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Monday 23 Dec 2013
Otavalo, Ecuador

A rose by any other name

Our breakfast was served in the dining room again.  We were sad to say goodbye to such a lovely place - I'd have happily stayed there for a couple of days.  Andreas took us to the main Otavalo indigenous market.  It is biggest on a Saturday, but there are stalls every day selling a variety of local crafts.  The Otavaleños are best known for their weaving, but there were also stalls selling silver jewellery set with polished stones, paintings and wooden carvings.  We limited ourselves to an hour, knowing how little willpower either of us has in such places.  The first stall was a fine example.  We started looking at some light cotton scarves in bright colours, and before we knew it we’d ended up with warm alpaca scarves, pashmina shawls and very nearly a thick soft bedspread, too.  I got away with five scarves instead of the initial three I’d wanted, but I had to walk away from the bedspread on the grounds that I don’t even own a bed!  I was very tempted by some of the paintings, but I’ve learned a lesson from the Bali painting!

Ecuador, the high Andes region in particular, has the perfect climate for growing roses.  Andreas tried to get us a visit to one of the greenhouses nearby, but they were spraying the roses in the morning.  Instead, we stopped off at a little town and went to a florist’s shop.  He showed us the roses that were going to be thrown out because they had passed their best – the buds had begun to open, which meant they could no longer be shipped – but they still looked great to us.  The flowers are harvested with stems at least 1m long to meet the demands of the Russian market, which imports a large share of Ecuador’s roses. They were just unloading a delivery of new roses and Andreas explained that a bunch of 30 long-stemmed roses would usually cost about a dollar, but they had just quoted him $3 because he was with ‘Gringas’.  We almost fell over at $3!  Knowing we would never again buy roses this cheap again, we decided to buy some for ourselves and some to put in Mum and Dad’s room when they arrived.  We chose one white bunch and one with deep velvety red petals.  These were packaged up for us in layers of 5 roses separated by, then encased in, cardboard.  Andreas couldn’t believe it when we then picked two more bunches of the roses that were past their best.  In total, we bought 120 roses for a bargain $9!  We came out of the shop giggling with excitement, while Andreas just shook his head, baffled that we had bought so many roses that would be gone in a week, so we tried to explain that we could never do this at home.  He told us a client had once given him $500 to fill his girlfriend’s room with roses.  Andreas arranged for both the room and the hotel corridor to be filled, kept $100 for himself, and still gave the guy over $100 back in change.

Next door to the flower shop was a biscuit factory.  These biscuits, known as Bizcochio, are a local favourite.  They are flaky, savoury biscuit fingers made by hand and baked over hot coals.  We watched workers rolling the dough and cutting it into strips while we queued up to buy the hot biscuits straight off the baking tray.  We also bought a pot of Dulce de Leche caramel and several fingers of mozzarella to eat with the biscuits at a little table outside.  (I broke my diet to try a couple and they were delicious.)

After that, we crawled through the dreadful Quito traffic for two hours to reach our hotel.  We had a great few days exploring some of Ecuador’s variety, from volcanoes at altitude to roses and waterfalls.  We booked Andreas again for a day trip to the cloud forest on Christmas Day.

I spent the rest of the afternoon separating out the roses and cutting the stems down to a manageable length with my Swiss army knife, giving myself a blister and several thorn pricks in the process.  The roses we'd carried around on our trip were still good enough to add into the bouquets.  We improvised a few vases using the two wastepaper bins in our room and cutting the top off the 5-litre water bottle we’d got through on the trip. We kept two bouquets for our room and the hotel staff let us into Mum and Dad’s room next door to put the red and white roses on display for them.  They weren’t due to land until almost midnight but I waited up for them to arrive.  It was so nice to see them!  They were impressed with the roses (sorry, you’ll know how much they cost now!) and used their bouquet as a makeshift Christmas Tree.  I was a very excited girl to have my parents and best friend here with me at last!

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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #3 Ecuador and Galapagos Islands

Travel blog by zobeedoo

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This is the big highlight of the year. Joined by my parents and reunited with Ailsa, we'll spend Christmas in Quito, then travel to Galápagos for New Year, celebrating in style with a week on the Queen Beatriz catamaran visiting the southern islands.

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