Also sitting in the waterfall is the devil, with a plate and sand near him. Those who enter can fill the devils plate with sand and then leave with the gold. However, the devil will slowly remove the sand, and when it’s all gone then he takes your soul. I didn’t make it inside, but got some pictures in front of it. Oh yeah, I also met some really cool Alpacas. Thanks for reading. #VidaLaVic

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2 Replies to “Vida La Vic #5 Otavalu, the largest market in South America

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