Monday, September 10, 2012

What to Wear in Cotacachi

I received this question from a faithful blog reader and new-found friend:

Would you please blog about what to wear in Cotacachi.  Layers?  Short sleeves or long sleeves due to sun's rays being so close?  Capris?  Light jacket or heavy jacket?  What months are the rainy times?  Winter p.j.'s at night all year?  Type of hats to wear?  Does one need a scarf? 
It's my understanding that it's spring-like all year but then I've read differently so I need to know what to bring for clothes.  Thanks.

Wow!  Great question and very specific.  I love that.  In fact, I love having people make suggestions about what they'd like me to blog about.

In general, people dress very casually here.  Just about the only time I see dresses, business style pant suits, men's suits, or such is when they're going to church, especially a wedding or funeral, or there's a fancy party going on--oh, or a business person.  And as for church, many people don't dress up for that, either.  It's generally a matter of age and upbringing.

Clothes are generally worn as a protection from the sun.  Sunscreen is very expensive here but that's your best bet.  If you're coming down here for any length of time, I recommend bringing a large bottle of it with you (in your checked baggage of course--and in a zip-loc plastic bag). Even for a short trip, plan for whatever you think you'll need and then double it.

Hats are frequently-seen gear.  Most people wear something with a brim at least on the front, like a baseball cap but most wear hats that shield both the face and the back of the neck.  There are Panama hats, and faux Panama hats for sale at any of the larger indigenous markets, along with cotton ones with the softer brims.

I don't see all that many people with scarves but I do see lots of people with shawls.  They sell them in even the smaller markets here so it isn't necessary to bring one with you unless you already have a favorite one.  You can see examples of shawls here:  I'm not promoting this site, it's just the first one I ran into with a Google search to give you an idea of what they look like.

Yes, layers are a good idea.  I enjoy the cooler weather so I rarely wear a jacket but most people do and even when it's warm enough to take it off outdoors, it's generally much cooler indoors because of the primary building materials here being concrete blocks, large bricks, and concrete.  Even on the day it got all the way up to 77 degrees, my apartment didn't get above 68 and it's generally around 64 or 65 in here.  The jackets I see, though, tend to be the lighter weight ones, something you might wear on a cool day--say in the 50s or 60s.

Many people carry day packs they can use for their layers once it gets warmer or if they're going out in the evening and they get cool and need to add a jacket or sweater.  It's not essential but just something to think about.

Again, it gets down to how warm- or cold-blooded you are on sleeve length.  I see many people (just like me) who wear short sleeves almost all the time and other who wear sweatshirts and longer sleeves.  I don't see a lot of capris but I don't think it has anything to do with the weather.  If I were the kind of person who wore them, I probably wouldn't as much here because of the uneven street and sidewalk surfaces and the fact that I almost always wear sensible walking shoes with socks and wouldn't wear them with capris or anything other than long pants.

What kind of pajamas you wear will depend a lot on what you would wear where you are now based on the temperatures we have.  It can get down into the upper 40s or low 50s at night during the coldest part of the year.  Since the weather is very specific to a very small region, weather reports are pretty much non-existent up here so my weather report is opening the window to see how chilly it is today.  I'm a pajama person and I wear lightweight long cotton knit pants and a T-shirt.  Any other variation in temperature I need is handled by adding or taking off covers.

A large umbrella is an excellent idea.  Since no one knows when it's going to start raining during the rainy season, raincoats aren't all that popular but very large umbrellas are.  You can get one here for about $6.00. I also have a small collapsible one I brought from the States but they sell those here as well.  I keep that one in whatever bag I'm carrying when it looks like rain in the dry season and all the time in the rainy season.

As for when the rainy season is, it's a bit like when summer is in the States.  It depends.  This year the dry season started around mid to late June if memory serves and I've heard it ends somewhere around the end of September.  We've been having a lot more clouds lately and had very light rain in the late afternoon once or twice in the last week or two so it may be beginning to very slowly move in.  Neither time it rained did it last more than an hour nor was there enough of it to actually get wet.  I got a little damp getting all my packages out from under the bus when I got home from my trip to Quito but not enough to be uncomfortable and I had to get things from three separate locations under there.  Where you are is going to have an impact on that as well.  I haven't done a lot of research on it but I know Cuenca is wetter and cooler than Cotacachi and Quito is warmer.  Of course the Amazon basin (referred to as Orient here) is going to be a lot warmer and wetter and the coast is warmer but I don't know about the rain--it's always a good idea to do internet research on the weather in the specific area you'll be visiting.

The thing that is a bit deceptive is the difference between the actual temperature and how it feels.  When it's cloudy it tends to feel the "real" temperature--the one we're used to--but when the sun is shining it feels anywhere between 2 and 6 degrees hotter, depending on how warm it is.  The warmer it is, the warmer it feels.  The day it got up to 77 it felt like about 83 or so.  Then the sun may go behind a cloud and it suddenly feels more like 77 (if there were any clouds that day).

Something else that's helpful to know about is "the month of wind."  It's actually longer than a month but the worst of it is a little over a month or so.  It's during the dry season and the wind blows a lot--it's not terrible gusty winds but it stirs up a lot of the very fine silty sand/soil stuff we have here.  Everything is dusty most of the time.  I remember Omaha, Nebraska was very windy.  The wind never seemed to stop blowing there.  Here it's different.  Right now everything is very still but in a minute the leaves on the trees may all be in fairly vigorous motion.  Then, if another 15 or 20 minutes it may stop for a little while.  The one thing you can count on, though, is wind every day and for a good portion of each of those days.  I don't find it upsetting but it can be a little annoying when I get that grit in my eyes.  Fortunately, that doesn't happen often.  Oh, and sweeping up that very fine stuff is most annoying!

I hope this helped.


  1. I am a new reader and have read almost all of your blog posts since the beginning. I've enjoyed hearing about your initial decisions and your life there in Cotacachi. Keep up the good work and hope to meet you someday.

    1. Thanks so much for the comment. I hope to meet you as well. I've discovered it's great fun meeting my readers.

  2. Cynthia, for us this is such timely information as we're beginning to sift and winnow our clothing to bring, sell or donate. Coming from Wisconsin we know how to deal with chilly conditions. Right now Barb is preparing a list (with my input of course) of things we need to buy - like good walking shoes, sunscreen, etc. Barb in particular is very sensitive to too much sun. So, as always, thanks for sharing such useful tips. Ken and Barb

    1. I'm glad this was helpful. It's such a small thing but when you get down to it, it can be more important than we may have realized.