The animal market, cockfighting, Quito and the half of the world

Hello everyone! This time a photo story of the animal market in Otavalo, the cockfighting, Quito, and the “mitad del mundo” (the half of the world) where the equator passes, about 20 km north of Quito.


Otavalo comes alive on Saturday when the whole center becomes a giant market, mostly indigenous, from the square Los Ponchos all around until out of town, where there is the most interesting part: the animal market , with pigs, sheep, chickens, dogs, cats, alpacas, guinea pigs, etc. …


Child selling a dog.


Another child with dog.




“From a certain age, I abjured eating meat, and the time will come when men such me will consider the killing of animals as the killing of men.”
-Leonardo da Vinci


Some women were there with just one animal to sell.


Cats in cage.


Woman bought a kitten.




Little pigs meet each others.




Guina pigs.


Child caressing a sheep.


Two women.


The cockfighting is more or less as you would imagine it or as you saw in some Hollywood movie. From a small door behind the curtains of the market, I came into a dirty and cramped place, with people a bit shady and dollar bills passing back and forth for betting…

Each cock has a coach (I guess it’s also its owner) who spurs him during the fight. Like football coaches, each of them has his own style: from those stressed all the time to those who remain impassive.
Even the cocks have their own fighting style: some were constantly thrilled and continuously pecking. In contrast, others preferred to remain almost stationary to dodge, for suddenly starting quick pecks at the opponent’s neck.

The bad thing is that the match ends with the death of one of the two cocks . If I knew it before, I would haven’t gone. But there is no doubt that the fight has its charm. It seems something from another time.


The last match I saw was the most beautiful, also because it ended in a draw, so both cocks were saved. Looking at the two coaches, I was curious to know who would have won: one was a big braggart that also incited the audience, the other seemed like an Eastern sage, quiet and focused.
In the first minutes, the braggart ran around the ring even more than his rooster, spurring with sweeping gestures and shouting, while the other coach almost didn’t participate.


However, after about 5 minutes, they both started to behave similarly, giving just some silent advice to their cocks, from time to time.
At about three minutes left (on 10 total), the fight became very harsh. The two roosters pinched each other with ferocity and violence, without thinking to defend themselves, and the public became excited. There are some rules that I didn’t understand because sometimes the referee stopped the match, as in a boxing break, sparking protests from coach and fans or, vice-versa, he was requested to interrupt for some irregularities.
At the last minute, the two cocks were exhausted and bleeding, almost couldn’t fight, and even the coaches knew it would end in a draw and didn’t spur them anymore.


Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is located 2800 meters above sea level. The beautiful historical center, the “Old Town”, is mainly composed of colonial buildings.


A traditional dancer at “Plaza Grande” in Quito, where is located the government’s palace. Here, almost every day, demonstrators demand their rights or protest against government decisions. Indigenous, animal rights activists, trade unionists, etc…
I was told that often president Correa comes out to discuss directly with the activists.


The church of San Francesco. In the historical center of Quito, there are many baroque churches, extraordinary notably inside. Their style is unique, “the school of Quito”, born from the fusion of indigenous and Spanish styles, including Moorish.


One foot in one hemisphere and one foot in the other, at “mitad del mundo” (half of the world).

I don’t know why Ecuador got this sort of “copyright” related to the equator. A quick view on the world map shows that it crosses at least 10 countries. So why has Ecuador taken its name, the heritage site “mitad del mundo”, the various museums on the equator, and so on? Yes, I will be more critical with the report of the places I visit from now on. Many things still don’t add up.


At the “mitad del mundo” I met two very nice ladies from Guayaquil, the second-largest city in Ecuador. Here we were in a small museum there, dedicated to insects and where it’s possible to play with giant cockroaches.


The experiment of the egg on the equator. The egg is balanced on the head of a nail. And indeed it is true, it doesn’t fall, but I never tried to do it elsewhere, so I don’t know if this is possible only there, and, actually, I’m skeptical. Please try it for yourself and let me know. Worst-case scenario: omelet for dinner.


I answer the comment:
Thank you Yannick! And good luck with the Chelsea final! :-)

Searches at the border and Otavalo in Ecuador

Hi friends! After three months of travel, I arrived in Ecuador, a country of which, at the moment, I know only that, in fact, the equator passes on it. But we’ll discover it together.

After San Agustin, I took the road from Mocoa to Pasto, spectacular and dangerous. Rocky walls with dense vegetation, hundreds of meters high, sloped down to the river, which flowed into a strait below. There were many waterfalls, with their water sometimes crossing our narrow dirt road. The view from up there was amazing.
However, it was also scary. The wheels of the bus were constantly on the edge of the road. Looking out the window, I couldn’t see the road below, only the cliff. When we met another vehicle began complicated maneuvers, often in reverse, to pass both.
When it became dark, it was even worse. It started heavy raining, with very low visibility and the road became mud. At that moment, I also remembered that in those areas, on the border with Ecuador, it’s dangerous to travel at night for the risk of being attacked by armed bandits, as it happened a few years ago at an Italian guy that I met in Santa Marta, Oscar.
However, in the end, all right, and after a day in Pasto, I arrived at the border.

