Equador: A day in Zumbuhua market

Men and machines go together – it´s a given. So even in remote Ecuador, high up on the empty, windswept moorlands, in a little hill town where load-carrying llamas thread through the narrow streets, it´s the men who are in charge of the Singer sewing machines. They pump away on the foot treadles, a row of them along one side of the town square, offering a mending service.
Squatting on the stones nearby a cluster of shoeshine boys are competing for business, while a shaman hung with beads has gathered a crowd of onlookers as he chants and peddles his magic medicines.
All around them is bustle and colour: it´s the weekly market, and people are streaming into town in their best clothes, eager to buy, sell and especially to make the most of this big social event. The ruddy-skinned women are wearing bright shawls and full, embroidered skirts, feathers in the bands of their fedora hats, their shiny long black hair plaited and bound with braid, carrying smartly dressed children on their backs.
There´s almost as much colour in the stalls themselves: oranges, tomatoes, bananas and papaya brought up from the coast; racks of ponchos in red and pink and turquoise; bags and boxes of exotic items from the big city. While the fruit and vegetables are selling steadily and there´s a hungry queue by the stand where cheese and corn tortillas are sizzling away, filling the cold air with their delicious aroma, there´s even more action just down the hill where the live animals are being sold.
On the footpath, a fat lamb is pulling at the rope around its neck while the two teenage girls in charge of it giggle together. A mother and her son walk by with bundles of chickens hanging upside-down from their hands. Another woman is looking doubtfully at the black pig she´s just bought and has tethered to a lamp-post, while further down the road, a man on a horse is struggling to get his pig to trot alongside.
Open-topped trucks are being loaded with people and their bulging bags, crammed in for the trip back to their quiet villages, while others heave huge loads onto their backs and trudge off along the road: for them, the excitement of Zumbahua market is over for another week.

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Pamela Wade

Pamela Wade is a New Zealand travel writer who has stayed in the likes of boutique hotel suites and slept in a swag on the banks of a crocodile-infested river in the Australian Outback.

All in the name of work she has jumped off a cliff, swum with tuna, herded cattle, had snakes draped around her neck and fallen off a Segway. The more she sees of the world, the more she realises that there is far too much to enjoy and marvel at on our beautiful planet than anyone could fit into one short lifetime; but she´s giving it her best shot.
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