Our second day in Quito, we journeyed about two hours north to Otavalo in Imbabura province. Our goal was the native craft market in that town. The bus route takes the Pan-American Highway, and along the way we passed many plastic sheeted greenhouses where roses and other flowers are raised. Cut flowers – particularly roses – are Ecuador’s third major export, after Oil and bananas.
Our first stop was at Quitsato, some 47 KM northwest of Quito and near the town of Cayamba. The point of interest here was a monument of sorts to the equator consisting of a 52 meter diameter paved circle with a line representing the equator across its’ center.Interestingly there has been an archaeological center for thousands of years, with constructions recognizing the center of the earth straddling the equator line; the people apparently recognized long ago that the earth was round. They used the presence of large land masses (volcanoes) to position these constructions. This present-day site is advertised as the ideal point to stand in both hemispheres at the same time, as most other sites are quite inaccessible (oceans, rain forests, etc.)
We than stopped at an overlook called Miralago with views of a lake (Lago San Pablo) and a volcano system with three peaks (Imbabura). Coffee, snacks and shopping added to the views, and we boarded two young native girls selling hand woven scarves.
Next stop was the town of Otavalo, a fairly good sized place well known for its’ market. The town is located in Imbabura province and is surrounded by volcanoes including the three peaks of Imbabura. The market is situated in Plaza de Ponchos, and is populated by traditionally clad indigenous town people selling textiles and other handicrafts. It is a good size, and has much to offer. We left the market to visit a local industrious household with several looms, busily manufacturing scarves, purses and other goods.
Our last stop was at Hacienda Pinsaqui, a local hostelry and restaurant just outside Otavalo. This is a 1790’s vintage colonial house, with tile floors, sheepskin rugs, whitewashed walls and lots of period furniture. The latter was all hauled by mules from the seafront. Simon Bolivar apparently used to stay here. We were treated to a very nice Ecuadorian lunch before our long trip back to Quito.