Early start and head off via a taxi to the wrong bus station, thankfully the taxi driver knows where the bus goes from to get to Otavalo and we quickly change our route to ensure we end up at the correct place.
We arrive to find that a bus is leaving in 5 minutes – so we grab a bit of brekkie to eat on the bus and board with an entirely ‘local’ group of passengers (except us).
After a 2 hour drive through the countryside (which resembles the UK more than you’d imagine – green and lush) we arrive at Otavalo. With a population of approximately 90,000 (though we note still not deserving of roads on Google or Apple maps) it’s claim to fame is it’s market. Apparently it is particularly impressive on a Saturday when it takes up almost a third of the town (though we read that the animal market is not one for animal lovers to witness), but it is still a decent size on a Monday before Christmas.
Whilst there are plenty of stalls and traders, there is a general lack of customers. With just 2 days before Christmas where are all the Ecuadorian men doing their last minute panic buying? However the relative quietness means there is competition for any available trade and we use this to our advantage and grab some bargains. However despite some rapidly dropping prices I decide against an Ecuadorian national football shirt (though I may feel it is a mistake in June when they might prove to be a good alternative?).
We then have a frustrating half an hour trying and failing to find a Lonely Planet lunch recommendation that is (a) still there (b) open (c) has anyone in it, and (d) meets my current limited dietary requirements. Eventually we find a nice cafe with a balcony overlooking the markets (which was about 20yrds from where we starting looking) and used their WiFi to catch up with friends after a pleasant lunch.
One more purchase (in which Niki plays ‘hardball’ in the haggling stakes and gets it for half-price) and we head back to the bus station. Niki gets excited buying some mangos from a street seller out of the back of a truck and goes all ‘local’ eating them on the bus on the way back 🙂