Iquitos and the Belen Market

Posted on 14 September 2011 by onthegroundtravel

Iquitos Travel Tips

1) Go to Belen Market early in the morning.  By 11am, most of the interesting stalls have packed up and closed

Belen Market from Trips Around The World

2) Don’t expect things to be cheap just because you are in the Amazon.  Iquitos is quite far away from any major city, and many items must be transported there which add to the cost of the item you may want to purchase.  We needed a flashlight for the evening and a cheap aluminum LED flashlight cost us ~$8USD.

Iquitos City from Trips Around the World

3) Do not trust just anyone who says they are a Shaman to perform a ceremony for you.  Our guide is a descendent of a Shaman, and he told us that Ayahuasca is a very powerful hallucinogenic substance.  If not given or monitored properly, it can become quite dangerous: consider what would happen if you were to run off naked into the jungle at night – God knows what you may run into (a hungry Caiman (alligator)?  a poison frog?  a pirana and electric eel infested lagoon?)!    If you want to experience a Shaman ceremony ask the locals for recommendations.  The best shamans are well recommended by many people.

Animals' skulls in the Belen Market in Iquitos

4) Our posts on Life in the Amazon Jungle and Surviving the Amazon Jungle may also be of interest to you.

Amazon Jungle – Iquitos Adventure Log:

To get to the Amazon jungle in Peru, we must take a speed boat from the port city of Iquitos.  As you would expect for a city in the Amazon basin, Iquitos is hot and humid.  The city was packed with motocars, and we quickly understood why.  In a city where air-conditioning in buildings or transport is rare, riding in an open motorcar gave you a nice breeze that was more than welcomed.  Sometimes, these motocars take on characters of their own when their owners give them names such as “El Vaticano.”

Motocars in Iquitos City from Trips Around the WorldSpeedboats to the Amazon jungle from Iquito's shore

Since we had a few hours to spare before our boat ride, we decided to take a quick tour around town.  The most famous market in Iquitos was Belen Market.  We arrived in the late morning, but the market did not disappoint.  Right away, we noticed many stalls sell home made liquor or potions, aimed to solve anything from attracting the ladies (perfume), to curing insect bites, to healing diabetes.  One potion that caught our attention was called Sangre de Grado (“Dragon’s Blood”).  It was a blood-like liquid that was most effective in curing insect bites.  You would put a few drops on your hand, rub it for a few moments and it would almost miraculously turn into into a cream that could be spread over an insect bite.  Later in the jungle, we discovered that this liquid is the sap from the Sangre de Grado tree, and once cut, the tree actually appeared as if it were bleeding blood.

Homemade potions in Belen Market in IquitosSangre de Grado (Liquid) sold in the Belen Market in IquitosSangre de Grado (Cream) sold in the Belen Market in Iquitos

Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic plant commonly used in Shaman ceremony, is also widely available.  Many rural villages in the jungle had their own Shaman, who acted as the village’s doctor.  The treatment usually began with both the Shaman and the patient smoking the hallucinogenic plant.  Within a short period of time, under the guidance of the Shaman, the patient would start to see different visions.  Based on the visions, the Shaman would prescribe the right treatment, usually from different plants and materials collected from the jungle.

Ayahuasca sold in the Belen Market in Iquitos

We also discovered that sometimes, when an accident on a vessel or aircraft occurred, the wreckage wouldn’t be removed in any hurry (like years?).  At the airport, we saw rusted planes that we believe must have overrun the runway at some point, and on the Amazon river, we came upon rusted ships just randomly beached alongside the river.  Who says anyone was in a hurry?  Where could one haul these large items to anyway??


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