We visited Otavalo to see the big market the town is famous for.
We arrived on Friday, after traveling literally all over Quito thanks to foolishly taking bad advice from a taxi driver - he thought our bus left from the shiny new Southern bus terminal, when in fact it left from one of the Northern ones. Otavalo is of course to the North of Quito. Once we found the right terminal, the bus ride itself was very straightforward and comfortable.
In Otavalo we did the usual "Ewelina guards the bags while Bjarni checks out accomadation" thing, finding a nice room for $15 with a balcony and a view over the Poncho square and its daily market.
Friday and Saturday we explored the town and the markets, seeing endless arrays of beautiful tapestries and sweaters and hats and masks and bags, chess sets and jewelry and leather goods. We also went to the livestock market and saw pigs, chickens, cattle, kittens and guinea pigs - whose meat is considered a local delicacy. And of course we ate food from the food market.
Of the crafts, we were unsure what was really hand-made and what wasn't. On Sunday we went on a tour organised by the Zulaytur agency, paying $26 each to visit local craftsmen and see how the things at the market were made. We had an excellent English-speaking guide who explained local politics, electricity distribution and telecommunications in addition to showing us how hats and baskets and textiles were made, and how to tell the difference between textiles made completely by hand and those made with tools or machines. We also saw the tools and tried weaving a bit ourselves.
Our faith in local craftmanship renewed by the tour, we ended up buying mostly useful souvineers: a hat for Ewelina and a belt for me. We also bought a chess set and tiny baskets - less useful, but in one of the local bars here, Ewelina and I discovered we like playing chess with each other and are pretty evenly matched.