Otavallo is located at an altitude of 2532 meters above sea level and has about 40,000 inhabitants. Tourists visiting the city are generally advised to drink a coca tea a day. The coca plant, otherwise known as a raw ingredient for the production of cocaine, shows a far weaker effect as the chemical drug and supports the body in adapting to the thin ambient air. We only tried the coca-tea later in Papallacta (3600 m) – it helps and no, it does not have an intoxicating effect. You can buy the drink in almost every shop and there are even running traders who only make their money by selling the tea. But, you should be careful when leaving the country. The tea is only allowed in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Ecuador.
Among the attractions of the city is mainly the nature surrounding it. Surrounded by three volcanoes – Imbabura, Cotacachi and Mojanda – the town offers waterfalls, lakes and endless hiking trails in the mountains. Every Saturday the Indio market takes place in the Plaza de Ponchos in the city center. It is one of the best-known tourist attractions in the country and offers the perfect opportunity for souvenir shopping. At peak times, it swells to a third of the city area and offers fruits, vegetables and spices to clothing, toys and gemstones. Kind of everything a tourist would buy – me a hammock, for example. Otherwise, I can recommend the coffee from the region. In my opinion, that’s the best.
As a small excursion we took a cab (5 USD) to the Condor Park. This belongs to a European and is home to sick or neglected found birds that can no longer be reintroduced to the wild. The animals are kept in cages and some of them are freed for the bird show. The terrain is relatively impassable paved but well maintained and offers an incredible view of the surroundings. With four dollars, the entry is not high and completely justified. Unfortunately, the signs and the air show are only in Spanish, but the visit is still interesting anyway. To observe the animals up close is especially impressive with the namesake of the park, the Andean condor. With a wingspan of up to 3.2 m, it is an impressive animal but unfortunately not part of the bird show.
As it is near the road to the Condor Park, we spontaneously visited “El Lechero”. That´s a tree with reputed healing powers. As we didn´t want to keep the taxi driver waiting, we only spend a few minutes there. It´s a nice view but not more, as the tree is currently fenced due to damage. There´s a picture in the gallery. As always, you can zoom in and out on the left side of the pic.
We traveled the whole country by bus and got a few impressions. The system is not European standard and stops are not always recognizable as such, but, overall, you can get from city to city easily. The buses often have a air conditioning that´s too cold, loud Spanish music roaring from the speakers and snack vendors constantly walking back and forth in the narrow corridor of the vehicle. In exchange, you get a beautiful landscape to see and easily in touch with other travelers.
Generally, I would prefer to travel during the day, at least when you´ve got your own car. Not only because of the beautiful view but the streets are hardly lit at night, the road quality ranges from fresh paved to bad dirt road (sometimes a few times within a few steps) and there are no signs, warning you of any issues of the road system. The experienced bus driver of course knows where a piece of road is missing or where a big pothole is, the tourist does not.
From Otovallo we went to Tena and past our last stop of the trip on the way. Tena is also called the “Gate to the Amazon”. More about this in my next post!