Otavalo day 3, Cotocachi by bus, raptors, and El Lechero, the healing tree

We slept so well last night, and didn’t rush to get out this morning. We stopped at the coffee stand again and also at the chulero vendor’s, then we walked to the bus station, where we got a very crowded bus for Cotocachi, famous for its leather wares. We planned to go to their market, which is on Sunday, today.

Upon entering Cotocachi, many people got off at a stop clearly near the center, so we got off too. It turned out NOT to be the market, but we walked up to a church square and around the block, to find a cash machine. I find it interesting how many of the churches here have humongous Jesus statues on their steeples. There are lots of giant Jesuses on hilltops as well, reminiscent of Rio de Janeiro, although obviously nowhere so large.

We found a cafe, Serendipity, that also turned out to be an expat hangout and organic shop as well. We had a delicious second breakfast (if you count chuleros and coffee as first) there, and chatted very briefly with a friendly real estate agent, who gave us his card in parting. This guy may have one of the best names I’ve ever seen, so I’ll put it here: Orburn Bloodworth. Amazing!

Although we were very taken with the ambience of Cotocachi in general, their market turned out to be a food market, with different sections for fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, cheeses, grains, etc. It was covered and very tidy, but the leather goods were nowhere to be seen.

The leather, as it turned out, was entirely in the shops along Calle 10 de Agosto. I was hoping to find a light leather jacket that I liked, similar to the fake leather one I’ve got, but which would breathe better. We went in every store. There were many options, but I liked very few of them. I finally found one I liked, but it was one of he most poorly-made I’d seen, and I decided I didn’t need something that would fall apart so soon.

We had a little more of a walk around the center, where I saw this gorgeous door. This circle was about half a meter wide. And then we returned to Otavalo.

This time, we took the taxi straight to El Lechero first. I tried to get a picture of Otavalo from the taxi, but we were climbing up steep inclines with lots of sharp turns, so it’s a little angled. Still, imagine living in this beautiful place!

The taxi didn’t take us all the way to the tree. He took us to the bottom of the turnoff, and we walked from there. I’m not sure why, because other people drove up while we were there, and I was visibly limping from having twisted my ankle quite badly this morning. Still, it was pretty, and maybe it’s just part of the experience.

I wanted to ask someone why El Lechero is magical, or why it is the healing tree. My guidebook only says that about it. I feel there must be a story. However, it is beautiful, and stands alone on a hilltop. As we arrived, a bridal couple were leaving, having taken photos there.

We took turns standing under it, alone and together, and mostly just appreciated the view. Someone burns things in the base of the tree. It was charred and smelled of recent fire. Yet the tree lives and looks vigorous. Maybe that’s what makes it magical.

We weren’t the only people up there enjoying the view. There was a family picnicking just below the tree looking out at Lago San Pablo and the mountains, and more arrived soon after.

After visiting the tree, we hiked up the hill another kilometer and some to El Parque de Condor. This was really hard on my ankle, and we were almost late for the show. On the way we passed an old woman who was carrying a huge pile of flowered plants on her back. We watched a young man help her stand up after tying them on, and we expressed amazement at her achievement as we briefly walked along together. She was laughing and friendly, but I didn’t ask if I could take her picture, although it was quite a sight.

The condor center is pretty impressive, built on the top of a high hill and beautifully designed with stone paths and walls, lovely flowers, and huge enclosures for the birds. We went immediately to the amphitheater, which overlooks the valley with a good drop off, for the show. The birds came out in size order until the end, and all of them flew over the valley many times. Matt was very impressed with the colors on this little guy, who was the first one to be shown.

The center is Dutch-run, and I believe this guy was Dutch, although speaking Spanish for the presentation, because we clearly heard him chastise one of the birds with “kom op, kom op!” at one point.

Unless I’m remembering wrong, this one was the gringa, who was acquired from North America, although I didn’t catch the whole story. The Spanish was fast, and a lot, and it was windy so I didn’t catch everything.

I have a whole pile of pictures like this, because the birds were beautiful and I was playing with my zoom lens.

At the very end, they brought out an owl and two small kestrels (I think they were kestrels), and let anyone who wanted, especially the children, come forward and hold them.

After the show, we went around and took some glamour shots of the birds in their enclosures.

Here’s the Andean Condor, of which there were two, in its cage. They didn’t fly the condor for the show. Probably it’s potentially dangerous for various reasons.

We took a taxi back to the hostal after walking around a bit, and Matt got some ice for my ankle. We rested a while, had dinner in the hotel restaurant again, because it’s so good, and planned our last couple of days.

Tomorrow we leave for an overnight in Quito where we will check out a chocolate factory and take a day trip to see El Mitad del Mundo monument before heading off for a day and a half at the hot springs in Papallacta, to read before the journey home.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Otavalo, Ecuador