11.07.2019

724. Peru Trip | Belen Market, Iquitos

Belen Market Iquitos
Belen is considered the poorest neighbourhood in Iquitos, and perhaps all of Peru. The residents there do not have clean water, proper sanitation or electricity. A lot of the residents previously lived in the Amazon rainforests, coming to Belen/Iquitos in search of employment or formal education. Visiting these types of places are always eye-opening experiences for me (I've previously visited similar in China and Russia) and they always make me appreciate the life I have so much more.

It's difficult to explain the type of atmosphere there. It felt very raw and exotic. Exactly what you'd expect a place in the Amazon to be like.

One of the "attractions" of Iquitos is Belen Market. I put it in quotations because I don't think a lot of tourists visit it. It was one of the places I was most excited to visit in our whole trip though. During our time there we only saw one other foreign tourist. Everyone else were locals, just going about their day shopping or selling things from fruits and vegetables to household items, Amazon medicinal ingredients and live animals. They sell anything and everything there.

It was one of the places I was most excited to visit in our whole trip. During our time there we only saw one other foreign tourist though. Everyone else were locals, just going about their day shopping or selling things from fruits and vegetables to Amazon medicinal ingredients, animal parts and live animals.

We hired a guide to bring us around here since it is considered a bit dangerous in terms of theft. We were told to take off all jewellery and put away our cameras. We were only allowed to take photos using our phones in certain parts and while the guide was watching closely. If I had a choice I would have taken photos of everything..the parts I was not allowed to photograph at were the most interesting lol. ****WARNING**** There are a couple slightly graphic images in this post of a cut up turtle.

We started off briefly visiting the residential area and taking a quick boat ride down to the market.

Iquitos
Belen Iquitos
Belen Iquitos
Belen Iquitos
Iquitos dog
Belen Iquitos
Belen floating houses
On the boat ride, we sailed along these homes built on stilts to adapt to high and low water seasons. When it's the wet season (roughly February to July), the water levels go all the way up to the second floor of the home. At that time, the family would be living on the second level only. The residents here were doing their laundry.

Belen Iquitos
Belen Iquitos
This is what an entrance to the homes look like. During wet season there would be a several feet of water underneath you.

Belen Iquitos
This is a barber shop

Belen floating houses
A school

Belen Church Iquitos
A church

Belen Market Iquitos
Bananas
I could be totally remembering wrong but I think each bunch (?) bushel (?) of bananas were something like 70 cents.

Belen Market Iquitos
Belen Market Iquitos
Belen Market Iquitos
Belen Market Iquitos
Belen Market turtle eggs
Turtle eggs

Belen Market turtle egg
Belen Market Iquitos turtles
Belen Market turtles
Belen Market Iquitos
Belen Market Iquitos
Belen Market Iquitos
Belen Market
I was so fascinated by everything and I wish we could have seen all parts of the market. Our guide didn't want to bring us to the darker and more sketchy areas for safety. I don't know if I would recommend a visit though because it's not a type of place everyone would enjoy seeing. I personally really enjoyed it though.

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11.05.2019

723. Peru Trip | Playing with Monkeys at Monkey Island!

Woolly Monkey
Monkey Island, aka La Isla de los Monos, is a new world monkeys sanctuary a few hours' boat journey from Iquitos. They rescue, rehabilitate and release monkeys that were victims of the pet trade. The monkeys live freely on the island and are super friendly with visitors, climbing on people and playing around. They are all babies. Once they get old enough, they must be released back into the wild (otherwise their natural instincts take over and they could start becoming aggressive and territorial). We were so excited for this part of the trip. I've never interacted with monkeys before. It was a really fun afternoon and I highly recommend it if you are ever in Iquitos.

Getting to the Island was quite an unconventional journey though. There are no boats that take you directly there and the Island itself doesn't arrange your transportation. There are also no scheduled boat departures..and also, the port of Iquitos is not very tourist-friendly (there's no signs or anything, and people don't speak English). You kind of have to figure everything out on your own. Everyone there were locals and walking down to the port on wooden planks was quite scary for me lol. Luckily we had a guide in Iquitos who took us to the boat. The rest of the journey we had to figure out ourselves. Fortunately my boyfriend speaks/is Spanish so that helped a lot. I would not have survived there on my own.

Here are the scenes from Iquitos port. I really loved it (even though I hated walking on the planks) - it felt like a really authentic experience and we were the only foreigners around.

Iquitos Peru
Iquitos Peru
Iquitos Peru
Iquitos Peru
Iquitos port

Then we went in a boat headed to "Varadero" port. One of these boats:

Varadero port Iquitos
This was Varadero port. We got out and was kind of confused what to do next.

