Otaval's main attractions are Plaza Centenario and Plaza de los Ponchos. Here are craftsmen display their products. On Saturday, stands are erected in surrounding streets. It is really crowded here. Stands are everywhere as well as many tourists who travel to Otavalo to see Otavalo markets on a one day trip from Quito. Bus rides here for about two hours, so the area is easy to reach. If you like to buy souvenirs this is one of the best and cheapest ways. So many clothes, scarfs, fashion jewellery, everything in colors typical for local culture. At the end we find out, that the stands are mostly the same and that not everything is hand-made. You can also buy here fruits, vegetables, and food. You can stay there all day long. Majority of the vendors are women and we soon find out where all the men are. There are on local pitch inside a building. There are really only the men, players and spectators. We are quite surprised that they play volleyball with a soccer ball.
As the day is coming to an end, vendors pack things and leave as well as tourists do. Everything calms down around here so we can enjoy the traditional atmosphere and life of the locals. Otavalo is a modern city. Several buildings here are of colonnial era. There are churches in the city center as well; San Luis, San Francisco, and El Jordan are some of them. These are the oldest and most frequented for their distinct architectonic features and statues.
The cemetery is worth visiting. There are two cemeteries in Otaval. One is a MEstizo cemetery, the other one is an Indian cemetery – Cementerio Indigena. Here you can observe traditions and habits of Indian ancestors. Every Monday and Thursday is a a day of visiting the deceased, and also on 2nd of November every year. Indians bring food to the cemetery. They put food on the graves and eat the food they brought for themselves. They feast like this here and drink sweet soda drinks sold at a stand. We watch people to come and buy large packages of six and then leave to eat with their families at a grave.
There are options to make trips into the surroundings of Otaval. Mostly, people go to see Cascada de Peguche waterfall. Peguche is an Indian community that live 20 minutes from the city. They are known for being skillful artists, and they ethnic music. The waterfall is about 1.5 kilometers away from the community, and 3.3 kilometres from Otavalo. There is beautiful nature leading to the waterfall which is very frequented. On our way, we also spot a pool with locals bathing. It is sort of local spa. The waterfall is about 20 meters high. Another one, a smaller one is only 6 meters above the main waterfall. A path for pedestrians leads there. People take pictures of themselves there and take a swim. Or, they soak their head at least. Even little children bath there. This surprises me because it is only around 15 °C. People believe a center of energy surrounds the waterfall. Therefore, they visit the waterfall during the Inti Raymi celebrations to cleanse themselves. Solstice celebrations take place from the 21st to the 29th of June. They alway begin ritual spa bathing (Armay Chishi). The ritaul is spiritual cleansing of the entire human being, it renews energy, and revives links to the mother nature. In Otaval, the ritual spa takes place by PEguche waterfall at the midnight of 21st of June.
By the waterfall, you can walk down to Laguna de San Pablo situated on teh foothills of the majestic Imbabura volcano. around the lake, there is reinforced road. Another tribal communities live there. People wear baskets on their back with wood inside. They wash clothers in the stream or lake. Smiling people sit on truck decks of cars passing by. They play on guitar and sing for they celebrate a wedding. We hailed a bus which then takes us back to the city center.
Text and photos: Tomáš Novák
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