Nora and I were closing the week-long Quilotoa loop, a gorgeous hike in Ecuador around the Rio Toachi Canyon. We timed it so we would end up in Isinlivi a day or two before the Thursday animal market in Saquisili. Located off the Pan-American Highway, Saquisili is a 25-minute drive from Latacunga.
Since arriving in Ecuador, I became hooked on weekly markets in towns along our way. Dynamic, noisy, they usually start at daybreak and dissipate by noon. Saquisili Thursday market did not disappoint. Comprised of 8 markets scattered throughout the small town, “it is mainly for locals from the highlands who come to buy pots and pans, electronics, herbal remedies, livestock or produce” (Wikipedia).
Even getting to Saquisili was an adventure in itself. The bus from Isinlivi left at 3:30 am. The manager of the hostel we were staying in, another hostel guest and I got up at 3 in the morning to catch the bus. Nora stayed behind to sleep in. We agreed to meet in Latacunga. When we walked to the bus, I was surprised that the bus driver put our backpacks in a storage compartment in the back of the bus, not underneath the bus on a side, as I was used to. I soon learned why. During the 3-hour drive to Saquisili, people would flag down the bus along the way to go the market. They were bringing all kinds of wares to sell, which were loaded in the side compartment. One such stop yielded a rancher who loaded 3 live sheep. I was glad my backpack wasn’t in that compartment. We arrived in town around 6:30, just as the animal market was entering the full swing.
By 10 am, many animals were sold and trucks loaded with cows, bulls, pigs, llamas and sheep were emptying out of town. It was time for me to leave as well. I took a bus and was in Latacunga an hour later, just in time for the Mama Negra Festival.