Shopping Spree

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This blog entry about the events of Friday, October 24, 2003 was originally posted on October 25, 2003.

DAY 6:  A rooster crowed around 5am and wouldn’t stop until we had no choice but to get up.  Navid sat in his bed all groggy-eyed.  “I hope that rooster ends up in a cock fight today.”

Once an empty city on a Friday night, Otavalo becomes a jammed marketplace on a Saturday morning.  Villagers from near and far set up their stands to sell anything and everything, from fine alpaca woolen hats to fresh pig heads.  Gringos come to these markets to bargain the former and cringe at the latter.

We started our wanderings of the famous Otavalo markets at the animal market which — you guessed it — is where you can buy live animals for meat, pets or sexual-deviant things whose pictures require adult ID checks on the internet.  A crowded area with cow and pig feces everywhere, villagers came to sell their livestock.  The sounds of pig squeals and cow moos filled the air, with an occasional “baaaa” from a sheep

Interested in the price of really fresh beef and pork, I used my limited Spanish to ask around prices.  Cows run about $120-$150 while pigs range from $25-$30 (US) — although those prices are probably marked up since they figured I was a gringo.  But think of all the hamburgers and pork chops!

Navid and I went off to the food market, full of many different fruits on one side, and meats on the other.  It was sort of like a supermarket without the annoying Musak or pimply-faced teenage cashiers. 

The meat “department” could make any carnivore a vegetarian; I saw sheep carcasses without the heads, chicken heads without their bodies, cows’ eyes and piles of various unrecognizable cow pieces that I’m guessing will eventually end up in a hot dog somewhere.

At the Plaza des Ponchos, we wandered the rows and rows of stands selling woven goods.  Navid bargained down a woven alpaca woolen hat from $6 to $3.50, while I went browsing for other hats.  I recalled an episode of Globe Trekker when Justine Shapiro was at these same markets buying a genuine Panama hat (made in Ecuador but made famous by Panama) and I saw many stands that sold them.  But I noticed that none of the locals wore them, and they were a total tourist thing.  So I decided to buy one of the hats that the locals wear, a short-brimmed fedora, and bargained one down from $10 to $6.  I wore the fedora in attempts to blend in with the indigenous people, but it was no mistaking I wasn’t from around there when either Navid or I busted out our big SLR cameras or mini-camcorders.


THERE’S ONLY SO MUCH PRETENDING TO SHOP you can do, so we pretty much just had a lazy afternoon, just wandering town and its Plaza Bolivar, and hanging out in the backyard of the hostel.  I lay in a hammock reading a book while Pablo, the happy adolescent son of the family-owned hostal, was using a hair dryer to start a fire on a grill.  He and his friend Christian grilled up some platanos, which they shared with us.  Nancy, the little 9-year-old daughter that we met the night before, was just playing around and we shot some hoops with her at the small basketball court.

The Otavalo markets pretty much died down by 4pm when all the gringo daytour buses leave.  Most of the other stores closed by 7pm and there wasn’t much to do.  We went to the meat market for dinner and found a place that served cuy, deep fried guinea pig — an Andean delicacy famous in Ecuador.  Say what you will about eating rodents, but I’m of the mentality that anything that is fried must taste good.  To avoid the clich’, “tastes like chicken,” I’ll say that it’s chicken that tastes like cuy.  I recommend you go out to the pet store and get some now, before Colonel Sanders catches on.

We went out to a couple of bars for drinks to kill time until the nighttime cockfights, at a small arena near the meat market, which is a pretty convenient place for a cockfight arena if you ask me.  The crowd of locals and a handful of gringos sat around the ring to cheer on their favorite rooster.  Owners brought their birds to the ring and had them taunt each other, until they were let loose to fight to the death — sort of like Pokemon but with a lot more blood and no weird animals called “Squirtle.” 

The cockfights went all night, but the period of time in between fights for preparation and betting was excruciatingly long (about half an hour), and we left after two fights.  We never did find out if one of the losers was the one that woke us up so early that morning.






Next entry: Money Matters

Previous entry: Class Trip, Road Trip




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Comments for “Shopping Spree”

  • Roosters are better than suburban weed whackers.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  03:28 PM


  • Hey Mr. E

    PC and Ant are here, and I am kinda proud of their bargaining prowess. I am sure they would have got that fedora for much less. Keep on trying, your skills can only improve.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  04:11 PM


  • more BLUE = more photos.  yippee!

    the link to the “sheep carcasses w/out the heads” was missing.. or maybe it’s my dysfunctional computer? anyhow, it’s quite alright ‘cuz the pics of “chicken heads w/out their bodies” & “cows’ eyes…” made me wanna puke. eew!! ...and guinea pig?? no thanks, i’ll stick w/manok!

    you should buy a donkey next time you go to an animal market. it can be your transportation around s. america. smile

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  05:31 PM


  • That picture of the fried Guneia Pig looked ghoulish!