I had my passport stamped for exit from Colombia, and I was already walking to Ecuador when a big rude Colombian policeman called me for a search.
This time they also checked the two main pockets of the photo-backpack, the ones that in my last post, jokingly, I said were hiding 3 kilos of cocaine. In reality, however, they contain something perhaps even more valuable: the red panties of Joyce. Not so much for Joyce, a Brazilian girl with whom I stayed more than 10 years ago, but because it seems to me that these panties bring good luck. So I keep them always with me (not wearing, of course :D )
In many controls, a bit ‘all over the world, when found, the policemen had always been very professional. But professionalism does not seem home in Colombia… he started laughing “Ah ah ah ah ah, I didn’t think… you didn’t seem … ah ah”. No, wait, those are from a Brazilian girl… that you could just dream in the night, maybe in your lonely wanks (actually at the end I didn’t add this last part of the sentence, because I’m always careful to not saying something that might hurt).
“Mhmm … true? True?” Of course it’s the truth! Anyway, are we here to find drugs or to talk about lucky charms? And please stop enlarging them with your ugly hands for observing from all angles…
Finally, shortly after, the search ended, and I arrived in Ecuador.

I took a bus from the border towards Otavalo. About 10 minutes later: stooop. The police came up on the bus and checked everybody’s documents. After that, me and some people had to go down for a search.
Again, they searched above all my photo-backpack. And again especially on the same side, the rear for the laptop.
So, an advice for any would-be drug traffickers: never put it there!
In a previous search, they had pulled out the internal parts of my bag, breaking them. This time the policeman made tiny holes inside it with a boxcutter. When I protested, he said: not worry, no break, no break … and in the meanwhile kept puncturing it with his knife. Dunno, maybe “break” has another meaning for them.
Meanwhile, he was pulling Zeus, the police dog, to sniff these tiny holes. But Zeus didn’t show any interest, he was sniffing around like crazy, except my backpack, and despite the policeman was forcefully pushing his head inside, there was no way, nothing that would attract his sniffing, not even Joyce’s panties, until a boy, a bit ‘strange, also in line for the checking, gave him a kind of pudding on which he jumped to devour it, among the desperate cries of the policeman “noooo what have you done? Now he will not sniff anymore!”. And, amid the general laughter, also this search finished.

I went back on the bus, and we left. About one hour later: stoooop. Again the police on the bus, again a check of everybody’s documents, but this time I had the honor to be the only one to go down for the search. Very long, on both backpacks, with the driver protesting, “he has already been checked!” “Don’t meddle… let us do our job…”.

So, with 4 searches, I strongly advise to not bring drugs within 200 km of the border between Colombia and Ecuador. And if you really must, at least remember to always carry with you a pudding to donate to the dog. ;-)


Bird statue in San Agustin.


It is said that this sculpture represents the “Double-self”: the warrior with the spirit of the animal that guides him.




A street in San Agustin. If you happen to go there, don’t miss the Italian restaurant of Ugo, a nice Italian guy who even offered me dinner.
To reach him, ask Anibal, a local guide (if you don’t find him, he will find you). He will be happy to take you there with his motorbike, at high speed without headlights, in total darkness, and when you point it out, no problems: he will turn on the mobile phone display as a beacon. And indeed, in that context, it seemed all the light in the world.


Sugar cane.


Sugar making.




Writings on the City council wall against politicians in Pasto, Colombia. As almost everywhere in the world, they are not much loved by people.


And finally in… Ecuador, in the famous Otavalo market.


Woman at market.


Otavalo is located at 2500 meters and is surrounded by three volcanoes, including the Cotacachi, 5000 meters high. Still today, it is inhabited mainly by indigenous peoples, who came here in ancient times and formed a sort of confederation with other advanced communities around. They were subdued, already before the arrival of the Spaniards, by the Incas, after decades of war that led to the massacre of most of the population.




No more blood for oil.


I want you… for the revolution!


Student girls.


Otavalo women.


Man with newspaper.


At the bus station.




Abstract composition with goat in the middle.


Fruit stall.


Woman with colored background.


Mother and daughter.


One of the few families in the world still working the wool by hand, without machinery. I bought a hat from them, $2.


I reply to the comment:
Hi Yannick! My plan is to go also in all the little Central America countries (Nicaragua, Costarica, Guatemala, etc…). Not sure if I can make it, because of the money, but I think I will. :-)