otavalo

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When we were in Otavalo, a short drive south of the Colombian border, I spotted a wool shop that I wanted to check out and then promptly forgot the following day.  Fate must have been thinking that I was in need of a new jacket because Casa Helbling, the hostel we stayed at in Quito, was directly across from the exact same store, Hilana.  Not only do they sell beautiful wool, they make a well-designed selection of wool jackets, slippers, scarves, mittens and much more.  I believe the designer is French but all the materials are sourced from Ecuador.

It was actually Tom who spotted this jacket and suggested I try it on.  The sleeves were a tiny bit short but with a bit of chatting the lady at the shop managed to get the sleeves lengthened in 24 hours.  And I came away with a custom tailored, 100% wool jacket and a couple of skeins of lovely Ecuadorian yarn for $60 USD.

Jacket from Hilana

Thrilled to cross the border from Colombia to Ecuador in less than 45 minutes we continued on our way with our Colombian Tia (aunt).  Having heard that there was a pretty cool cemetery in Tulcan we decided to stop and take a look — we needed a leg stretch anyway.  Chucking all our gear in the car, we grabbed our cameras and entered into a very fantastical funeral site.  A bit like going through the rabbit hole we walked through a large white arch and ended up surrounded by hedges trimmed into all manner of creature.  Angels, Incan symbols, birds and every type of animal are found all over the cemetery.

Senor José Franco began the topiary sculpting in 1936, when the cemetery was started, and his five sons have continued the tradition today.  It was well worth the stop.

After our wander through the Tulcan cemetery we made our way to Otavalo, a smallish town about two hours north of Quito, to catch their massive Saturday market.  We headed out early Saturday morning to find every square inch of the town covered in stands with loads of goods to be unpacked and sold that day. The market is chock full of embroidered blouses, beads, textiles, woolen products and, of course, a whole cheesy assembly of tourist paraphernalia.

One of the benefits of being up early for any market is the chance to be a vendor’s “first sale of the day”.  Most tourists and tour groups have not arrived yet and we managed to get some pretty decent deals as we wandered through the market streets.  And, of course, we had Andres’ Aunt Marta with us who was quick to tell us if someone was asking way too much or whether a price was fair.