On Saturday, July 20, 2013, I met up with 4 co-workers and a few of their friends bright and early at the Carcelen Bus Station in the northern part of Quito (at 7:00am!). We were easily able to buy tickets and board our bus to our destination - the famous Saturday morning markets at Otavalo. We arrived around 9:00am, had a quick breakfast, and then hit the market stalls.
The day before, a friend from work and I went to the Mariscal market in Quito to price-check all the goods there to have an idea of which goods would be cheaper in Quito and which would be cheaper in Otavalo. Without even bargaining, we got some pretty good asking prices that served us well as a great frame of reference for the Otavalo shopping adventure. The Otavalo Saturday market is a pretty big tourist attraction and because of this, I think a lot of the similar goods that you could find in Quito were a bit overpriced, although there is a larger selection for jewelry in Otavalo (and the prices were not bad with a bit of bargaining). We were able to do some pretty good bargaining and walked away with a backpack full of pretty cool stuff.
There were a lot of cool things in the market and we had fun just wandering around and bargaining with the shop owners. Some of the extranjeros in our group thought that bargaining too much was a bad thing and insulting, but the bargaining is part of the fun and the experience. The starting price is always too high and especially if you are willing to buy more than one item, the final price will likely be significantly lower. Also, if you stick to your offered price, are determined, and willing to walk away if it isn't lowered, venders may accept your original offered price (which is a win for you). The pictures here are only a few kinds of goods at the market (lots more things than this, obviously, but the pathways between the stalls are tight and I didn't want to have my camera out everywhere).
After our market shopping experience and a quick lunch, our big group split up. My friend and I had already been to Cotacachi and Cuicocha, so we stayed in the Otavalo area and headed to the Peguche Waterfalls, about a 5 minute taxi ride south of the town. There is a tiny town (called Peguche) which is pretty poor - just a dusty little place with cinderblock houses and tin roofs. You enter the park through a gate that was built in 1613 by enslaved indigenous men, women, and children. After the gate, you walk a bit through the park on a cobblestone pathway. The park is free to enter and it was cool to see all of the Ecuadorian families out in the park playing soccer, having picnics, and just enjoying themselves.
The waterfall itself is a tourist attraction so the area right by the falls has a pretty mixed crowd. But the waterfall also has spiritual significance related to the Inti Raymi festival. Festival participants bathe in the ice cold water to cleanse themselves before the festival. It was pretty cool to be able to see the waterfall knowing this having seen one day of the festival earlier in one of our weekend trips. There are some trails leading around the falls so we were able to hike up to the top of the falls as well as hike a bit in the forest to see the falls from a distance.