Every year, a game called trompo, an interesting element of Ecuador culture, is played out on streets throughout the country. Main thoroughfares fill up with men and boys who concentrate on throwing around a wooden top. The streets of Cotacachi are no exception.
Traffic stops. Pedestrians go around the players or stop to watch them. Women and children behave as if there's a holiday, following around the teams of males playing trompo, one of the national games of Ecuador.
The games go on for weeks. Teams gather in the streets to compete against each other. They vie to see who can knock their trompo the farthest in the least number of tosses.
A player winds string tightly around a trompo, which is a tear-drop-shaped top with a sharp point at the small end. The trompo is made of very hard wood and can cost as much as $150.
Pulling back, the player throws the trompo.
Then he flicks his wrist back, leaving the trompo to spin on the ground like a yo-yo.
The next part of the round is quite interesting. It requires coordination, careful timing and good cooperation among the players.
Either the same man or another team member steps forward to quickly scoop up the spinning top onto the palm of his hand, cradling it in delicate balance so that the spinning doesn't stop.
Taking careful aim, he throws the top at a small wood and metal disc that rests on a rock platform in the middle of the road. If his aim is true and he is fast enough, his trompo will strike the disc on the rock, sending it on a fairly straight trajectory down the road a further distance than the competing team's trompo.
Careful written notes are made as to the distance the trompo sends the disc. When one team's disc stops rolling, the other team takes a turn.
The winning team is the one that finishes the course in the shortest number of turns. There are city, regional and national tournamentsbefore a triumphant trompo winning team is announced.
A word of caution: Accidents can happen. Pay attention to the action or a fast-flying disc may take you unawares and cause some serious damage. The discs careen wildly down the street at great speed and can easily jump the curb.