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In Otavalo, we checked into the Rincon del Viajero hostel, which had a nice internal courtyard and a very basic continental breakfast included in the price of the room. A fun fact about the Viajero is that all of the paintings have been done directly on the walls, because, rumor has it, the guests were stealing the framed paintings and the owners finally got fed up. I have to admit, they were pretty paintings, but what kind of person stuffs one into her suitcase? That's nuts.
At dinner, I finally got to try llapingachos! They're potato and cheese pancakes and they were great. When they set the plate down, I thought they'd brought me the wrong dish, because it was covered with eggs, meat and French fries. Turns out, those were all side dishes, and the llapingachos were buried underneath.
While we ate, we watched the local soccer match on the enormous flat screen TV that seems to be present in every restaurant here. The funny part was that some sort of party next door was also watching, but our cable had about a 10-seconds delay. This meant that we heard cheering or booing from next door and knew something was going to happen in advance. So much for the surprise of watching a live game!
As we headed back towards the hotel, we searched for our dessert. A bakery was still open that had these awesome looking chocolate parfaits, layered with pudding and whipped cream. Shelley and I each got one and were shocked and horrified to find out that underneath a thin layer of pudding at the top, the rest of the cup was filled with this nasty red and yellow jelly stuff. Barf! So much for that one.
The next day, we hit the markets, which are Otavalo's claim to fame. Every Saturday for hundreds of years, locals have turned half of Otavalo into an enormous market. Ecuadorians from the surrounding areas come to buy and barter for high-quality crafts, livestock, produce, etc. Over the years, the market has become so popular with tourists that an abbreviated version is held on the other six days a week. I really would have preferred to see the big hoopla on Saturday, but our schedule just wouldn't allow it.
At the market, we saw all of the usual embroidered tablecloths, alpaca sweaters, watercolor paintings, stuffed toy llamas and knickknacks of every variety. There weren't any local shoppers, just lots of tourists browsing for souvenirs. I agree with my guidebook that the goods were of a slightly higher quality than what we'd found so far, but I don't know that they were fantastic enough to justify a special stop. Maybe I'm just spoiled from all of the fantastic shopping in Peru and Argentina.
In the afternoon, we found our way to the Shenandoah Pie Shop, located on the edge of the Plaza de los Ponchos, where the market is held. Despite the store's official late hours, it hadn't been open the night before and didn't open that day until mid-afternoon. Boy, was I glad when I finally saw the security gate lifted!
The Pie Shop sells regular food like hamburgers that's received mixed reviews, but everyone adores the pies. The little old lady who owns the place was a hoot. She was very cheerful and helped us to make our tough decisions! I had lemon meringue and the girls had different kinds of berries. I was also sorely tempted by the passion fruit and the chocolate meringue. Yum-O!
There's some good hiking around Otavalo, as well as a "magic tree" that grants good luck, but we had to get back to Quito, in preparation for our flight to Guayaquil the next day. Our time in South America was almost over.