Ecuador: Going deeper

Because I am on the road, and the wi-fi is spotty at the best of times, these posts will often be published in bulk.  Despite being written in real time.

written Oct 10th, 2014

I decided to spend a week in this mountainous town, surrounded by three volcanoes.  I found a great hostel (Hostal Chasquis) walking distance to the center of town.  I am not sure how many levels it has, maybe 5, and a lot of the rooms are surrounded by concrete balconies.  It’s a sufficient place for $24 a night. 

The fully equipped kitchen is at the top and offers 360 views of the town.  Which has been an important factor in my day since, after a little yoga practice, I start my day in the kitchen over a big breakfast of coffee and fresh fruit and eggs I pick up each morning at the market.  

After that, I hit the pavement and work until late in the day/night.

This is my kind of pace for living. 

It also helps that I was upgraded to the penthouse room, with my own balcony...for the same price!

The trading market is right in the center of town and has a lot to offer for the novice.  Well, it has a lot to offer if you’re a shopper and you’re keeping product for yourself.  I have to admit, it's taken everything I have not to go nuts and buy everything.  The place is awash in color and texture.  But, I know from experience to sit with the product and to return to the market every day and speak to people and build your relationships with the merchants and the products they’re selling.  Prices change, quality reveals itself with knowledge and people reveal themselves with time.  So, it’s a game of patience.

I came across a charismatic woman selling the same kind of blankets and ponchos as many others and she had a decent price.  She insisted her product was 100% Alpaca.  It felt soft and lovely.  I was tempted but still not convinced.  I came to discover that there is little in the market that is 100% alpaca.  In fact, there is nothing fully alpaca despite the merchants insistence that it is.  Most of the blankets and ponchos are mixed with nylon and acrylic, which is fine. There just isn't a need to lie about it. 

I bought a few blankets and ponchos anyway, because the quality is great and the look is right on trend.  Look for them in the store by mid November, I promise they're not 100% Alpaca!  But, they're gorgeous and beautiful anyway. 

Slowly I have been uncovering hidden gems.  Like the Tagua rings I found.

Tagua is a seed native to Ecuador and Colombia and is considered the kindest alternative to Ivory.  Vegan ivory!  It looks like Ivory and is very strong.  It can also be carved easily so you can find so many beautiful pieces carved out of Tagua; from small smoking pipes, decorative necklaces and bracelets and these rings.

It took me a while to find them.  I passed many dusty shops selling unattractive versions and, to be honest, I wasn’t convinced these would work in my line.  But, I came across one merchant sitting alone knitting herself a scarf, which I thought was what she was selling until I looked down and saw the colors of Tagua rings she had on offer.  Unlike others, her rings were beautiful in color and design.  She had used the natural markings and shapes of the seed to her advantage.  When I picked through and pulled out the colors I wanted I realized that, on their own, these rings have an individual personality.  An attraction so vivid and unique, that I couldn’t resist.

I bought some for you!

I'm going deeper into the artisan community but I still haven't found exactly what I am looking for.  But, like I said.  This is a game of patience.  Isn't everything?