Today we left the majestic city of Quito, as our beloved guide, Santiago, took us to a few lovely and unique places to buy alpaca goods, interact with locals, and explore a smaller town that is famous for its exquisite leather work! To begin with, the journey itself was a pretty one - with many small everyday moments to be witnessed all around us as we took in the culture and daily life and habits of the locals as well as the countryside and architecture as we traveled...
At the Otavalo handicraft markets, our students practiced their Spanish and bartered with locals for handicrafts and souvenirs. Nearly 2/3 of our group walked away with alpaca sweaters while all of us found something brightly-colored and soft to cal our own by the end of the day!
We then made a stop in a very small town on our way to Cotacachi to meet the women who run the Gran Condor Artesan shop... It was a collective of local women who hand-make alpaca, llama, and wool products of the highest quality... They gave us a demonstration on weaving, prepping wool and threads, and dying colors for the products using only elements found in nature and indigenous to their habitat.
Finally we made it on to Cotacachi where we ate lunch as a group and several of our students tried eating cuy (Guinea pig) for their first time. They had mixed reactions, but Nathan actually ordered and ate an entire cuy by himself! :-) we then explored Cotacachi and their small market and numerous leather stores before returning to Quito to eat and sleep for the night.