Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ecuador -- Day 1 Otavalo Market

Wed., April 7

Waking up with severe vertigo and nausea is not a good thing. In other words, the start to my day was pretty tenuous, especially since we didn't know if it had to do with my inner ear or the altitude. Long story made short, a good combination of Meclazine (Bonine), Tylenol Cold, the Epply Maneuver, and a cup of Mate de Coca worked together to give increasing relief throughout the day.

In spite of everything spinning, we were still able to open the window to the chilly Andes air and identify Rufous-collard Sparrows (singing everywhere), Blue and Yellow Tanager, and Great Thrush. Our first hummingbird was gigantic – a Sparkling Violetear.

Down at the main building – our room is in a building about 200-300 feet higher – we added a Black-tailed Trainbearer. The derivation of its name can be found in its overlong tail that extends about twice the length of its body. We saw a few other birds but weren't in actual “birding mode”, so we were without our guide. Additionally, we were being called into breakfast.

Breakfast was lovely, with fresh fruit, watermelon nectar, and eggs made to order. I also had my very first cup of mate de coca. By the time breakfast was over I was feeling a bit more up to facing the day.

Jorge Cruz, the owner of San Jorge Ecolodge was our guide for the day and we traveled with a married couple from England. The 90 km to Otavalo took about two and a half hours, not unexpected considering we were driving around mountains and behind trucks.

Along the way we stopped at a town that specialized in wonderful baked biscochos (bicuits) and homemade string cheese. (Kissing that low carb regimen goodbye for the next couple of weeks, I guess).

We also stopped at one of the guided “Mitad del Mundo” or “Middle of the World” locations. For one dollar each we were given a fascinating lecture on the equator, its location, seeing stars here from both hemispheres, true global orientation, and why Ecuador is THE place named for the equator. Hint: it's the only place on the equator with fixed reference points: the mountains.

On to Otavalo and the market.

Basically, we went with a shopping list. Basically, we came home with great gifts, but virtually nothing that was on the original list. I'm not posting precisely what we got because the gifts have yet to be given. Not being the main market day, the market was fairly quiet, though bargaining was tough.

As for the charango, we found out that any of the decent charangos, at least the ones in Otavalo, are imported from Bolivia and are priced accordingly. Avi decided to forgo purchasing one here and will be ordering from

On the way back from Otavalo we stopped at a river/spring fed lake with adorable cabins. I assume its mostly for weekending Ecuadorians. It was complete with boats, jetskis, playground, miniature golf, and restaurant. We had “cafesitos” while adding Andean Coot, Andean Ruddy Duck, and Green-tailed Trainbearer to our day list.

At dinner we were told to pack a bag for two nights. It seems our itnerary for the next two days include a night at Tandayapa (hummingbird heaven) and Milpe. So, we'll probably only have one more night of direct internet access (Saturday night) before leaving for our week in the Galapagos.

For now, Internet is slow. Photos will be added later, or at least references to where they can be found.

Bird list (in no particular order)

Blue and Yellow Tanager
Great Thrush
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Sparkling Violetear
Black-tailed Trainbearer
Cattle Egret
Green-tailed Trainbearer
Andean Coot
Andean Ruddy Duck

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