    You are a lot braver than I, pal!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  08:18 PM


  • dood…pic of the sheep carcasses didn’t link!  i wanna see!! love them pics…even if you are in the picture…hahah…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  08:32 PM


  • The sheep carcass is now online for your viewing pleasure!

    Dusty:  Ecuador is one of the more expensive SA countries since they switched to the US dollar…  but I’ll try my best to go lower next time!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  09:24 PM


  • moman:  there is more to international cuisine than aussie meat pies…  perhaps you should served cuy on your bronxtour…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  09:31 PM


  • Oh yeah!  You finally had Cuy!  ?Por Fin!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  10:28 PM


  • Erik,
    New York won’t be the same this Holloween without it’s nuts :-(

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  10:32 PM


  • Hey E smile Very cool to get to read about your adventures in travel. I am thoroughly enjoying it! The mangled animal pictures were lovely. The cow was so gross. I see that you don’t seem to be having any problems uploading pictures onto the computer. Do you use one of those USB card readers?

    Can’t wait to read on smile

    p.s. How’s the vid cam working out?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  10:39 PM


  • hmm, your meat market pictures are very richard misrach. you could have paid less for the fedora though. next time, try to heckle some more.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  10:51 PM


  • alright sheep carcass!!...i just wanna deep fry that shit and eat it up!!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  11:15 PM


  • Hey,

      that sounds like a good idea Erik—except it’ll have to be good ol’ subway RAT, of course!! grin

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  12:03 AM


  • Hey, Bud,

    You are only a week there & it looks like you put on some lbs. already.

    Que lo paso bien, pero porta te bien.


    con amor,
    mama

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  12:54 AM


  • nice fodora…I’m jealous. After looking at the headless sheep, I know what I’ll have for dinner tommorrow. Cockfights….seems very Seinfeld to me. Keep up the good work!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  01:27 AM


  • Dude, you rock! I can only second what everyone is saying both about your blogs and your adventure. The pics are priceless.. here’s looking forward to a rendezvous somewhere in the future!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  02:56 AM


  • Homer Simpson voice: “Mmm?deep fried rodent?”

    Posted by dunlavey  on  10/26  at  03:50 AM


  • Dewbie:  so far I’m regretting having lugged all this equipment.  as of now, i’m thinking of sending my computer home after all my pending projects are done…  as long as an internet cafe has windows xp on it, my little camera just mounts up with no problem…  finding a cafe with xp is the tricky part, but i haven’t had a problem yet.  i’ve only used the camcorder sparingly because it really does make you stand out more than you need to.  BUT, that I think i’ll hang on for a while and see how it goes…

    the rest:  thanks guys!  glad to hear you like my adventures… (well, i edited out all the boring stuff)

    mom:  yes, perhaps I’ll GAIN weight in latin america…everywhere you go, they serve eggs and chicken!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  12:10 PM


  • The poor aminals…
    I’m catching up on your posts now.  Sounds like you’re having a blast!  Oo oo, if you send my sissy a postcard, can you send me one too?  :}

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  07:30 PM


  • I’m glad you FINALLY were able to eat guinea pig… i wonder if there a popular “pet” in CO? yum!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  09:03 PM


  • I’m reading and loving it!  So sorry I never made the goodbye party- but I was home hacking half a lung that nigiht.  HOw’s it looking for Tanzania 2004?  Don’t forget!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  09:15 PM


  • Wow, you certainly are keeping busy working while you travel. Just how many pending projects do you have? Also what type of digital camera do you have? I’ve been looking for a good one with a reasonable price of course, to take the place of my digital camcorder plan. Any thoughts if you have a moment? Thanks smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/27  at  05:09 AM


  • did you know that south american livestock has a 275% mark-up in the states due to the fact that they are mostly raised free-range and enhancer free?

    i say, buy a cow and send it to your mom.

    Posted by hanalei  on  10/27  at  05:06 PM


  • okay, now I’ve been at work 2 hours and haven’t done a lick of work as I’m reading your blog.

    You look oh so cute in the hat.  You’re a hottie yourself!!!!

    Fried Guinea Pig was gross.  Thanks I’ll see that in my mind all day…....

    Keep up the good work.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/30  at  05:40 PM


  • Dewbie:  the absolute camera of choice so far out of the three I have, is my tiny spy camera, the sony dsc-u30…its as big as a cigarette lighter, does 2.0 mpx, and is only about 200 bucks US…you can even get it at Target…  i have it whenever, whereever, and its the reason why i’ve been able to have so many pictures on the blog so far…

    SOCALGIRL:  muchas gracias…  i’m here til thursday…try the cuy…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/30  at  09:53 PM


  • All you need is a guinea-Tee to go with your fedora and lunch, and you’ll be mistaken for a Sicilian! Good stuff… I’m devouring the BLOG (sans the greusome pics)!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  06:51 PM


  • nice job with the cuy, hey changing subject, have u gone clubing in quito? i’ve gone to el cerebro, which is in the north side of quito, its nice….......

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/03  at  12:13 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
Money Matters

Previous entry:
Class Trip, Road Trip




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