Ecuador // The central sierra //


A twenty-minute bus ride northwest of Latacunga, SAQUISILÍ is a quiet, slightly ramshackle little town that explodes into life with its market – one of the biggest in the highlands – every Thursday morning. It fills seven plazas, each one specializing in different types of goods. There’s an extraordinary breadth of merchandise for sale, supplying just about every consumer need of the hundreds of indígenas who journey here from all over the central sierra. Lining the pavements are mountains of vegetables balanced on wooden crates, sacks full of grain, mounds of fluorescent yarns used for weaving shawls, kitchen utensils, finely woven baskets and curiosities, including stuffed animals from the Oriente. Also on Thursday, about a ten-minute walk north of the centre, dozens of sheep, cows, pigs and the odd llama exchange hands in the animal market (before dawn to around 10am), dotted with women clutching tangled cords attached to squealing piglets.

Away from the market, the church on the main square is worth a look. Its original facade has been preserved, but everything behind it was replaced in the 1970s – the interior is quite striking, with its brightly painted windows, blue-and-white metal roof and minimalist altar. Otherwise, there’s little else to do in Saquisilí, and nothing to draw you here outside market day.

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