Ecuador travel blog by Mark Berman -
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If you sleep Wednesday night in Saquisili at the one and only hotel beside the main plaza, you will be woken between 3:30-4am by the vehicles
arriving to start setting up the Thursday markets. The Saquisili market is a serious business for locals and the indigenous folks from the surrounding
towns and villages. Saquisili is a small town 20mins from Latacunga, 2 and a quarter hours south of Quito. You could choose to stay in
Latacunga and come to Saquisili between 6-7am as an alternative to being woken up at 4am however. At least I knew I wouldn't be late! Saquisili
has something like 12 plazas and the market takes up around 8 of them, each plaza specialising in something different.
An Early Start on Thursdays
By 6:30am I had walked
from the hotel to Plaza Vicente Rocafuerte, this is mainly the live animal market. At this time of day trucks are unloading the fish (not live)
brought overnight from Salinas on the coast and laying them all out on makeshift tables ready to be sold. Crates and crates of chickens are
brought in, this is the worst part about this market in fact, because they are terribly mistreated, some are even dead on arrival. On a
brighter note, fruit like oranges pour out from the back of trucks and pink and yellow bananas stand together in large bunches.
Soup for Breakfast
At just before
7am I sat down at one of the kitchen cookups to have some chicken soup for $1USD, unfortunately the chicken wing was uncooked and hard so I just
drank the watery part of the dish - I guess it's best to wait until later to have chicken soup.
Animals, Fruit and Veges
A couple of sheep were brought in and a stubborn
pig who didn't want to get off the truck. It's no wonder though, all his mates were down there being eaten for breakfast. Guinea pigs, cute 'n'
cuddly but oh so fat, juicy and tasty! Well actually I don't know what they taste like, I have never tried it. But the locals love it and buy
their guinea pigs alive to take home for later. Cute bunny rabbits with big floppy ears, I'm not sure of their fate. OK, so of all the animals
mentioned above I think I would want to be a fish! Spring onions, they are brought in by the bunch-load! Apples! Red, green, yellow 'n' red and
orangey red. Watermelons, green of course! Pears, grapes and peaches. Kiwifruit and mango. Boysenberries, strawberries and eggs.
Grains, Spices and Flavours
Next I moved on
to Plaza Kennedy, just down the street. This was more about household products, grains, spices, flavors and oils plus mountains of vegetables. Onions,
lemons, tamarillos, rockmelon (cantaloupe), carrots, lettuce, raddish, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot, pineapples, peppers, beans, tomatoes
and fresh bread.
Street Sewing Repairs
From here I walked along the street past some men sitting at machines doing sewing repairs as I looked for what turned out to be
Plaza Gran Colombia. This plaza is actually right in the center of town, just one block from the main plaza and church. More cooking going on here,
barbecued chicken feet and the yummy local meal of mashed potatoes with fried egg and meat. Sugarcane was being made into candy floss, drinks and
sweets and many people were peeling peapods and beans.
The Saquisili market is also of course a great opportunity
to mingle with the indigenous people of the highlands, most wear colorful traditional clothing, hats and shawls, the men and woman. It's definitely more
authentic than Otavalo's market
which I have also seen. Both are good though! If this is your cup of tea, markets that is, then take a visit to
Saquisili early on a Thursday morning! Apart from the market and main plaza and church there is absolutely nothing else to see around town, no churches,
no murals, no statues, no monuments, nothing!
40mins North to Machachi
I spent a 2nd night in Saquisili to have a break and
took a taxi the next morning to the Pan-American highway and waved down a bus heading north to Machachi