Market Day

Well Mike finally got a chance to upload some more pictures, so I’ll fill you in on the wacky and wonderful Guamote market. I think it truly was one of my favorite experiences thus far.

As usual the locals woke us up at the butt crack of dawn, though we opted to put in ear plugs and stay in bed until 7 or so. With all the hubbub outside we just couldn’t sleep any later than that though. Mike grabbed his camera, we both donned our money belts, and we set out to see what was what in the famous highland market.

People were pouring into the town from all over. I would guess that just about every town within a 75 kilometer radius turned into a ghost town while Guamote swelled. We saw buses full of people, trucks full of livestock, and bike carts full of just about everything else. The entire town was transformed into one giant market.

There are just a few people on their way to the market in this picture, but you get a taste of the scene. You can see people in a pickup truck, a bike cart (not nearly as loaded as usual), and a live piggy in the back of another truck.

There were entire sections dedicated to different types of goods, too. For instance, there was a soccer field dedicated to cows (of the live variety); a street for knit sweaters; a square for ponchos; a train platform for fruits and vegetables; a covered pavillion for grains; and at least several blocks each for jewelry, bike parts, dairy products, herbs and spices, hats, sheep, pig parts, kitchen utensils, etc.

This is where you come if you’re in the market for a cow. I’m not sure where the pigs and goats and sheep and chickens were being kept, but we saw one woman literally dragging a sheep down the road. I thought it was dead because it looked completely limp, but a minute later it was on its feet.

This man was hard at work in the poncho district. Not only were there ready-made ponchos for sale, but there were also a dozen old-school foot-pumped sewing machines cranking out new items.

The train station served as the premier spot for fruits and veggies. As you can see, the stands encroached upon the tracks. Luckily the train only runs three days a week. Can you imagine the havoc if one came barrelling through on the wrong day?

This is the grains pavillion, although there was a little overlap with the veggies section. You could literally buy a 50 kilo sack of rice or pasta or carrots. What would you do with so many carrots?

The highland women favor necklaces with at least 8 strands of colorful beads. I got a pretty blue necklace, which you will undoubtedly see in later pics of me.

The herbs and spices were attractively displayed in full sacks, from which you could acquire the necessary amount of product for your cooking needs.

Here are the oh-so-popular Panama hats. Quite the variety, eh? Now picture at least 20 more haberdashers, most of whom are set up on the same street.

This picture reminds me of Lord of the Flies for some reason… But seriously, who would buy such a thing? The people running the stand would offer chunks of pig to passersby for a quick snack — kind of like the sample people at the gorcery store. And we did see one woman purchase a head, which was promptly stuffed into a plastic bag. Gross.

These women are haggling over the price of a guinnea pig, which will undoubtedly end up as someone’s dinner.

We went crazy shopping for souvenirs. We both picked up a Panama hat (complete with a peacock feather), knit llama socks, and a knit llama hat with ear flaps. In addition, Mike got a hammock, a purple poncho, and llama gloves, and I got a beaded necklace and beaded earrings.

Here Mike is displaying his recent purchases. He almost blends in now.

The food was tasty as well. For breakfast we had fried empanadas de queso and arroz con leche. We eat a lot of empanadas de queso, although we usually just get them from a bakery and they aren’t fried. The arroz con leche was new though. Basically, it consists of hot milk with chunks of rice in it. It’s pretty tasty at first, but by the time I got to the bottom of my rather small glass I was ready to hurl. It’s pretty sweet and very thick.

Mike and I have also grown accustomed to the very cheap and often tasty almuerzos (lunches) you can get in Ecuador. You don’t get a lot of choice when you order almuerzos (restaurants usually have a very fixed menu), but sometimes you get to decide if you want your meat fried or prepared in some other manner. We’re not sure what the other option is, so we usually get it fried. At any rate, lunch usually starts out with some kind of soup. This often consists of a broth seasoned with onions and cilantro, which contains potatoes and chunks of unidentifiable meat (often covered in gristly fat and still attached to large bones). If you ignore the meat, the soups are generally very tasty. The second course usually consists of rice, an ensalada (salad of lettuce, onions, tomatoes, etc.), and that fried meat I mentioned. Once again, I’m not really sure what the meat is, but unlike the fatty soup meat, this stuff is usually lean and marinated in something yummy. Often, the lunch is topped off with some kind of juice (maybe piña) and sometimes a few banana chips or fried plantains. Mike and I usually both eat almuerzos and order a couple of cokes in addition to the juice for $4 or less. It’s quite the deal.

After spending all morning perusing the market and after eating lunch, we took off on our bikes for Alausí. The ride was cold and foggy, but we made it to town. Our goal for Alausí was to ride the famed train over la Nariz del Diablo (the Nose of the Devil), which is an especially steep section of the Andes.

This foggy view of Alausí is from about 1500 feet above the town. We dropped that much in elevation during the last 3 kilometers of our ride. Needless to say, it was a steep approach into town.

From now on I am going to try to make my blogging coincide a bit better with the pictures that Mike uploads. Therefore, you’ll have to wait until next time for the pics and stories of our train ride. It’s kind of fun this way, right? I get to play Scheherazade and keep you hungering for more! Bwa-ha-ha!

7 Responses to “Market Day”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Love your great pictures, Mike—and Jackie, you do a great job with your commentaries! You asked what you do with all those carots?–I cut up that many every week to feed all the desert rabbits, and the neighbors horses (3) that she feeds every weekday noon. We fatten up the bunnies, the coyotes eat the bunnies, the wild dogs probably get the coyotes—–so on. Really enjoy your interesting blog! Happy Thanksgiving! Love, Gma

  2. Josh says:

    Mmm, pig heads. Maybe they use them as containers, like in the movie Dragonheart.And now all Mike needs is a gold cane… big pimpin’!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great pics -especially the one showing Mike with his new look!What a fun marketplace.I am glad that you resisted purchasing a pig’s head~~~~~~~Gross!Wonderful descriptions of the food-made me hungry except for the meat in the soup reminded me of the chicken we had on the boat in India.It was full of tiny bones & we suspected it was from the neck-icky! Have fun. Stay safe on those hills. Love, MOM

  4. Dr_Omega says:

    Nice pic of Senior Mike. You really don’t want to know what the meat is! 50 kg bag of rice is a lot of rice (100 lbs). Rice appears to be a staple all over the world. I guess after reading Gma’s comments, we know what happens to the carrots. So, did you knowingly try a guinea pig?D

  5. Deb says:

    Dude — sweet poncho.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Who is Denis & the amazing Aunt & Uncle? Do they have kind of Thanksgiving/harvest festival in Ecuador? We’ll miss you on Turkey Day! Mom

  7. jenn says:

    ok…i’m back reading your blog on this lazy sunday afternoon in phoenix…and its gotten a bit cold here lately, a chilly 66 degrees here at 4pm… so carrots, too many right, not if you purchase one of those cows and get some ranch, then it’ll be just another tues at native new yorker… i also love your panama hats… theyre so cool… sort of like a fidora… i dont know how i would survive without eating meat on your trip, i guess there are other food options… and the pig pictures are gross, i have to look at them and then quickly scroll down to read the comment… uck!

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