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Headed south from Quito today to visit the towns of Saquisilí and Pujilí. We were in search of handicrafts mainly, but since there´s literally almost zero info on the internet about market days, we arrived in Saquisilí to find the crafts market only takes place on Thursdays. As is the usual routine most everywhere when we headed out into Ecuador´s unknown, we arrive at whatever town we´ve chosen to go to, and just starting asking…”Where is the market?” or “Where can we find ____” fill in the blank-whatever it might be we’re looking for. Usually this leads to some interesting diversions….”go two blocks and turn left, it’s nearby.” Or “just keep going straight, you’ll be there soon,” which could mean anywhere from two minutes to 30 minutes or more. Does nearby and in 30 minutes mean near on a bicycle, a donkey, a horse, on foot, or by car? You can never tell, since country people’s definition of time and distance are often measured in units that we city people would rarely consider-or maybe even they are units we don’t know about!
Since there was nothing going in Saquisilí, we headed on to Pujilí. Both towns, by the way, are just a few miles north of the city of Latacunga, the first major city on the Panamerican highway you reach when heading south from Quito. In Pujilí, the open air market was on, one of the largest markets I´ve seen in South America and a spectacle in its own right. Measuring probably two football fields and of course spilling out into the adjacent streets, the market offers up Ecuador’s bounty from all over the country…tangerines, lemons, limes, grapefruits, bell peppers, swiss chard, various types of potatoes and bananas. As well, there were all sorts of cooking going on…llapingachos (a potato cake colored with annatto or achiote) and cooked in lard and served with fried pork aka fritada, stews with crab and other seafood, cebiches, tripe, and other local dishes. Not just foods but pirated CDs of any kind, cheap trinkets, hair pins, nail clippers, and ever other type of junk from China are available. On one street a man with the voice and earnestness of street-corner preacher offered up a cure for every type of ailment, for the prostate, stomach, liver, arthritis, indigestion, while a crowd of people gathered around.
Already the obvious tourist no matter how much I might have tried to blend in (I didn’t try and even if I had it wouldn’t have worked), I carried my camera at torso height and shot pictures surreptitiously as best as I could, and managed to get a few good ones shown below. At one point we stopped to see two parakeets sitting atop a wooden box with small drawers filled with different colored papers.
I had never seen this before-you pay the woman fifty cents, she asks you “Married? Single? Divorced?” and then picks up one of the birds and commands it to peck your hand, then speaks to it in all earnestness and utter seriousness telling the bird your condition and then ordering it back to the box. The bird then goes to one of the small drawers open in the box, and through its divine power picks up your “horoscope” or fortune, she plucks it from the bird’s beak and passes it on to you. When we first stopped, and I raised my camera, she covered the birds and said no pictures. On our return pass, we stopped and paid her and I took a few good shots while she wasn’t paying much attention.
On the return we stopped at Hosteria La Cienega for lunch, a 300 year old Hacienda with decent food and gardens.You can feel the oldness in the place, and there´s often a cool breeze and a spooky, haunted sort of empty feeling about the place. My Mother-in-law won´t stay there…says it´s too creepy! Maybe it´s the “Burundanga” trees all over, from which scopolamine can be removed, that makes you feel weird!
There are also a lot of nice antiques on display inside, with great lighting.