Saturday, April 2 in Cuenca

Training for a 15K run/walk
Dan and Lane got up reasonably early and did their runs on the stairs before breakfast. Andy had promised to take Dan, Theresa and Lane over to the Mercado el Arenal (Feria Libre). This is the huge main food market in Cuenca. Well, Andy was very slow getting up and so Nancy and I decided to head over there by ourselves. When we went down the stairs to catch a bus to the market, we saw many people in the park practicing for a 15K run/walk later in the month.
Shoppers arriving at the market
Before long a #7 bus came along and we hopped on, paid our 25 fare and rode out to the market. When we got off, we were not alone. There were dozens of buses disgorging hundreds of shoppers at the market. The market is huge! It consists of five large buildings and large open spaces between them. It covers more than five large city blocks.
As we approached the market we saw six vendors that gave us some indication of the scope of the items for sale at the market: a woman selling week-old baby chickens, a wandering vendor selling belts, a woman selling baked goods, a fish monger, a chocolate vendor (cacao grows on the costal plain) and a seller of fresh produce.

Week-old chicks for sale
Week-old chicks.
Wandering vendor of belts.
Wandering belt vendor
Baked goods for sale.
Baked goods stall.
A fish monger.
A fish monger.
A vendor of chocolate.
A chocolate vendor.
A vendor of fresh produce.
Fresh produce vendor.

Familiar and unfamiliar fruits.
Quite a bit of the produce that was for sale was familiar but some of the stuff was unusual and unfamiliar. For example, at this stall the peaches, apples and oranges were familiar. But, what is that brown fruit at the back?
Chicken legs.

In the meat section the chicken was readily recognizable even though chicken legs and feet are not often offered for sale in North America.
Guinea pigs for sale.

However, it took at bit of looking before we recognized the Guinea pigs for sale there. Guinea pigs, locally known as cuy (pronounced “kwee”) have formed an important part of the Andean diet since before the arrival of the Spanish.

Here is an assortment of fruit that is not often seen in your local North American mega mart. Some we’ve identified but others are still mystery fruit. If you know their names, let me know.

Passion Fruit above
Passion fruit & ??
Tomatoes and ???
Tomatoes & ??
Sugar apple
Sugar apple

Eggs in flatsEggs were sold by the flat, by the dozen, by the half-dozen or individually. Note that all the eggs I’ve seen have had nice brown shells – no white eggs around.
Peas, corn and carrots

Peas and corn are available in the pod or on the cob. But, they are also available shelled out and ready for use. Note that I saw all the vendors shelling out the peas and corn by hand. There may be a market for those pea shellers that the Hutterites use in Manitoba.
Fresh herbs, garlic and green onions

There were lots of herbs and spices as well as fresh garlic and green onions for sale as well.

We realize that South America is the home of the potato and that there are many varieties available and we expected to find part of the market devoted to potatoes. However, we were surprised to see a whole building devoted to them.

The start of the potato area The huge potato building

Here’s another selection items some of which you may find familiar but others are strange and exotic.

Watermelons and pineapples
Watermelons and pineapples
Mystery fruit
Mystery fruit
Mystery fruit
Mystery fruit
Brown mystery fruit
Brown mystery fruit

Shelling peas and corn
These two women keep themselves busy between customers by shelling out peas and shucking the corn.

The next area of the market we walked through sold bananas and sugarcane.

Bananas by the hand or bunch Sugar cane

At this point, to be honest, we were lost. We weren’t sure which way needed to go to get out of the market. However, we persevered and ended up in the live animal area of the market.

Chickens and roosters
Chickens & roosters
Guinea pigs (Cuy)
Gunea pigs (Cuy)
A basket of puppies
A basket of puppies

Wheelbarrow of strawberries
We emerged from the live animal area into a section of the market where trucks were delivering fresh produce to keep the market supplied. In this area a young lady with a carefully arranged wheelbarrow full of strawberries caught my eye.

At this point we saw what appeared to be a familiar building and we ducked in to look around. There were many vendors selling predominantly plastic wares and cooking utensils.

Large building with many vendors Vendor of pots and pans

However, things were not completely segregated. The building also contained vendors selling a wide variety of other items including: a wandering vendor selling whipped cream cones, a stall selling freshly made cheese, and a meat and poultry area.

Whipped cream cone vendor Fresh cheese Poultry section

As we walked out towards the main entrance to the market we passed another live animal section. This one had guinea pigs, rabbits and a variety of dogs.

Guinea pigs and rabbits A variety of dogs

When we managed to cross the street to catch the bus heading back to our hostel, we found a furniture store. These items were made of solid wood. The drawers were nailed construction rather than dovetailed but they were quite inexpensive.

Double dresser Dining room set Highboy chest

Gas stoves
We also looked at appliances. The asking price for the 5-burner, double-oven gas range on the right was $1052 while the simpler one on the left was $684. A 2-door fridge was $700-800 depending on the features. A big, side-by-side with ice and water in the door was $1864.
A public bus, fare $0.25

We would have looked at more furniture and appliances but our bus arrived and it was time to leave. When we got back to the hostel Andy still hadn’t got out of bed. So, Dan, Theresa and Lane headed out to the main market. We rested briefly and then decided to walk to a smaller market that was within easy walking distance – 7 blocks north of the hostel.
troop carrier at the market
Just as we were arriving a big military troop carrier dropped off a group of soldiers outside.
It appeared as though they were going to put on some sort of demonstration on the second floor because there were lots of spectators on one side and the stairs up to the second floor at one end of the market were blocked by security.
The market was rather small in comparison to the market near the catheddral downtown. However, it had a good selection of produce so we could get the fixings for a stew.

Produce for sale Nice brocolli & cauliflower Meat for sale

Actually, I went to a third market on Saturday – SuperMaxi. Im still leary about buying meat at one of the open markets where there is little or no refrigeration. So I went to SuperMaxi to pick up some stewing beef and some ground beef. Whew, enough markets for one day!
Storm moving in from the mountains
As I was cooking up the stew for supper a storm was moving in from the surrounding mountains. They say that April is the rainy month in this part of Ecuador and I have to agree with them.
Fireworks over Cuenca

Saturday night, like Friday night, was pretty lively in the old section of Cuenca. Several times during the evening there were brief fireworks displays.