Sunday, September 03, 2006

Yamor Festival and market fever in Otavalo, Ecuador

The trip has finally begun, - in the northern part of Ecuador, in an indigenous city named Otavalo. Otavalo is placed 2450 meters above sea-level, in a valley surrounded by big mountains and volcanoes. The weather has an average of 14 degrees all year round because we are less than an hour from the equator. We love it up here.

We arrived only a few days ago (Friday afternoon) but so much has happened.
The city is in the middle of celebrating the Yamor Festival, which is a 2-week long festival with everything from exciting typical food, dances, parades, queen-crowning and processions.
We arrived just in time to see the opening parade which was amazing - much bigger than we had expected. All the neighbour villages had each prepared a show, - inspired by the inheritance of the region. For example: the Indians, Spaniards, folk dancers, cowboys etc. A great way for us to get an introduction to the history and culture of the region.

The people from Otavalo are wonderful. The locals (Indians) make us feel very welcome and safe in their city. They show a true pride in their inheritance through their clothing. Woman wear long black skirts, embroidered white blouses, golden necklaces (the more - the better) and a head scarf. The men have a long pigtail, wear white trousers, hat and a dark blue poncho. Surrounded by these locals make us feel how unique this place is, which is so different from anything we have ever experienced.

Yamor - which is the centre of the festival is a drink made by five different corn-types. Of cause we had to taste it... we could not really figure out if it tasted more like a monkey cage, fermented sugar cane or a horse. Bad for sure!! :-) Having said that, we should also mention that the Yamor is the only food we haven’t loved here. We have so far tasted white corns, unpopped fried pop-corn, potato soup with chunks of blood-sausages and a lot of corn bread. We do a great effort to dig up the local places when it comes to food, which seems to pay of, since they are half the price of the tourist places (1 dollar for a whole meal) and probably twice as tasty!

Otavalo is the centre of THE biggest and most beautiful market in South America. At least - so they say, - and so far we agree with them. It takes place on Saturdays and really cries for attention with all the colourful ponchos, carpets, paintings, and tons of other things. We had to restrain ourselves not to become shop maniacs... the thought of having to carry eventually shopped goods for more than three months on the bag seem to help.

Most of the goods are produced by the locals themselves. They have developed a weaving technique that dates back to the Incas which they deserve to be famous for.
Together with a knowledgeable guide we visited five of the neighbouring villages to see how the locals produce their handicraft - and to get a better understanding of the local life and culture. It was a good experience which gave us an insight of both the beauty and the poverty of this region. The poverty and low education results in for example bad nutrition – which is the reason why many of the locals are not taller than 1.20 meters… We must truly look like giants…

So far we have enjoyed every bit of our trip. We are still in the process of getting used to, that everything doesn’t work out as planned, but despite that, everything is incredible.
The next days will bring us to Quito (the capital of Ecuador). Depending on the volcano eruptions down south, we will plan the further route around Ecuador.


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