Otavalo Markets 

We left Emma and Bill in Banos and headed north to Otavalo where supposedly the biggest market in South America occurs every Saturday. The bus trip was 6 and a half hours of uneventfulness which included not seeing the Volcano Cotapaxi again as it was covered in clouds.
The next morning we went for a wander around the town and inspected the market. There is a permanent one there everyday but it just swells into the neighboring streets on Saturday. We seemed to be the only gringos around so were chased around the market by the sellers trying to get us to buy. It was quite amusing but again I find it quite uncomfortable bartering and there were a few times where my original price was accepted so I knew I was not going low enough. Their wares where beautiful, especially their tapestries and alpaca blankets with wonderful Aztec designs on them. If I had the room I would have bought so many. We walked away with our pockets a little lighter and a handmade tapestry in our bag.
We then decided to head up to a bird rehabilitation park we had heard about up in the hills surrounding the town. The drive up was beautiful with little farm lands surrounded by beautiful towering peaks and a lake.
The bird sanctuary was a Spanish villa with stunning gardens. The entrance fee of $4 each was pretty steep we thought but I suppose you are contributing to a good cause as the spiel we read in Lonely planet says they rehabilitate birds of prey.
We had a walk around the Avery and saw all sorts of birds from owls to Hawks to condors. All the signs were in Spanish so we weren’t sure but it seemed more like a zoo than a rehabilitation center. I don’t really like seeing any bird in a cage let alone large ones but maybe these ones couldn’t go back into the wild for some reason.
There was a bird show happening so we made our way to the pavilion overlooking the valley. On the way we passed an enclosure with two Andean condors in there. Up close they are giant! Standing around a metre tall. Further around we came to an enclosure with 2 bald headed eagles and several other eagles and hawks. These were all chained to a perch by their feet with about a meter rope for them to move. This was quite confronting and a little sad really. We sat down for the show and soon discovered that the birds that were chained were the ones that were in the show. It was pretty impressive to see such big birds flying so close to you. We had seen quite a few bald headed eagles in the wild in America but never this close. Again the show was all in Spanish so we couldn’t figure out why these birds were not being rehabilitated and instead being used for the show. All in all we were a little disappointed with it but the birds themselves were spectacular! 
Upon returning to the town we went for a drink or two watching the hustle and bustle of the market and the immense job of packing up that is done after every day. They take getting everything to the car in one go to a new level! 
During the day near the square there was a little concert being set up and we soon realized it was to get donations for the earthquake. They were collecting basics like water and toilet paper. Tim went in and asked what was the best thing to buy and the man said anything medical. So we went to the pharmacy and purchased a whole box of antibiotics. It’s so funny what you can just go in and ask for over the counter here! The music at the concert was Andean folk which of course included pan pipes.
Bill and Emma arrived that night so the next day we were off to see the giant market all together. Well it didn’t disappoint as it really had spilled out in all directions around the central market. The other market that happens on Saturday just down the road was the animal market where all manner of animals are bought and sold. I was a little apprehensive to say the least about visiting this market, but was pleasantly surprised with the upkeep of the animals. Except maybe the chickens, they seemed to get the raw end of the stick.
Cows, pigs, goats, Guinea pig, puppies, chickens, chicks and quail were all for sale and the hustle and bustle and bartering was something to behold. That market was definitely for the locals! S So this was our best glimpse of Cotopaxi.    
This owl was at the entrance to welcome us into the bird sanctuary.

A fantastic backdrop for the show.

Nice shots of the birds in flight.

Sarah practicing.

A fairly large bald headed eagle.

The suburbs of Otavalo.

Otavalo city itself.

Some of the crafts for sale, the blankets caught Sarah’s eye.  Unfortunately just too big to lug around.

A huge variety of stuff for sale.

These ladies were sat comparing purchases.

Stubborn beast.

Selling leads for a whole variety of animals.

It was truly fantastic eyeing what people had bought.

The chicken man.

A girl buying a chick. 50 cents.

Haggling over a Guinea pig.

This man was leading his bull home.

And that’s all over.  A man taking his entire stall home in one go

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