CNH Tours - Cultural and Natural Heritage Tours Galapagos
Thursday October 14, 2021
Otavalo: Not just a traditional indigenous market town
We recently sent our Quito based "extensions expert" Mercedes Murgueytio on a mission to investigate the Otavalo region and to re-affirm our ties with the people of that region, approximately 2 hours north of Quito. The typical visit to Otavalo is limited to wandering around its extensive and very colourful indigenous market, where all kinds of foods, textiles and other items are sold by a large number of small stall holders. But Mercedes went to inspect more intimate offerings in the region.
Mercedes has been working in Ecuadorian tourism for nearly 30 years and has valuable network of contacts throughout the country that only a veteran can develop. If you are considering a continental extension to your Galapagos trip - we'll put you in touch directly with Mercedes. The Amazon? Andes treks by foot or horseback? The World Heritage city of Cuenca? There are many opportunities. She travelled with her son, and reports on her experience below:
Last month, my son and I had the opportunity to visit Otavalo and its surroundings. It was a fantastic trip! Even-though I've been in this area several times before, this is the time was different, as I was able to know a different Otavalo, and to enjoy a unique and much more hands-on experience.
Our adventure began when we took the Highway from Quito to the north. It was a sunny day, so we had a beautiful Highland landscape through all the trip. The Cayambe Volcano appeared, and we had the opportunity to admire its beauty and majesty during our trip to the north.
After two hours drive, we arrived to Hotel Otavalo, which is one of the oldest buildings within the city, built more than a century ago. And when you go inside, it´s like going in a castle. Big corridors, stone walls, beautiful paints and sculptures…
Upon arrival at the hotel, we were greeted with typical music and dances, while we enjoyed a soft drink made with local fruits. Delicious after a long journey! And then, they invited us to dance with them!
Immediately we started our explorations. Our first visit was to Claudia house to enjoy a gastronomic experience. Claudia is an Otavalan woman, who, along with her family offer the opportunity to taste and learn about the region's ancestral gastronomy. She greets us with the “chicha”, which is the typical drink, especially for important celebrations. It is made of corn. Then we enter their house which is a typical home built with mud and terracotta. We were dressed as Otavalenos and started the cooking activities, while Claudia teaches us how to prepare a typical dish: Fritada. It combines a variety of native flavors with the richness of natural products and their various preparation methods. A very demonstrative and interactive class!
While lunch was in the oven, Claudia shows us her garden full of medicinal plants and tells us what each of the plants is for. Very interesting indeed!
After enjoying this fabulous lunch, we continue our tour, onwards to Peguche, a small town near Otavalo. Our first visit is to “Taita Gundo” project. (Taita in Kichua means father and Gundo is a nickname of Segundo - "second").
This is a family project directed by the prestigious musician Ali Lema. Here, we enjoyed an explanation of the different musical instruments and rhythms that identify the Kichwa peoples, and learn about very old instruments, like the bocina, which were used by the leaders to call the community when they needed to do a community work called minga, or when they needed to inform the community of important news. As an expansion to the project, they maintain a permanent school of construction and interpretation of wind and string instruments that participates regularly at local and national events.
To end this day, we visit Nayia Art Workshop, where Monica, its owner described the origin of dream catchers. It's known that the dream catchers are from North American; However, in Ecuador, objects very similar to the original dream catcher have been found hung in ancient houses. And after the explanation it was time to do our own dream catchers! A really interesting and amazing experience!
It was time to head back to the hotel and enjoy a delicious dinner with a cup of wine.
The next day, after a very generous and tasty breakfast, we headed towards La Compañia community by San Pablo Lake, to visit a family dedicated to weaving on traditional looms. Here, they make different textiles, using their skill and creativity.
Don Manuel, the owner of this place, an Otavaleño, has some disability in his left arm, but this doesn't prevent him from making beauties on his looms, explains to us what each textile is for, and its meaning, and he teaches us to use the looms and create our own typical bracelet.
He told me that he makes a bracelet in 5 minutes. It took me more than 30 minutes, but I made it!
We couldn´t finish our trip to the Lake Province (Imbabura Province is also called the Lake Province), without having an experience in the lake. It was time to sail! We went to San Pablo Lake and board a reed boat to be able to navigate on the lake. It was a fantastic experience because, in addition to be traveling in a reed boat, the landscape is beautiful. You have the imposing Imbabura volcano in front of you! And in the middle of the lake, the guide explains that for important events in the communities of the area, all the guests bring something to eat and mix everything on a single table and then distribute it among all. And we did that on board.
In addition to learn about the customs and traditions of the region, we lived them.
Before starting our trip back to Quito, it was time to visit Otavalo city and to learn about its history, beliefs, traditions and legends. It was not a typical tourist city tour. We saw insight of iconic places in the city, which by the way, are not very touristic but are beautiful places indeed.
After such a fabulous experience, it was time to return home. Thank a lot to Hotel Otavalo by ArtHotels for these two incredible days and for showing us Otavalo and its surroundings in a more social and interactive way.