With only a couple weeks left in Cotacachi, time is starting to move fast and it’s packed with huge events like the boys finishing the hardest school year I pray they ever have, Inti Raymi’s fanfare- and fear, and the Cotacachi anniversary celebration. Amidst all of it though, one thing we all agreed HAD to be done one more time before we left was a return visit to Parque Cóndor just outside of Otavalo. It is a non-profit refuge for birds of all kinds and plays host to two Andean Condors, which is the national bird of Ecuador and the BIGGEST we have ever seen! Birds that can be rehabilitated are released back into the wild, those that cannot are treated like kings in this high Andean paradise and some even treat visitors to see them in flight up close and personal during one of 2 exhibitions a day, 11:30 and 2:30 –not to be missed if you’re planning a trip up there.
It was our first visit to Parque Cóndor back in February when we were just scouting out this area that really flipped the switch in our hearts to choose this as our home for our time spent in Ecuador. Volcán Imbabura, that we see out our window from the apartment, seems so close from there with steep green pastures and fields that defy modern agricultural practices. And from the park’s high vantage point you can look out over Lago San Pablo, into the bustling market town of Otavalo, and even, we now know, down into Cotacachi’s green valley. It was a joy to return to this special spot and soak up its tranquillity one more time…
Otavalo was not originally high on our list, simply because we thought we wanted to try on a different climate all together from what we’d known before high in the Colorado Rockies. That was silly. We are mountain people. And Otavalo’s countryside was a balm to our senses from the word go. I’ve included Cotacachi in this option because they are next door neighbors to each other and both communities somewhat bleed into the other. For example, they both host strong, and dare we say- prosperous, indigenous communities that still hold to their native dress and customs. In Otavalo, they are famous for their amazing textile work that is displayed every day in “Plaza de Poncho” but really on point during the Saturday market – an event that draws people from all over South America and the world. Cotacachi is smaller than Otavalo, its indigenous known for their leather works as opposed to textiles. It also has more of an expat community that could make our short stay for language learning easier, in that a network is already established for finding rentals, putting the boys in school, and taking language courses ourselves. Not only does this high Andean countryside suit our sensibilities tremendously, but Otavalo’s people are by far the friendliest we’ve met in all of Ecuador. Its streets are cleaner and its traffic is borderline easy. Cotacachi boasts the same, save the traffic- Cotacachi’s traffic is even calmer and peppered with the occasional horse or family herding sheep. These two towns are about an 8 minute and $5 taxi ride apart or 20min. and .25 on the bus. So, they are billed here as a shared option.
Otavalo’s Main Square:
The other mothers at Otavalo’s Playground:
View over Otavalo from rooftop of our hotel.
Cotacachi Main Square
indigenous Couple in Cotacachi’s main square on a Sunday morning:
Pros: Beautiful countryside, friendly people, peaceful pace, just 2 hours from Quito’s international airport, good school for the boys, resources for finding a home and setting up a life.
Cons: Only things that are standard Ecuador (and I suspect standard for all developing countries anywhere). Trash, glass shards sticking up from people’s concrete fences, dangerous taxi drivers, stray dogs everywhere…