Ecuador // The central sierra //


Fifty kilometres south of Riobamba, GUAMOTE (3050m) is an attractive town, if slightly down-at-heel, sporting a few handsome timber buildings from the railway era in the early twentieth century, with their characteristic balconies leaning on thick wooden pillars. Although the train from Riobamba still chugs through the middle of town it’s no longer a vital commercial artery – these days Guamote’s raison d’être is its massive Thursday-morning market that almost rivals that of Saquisilí with its size and vigour. Hundreds of campesinos inch their way through the streets, with the largest swell of crowds between 10am and noon. Don’t miss the chaotic animal market up in the field behind the Iglesia de San Vicente, where ducks, chickens, sheep, piglets and guinea pigs (ranked among the most delicious in the country) change hands, while, all around, loudspeakers compete in volume to advertise the latest miracle cures.