The Quiet Side of Ecuador
On Saturday, we exchanged the cement buildings and blaring car honks for expanses of cornfields and natural sounds as we journeyed three hours on the winding, switchback mountain highways of Ecuador to the city of Otavalo. Located about 100 kilometers northeast of Quito in the Imbabura province of Ecuador, Otavalo is well known for its open-air market in the city center.
There, explosions of color, sounds of music, and smells of roasting meat overload the senses, yet entice visitors to continue deeper and deeper into the maze of the market to admire all the handcrafted jewelry, alpaca clothing and woven bags. Hearing the occasional English phrase in passing from visiting tourists was also a welcome surprise in the huge local market.
Although we had an hour and a half to wander the claustrophobic aisles, it wasn’t nearly enough time to see all that the artisans had to offer, and we continued on our way to Cuicocha, about 10 miles from Otavalo. During our drive, we passed through several quaint towns with a more European feel. The landscape, where mountains disappeared into the clouds and lush vegetation extended as far as the eye could see, was breathtaking, and it was intriguing to see how the mostly indigenous population lived in seeming symbiosis with the land.
Once in Cuicocha, we visited a lagoon that sits on top of an active volcano and took a boat ride around the water, where we could see bubbles still rising from the vents below the surface. Simply magnificent. Neither words nor photos can fully capture the rugged beauty we witnessed, but we appreciated getting to see and interact with the landscapes and people of Ecuador for the day.
Images and text by Adrienne Haney, Pulitzer Center student fellow, Elon University. Ecuador, 2014.
Read more from Addie and Kate Riley, her reporting partner on the forthcoming project, “Education in Ecuador.”