We headed into Ecuador to a small town called Otavalo. As soon as you cross into Ecuador, the landscape changes from the steep mountains in Colombia to rolling hills dedicated to farming.
We rented a very small cabana (called the Hobbit House for good reason) on the outskirts of town. The property was on a hilltop surrounded by three volcanoes and our instinct when we arrived there was to sing something from the Sound Of Music...
Otavalo is known for hosting the largest crafts market in South America on Saturdays and it was outrageous! The entire town turns into one big outdoor market and even the most steely of shoppers can't help but blow a decent amount of cash as the deals are just too good. Everything is handmade and the vendors are great to chat with.
However, before we hit the market we stopped by the local animal market that goes on in the early hours of every Saturday. This was definitely a local affair with only a few wide eyed tourists such as ourselves checking it out. Every kind of animal from kittens to cows were for sale and there was certainly no regard for animal rights (many a PETA member would faint at the sight of this place).
The locals casually walk about checking under tails or looking in the ears of the animals they might buy. The most bizarre thing we witnessed was folks smelling guinea pig breath. Guinea pigs are a common food in Ecuador and I guess if they had bad breath, they weren't tasty?
A comical contrast of the market was the fact that there are food vendors selling things like roast chicken and pig right beside the actual animals for sale themselves. What a horrible fate it must be to know what you smell like once you're cooked!
All in all, a pretty grassroots experience. We enjoyed Otavalo and ended staying a few days longer than expected to enjoy our little house before heading into Quito.