Iquitos Varadero port
Oh & this was what we had to walk on lol. I was sooooo nervous.

Iquitos
We waited at Varadero port for quite a long time. We saw a lot of locals arriving and departing again on those boats, carrying all sorts of things with them. We were told that a boat from Monkey Island would come by to pick us up and bring us there. At first we didn't know that we were supposed to call the Island to ask for a pick up. Luckily another visitor knew and called them for us.

Monkey Island Iquitos
Finally it came and we were off!

Monkey Island Iquitos
We arrived!

Woolly Monkeys
baby monkey
Iquito Monkey Island
Monkey Island Iquitos
Monkey Island Iquitos
I really loved this Howler monkey. When we visited the Amazon, we heard their "howls" at times. I think it's the coolest sound in the Amazon but also very frightening.

Monkey Island Iquitos
This was my favourite one!

Monkey Island Iquitos
Most of them were these - Woolly monkeys

despacito Monkey Island
Scarlet Macaw
This Scarlet Macaw kept attacking my boyfriend's shoes. I think he sees other colourful things as competition and wants to fight them lol.

Iquitos boat
Heading back..we had to do the same route. Take a boat from the Island to Varadero, then from there head back to Iquitos.

Iquitos port

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11.03.2019

722. Peru Trip | Exploring Sacred Valley

view over Ollantaytambo
On our last full day in Cusco, we joined a tour to explore the main parts of Sacred Valley: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Maras and Moray. The valley stretches from Cusco to Machu Picchu, with many Inca ruins dotted along the way. The towns have a very authentic feel. Locals speak Quechua (language of the Incas), farm (on terraced land), raise alpacas and weave colourful textiles as their ancestors had done. Thanks to the Urubamba River, the Valley's land is fertile and perfect for agriculture. Here you can find a lot of unique types of potatoes, vegetables and fruits that are only found at high altitude places.

The winding roads through the Peruvian Andes was very beautiful and scenic but I didn't get to enjoy it in the first part of the trip. The day before our Sacred Valley tour, we went horseback riding where I fell off my horse. It was super painful and I wasn't able to sit comfortably until maybe a week after the incident. The night of the accident, I took some pills to reduce swelling. I think I may have overdosed on medication since I also took altitude pills and malaria pills the same day. The next morning (the morning of the Sacred Valley tour) I felt incredibly nauseous. Our departure time was something like 7am so I was also super tired.

The thought of just cancelling the tour and resting for the day crossed my mind a few times but I didn't want to lose the last chance of visiting these places, and we had already paid for it. In the end I'm very glad we ended up going. I felt better eventually but the first few hours I was super sick. The windy roads and super bumpy drive was so painful for my injured butt and my nausea. I did throw up a few times in the car lol.

Sacred Valley Peru
Sacred Valley Peru
Our first stop was Pisac. A lot of tourists come for the weekend market. I didn't take any photos here unfortunately since I was still feeling really sick, but there wasn't much to see besides the market.

Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley
Ollantaytambo village market
Ollantaytambo village
Next we visited Ollantaytambo which I really enjoyed and would have preferred to spend more time exploring. They are known for their archaeological site built on two mountains overlooking the village. At that point I was still feeling pretty weak and had to climb all the way up these steps..I just barely made it.

Ollantaytambo steps
leftbanked despacito Ollantaytambo
leftbanked Ollantaytambo
Peru kitchen
At some point we stopped for a buffet lunch and also visited this home where a woman made us "chicha". Chicha is a type of drink that could be fermented or non-fermented, made from variations of corn, grains and fruits. It was delicious.

Chicha Peru
Pucara Bulls Peru
Peruvian corn
Peru mother and child
Peru cooking ingredients
Peru Pucara Bulls
Peru guinea pigs
Guinea pigs there are food, not pets!

Moray Ruins Peru
Moray was pretty cool. It is a series of circular terraces believed to be used as an agricultural laboratory. Each level of the terraces have a different temperature and microclimate which could suggest that the Incans used it to experiment with different crops. It also had a unique location that prevented floods from happening there.

Maras Salt Mines
Finally, the Maras Salt Mines which have been in use since Inca times. The thousands of salt ponds now belong to hundreds of families living nearby. The salt mines were traditionally available to anyone wishing to harvest salt. The owners must be members of the community and the size of the pond assigned would be dependent on the size of the family.

Maras Salineras Peru
leftbanked despacito Maras Salineras

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