Today we went on an excursion to Otavalo, which is the location of one of the biggest markets in South America. Otavalo is about 3 hours north of Quito, and we arrived there around noon. First we visited the animal market where the local farmers trade and sell animals. It was very interesting to see how differently livestock is treated here, and I would hate to see how a PETA representative would have reacted. I was tempted to buy an alpaca, and one member of our group bought a bunny for only $4. Afterwards we moved on to the plaza de los ponchos, which was a maze of vendors selling handmade crafts. There was some amazing handmade artwork, and you couldn't even dream of the low prices they were selling for in the US. I had a lot of fun bargaining with the vendors and I left with gifts for everyone back home. One of my favorite gifts is a hand-knitted llama sweater made from alpaca fur, and I was able to bargain the original price in half!
After we were all done shopping we ate lunch at a restaurant in the plaza and then made our way to the nearby waterfall. Even though it was the fifth waterfall we've seen in two weeks, it was still an amazing sight and we climbed so close to it that the mist coming off the rocks soaked us. Afterwards we drove to a lake which was close by to go on a boat ride. The lake happened to be at the foot of a volcano, and the view on the lake looked like one from a Lord of the Rings movie. By the time we got back on the bus, we were all exhausted and slept all the way home. It was an awesome excursion, and I will never forget Otavalo!
I have two weeks left in Quito, and I am going to make the most out of it as humanly possible! I have dramatically improved my Spanish speaking skills, and I am even starting to dream in Spanish. I plan on making every second I have left count so that I can benefit as much as possible from this trip. Tomorrow Ecuador plays its first game in the World Cup, and this city is going to go completely nuts. Andres and I plan on going to the mall to watch the game on a giant screen so that we can witness the insanity of world cup soccer in South America. Many deserters in our group are pulling for other teams such as the Netherlands and Germany, but I’m staying loyal to lady liberty and I’m choosing to go down with the ship. Go USA!!!