The floating slum and street market of Belen is the dangerous, putrid, beating heart of Iquitos- largest city in the Peruvian Amazon.
Infamous for its street dogs, thieves, and utterly hectic atmosphere, Belen is about authentically Amazonian as you can get.
Belen is not just a market in the jungle- selling jungle foods, jungle wears, and jungle crafts. No no- Belen is a market of the jungle- a seething, chaotic mass that shrinks and swells uniquely each day, constantly shifting, eating itself, and reforming anew.
Think you knew where a certain stall or vendor was located? Think again. In this place, nothing stays the same, just like in la selva– the forest, which extends for miles beyond the boundaries of this isolated settlement.
At the heart of this repelling miasma is the Merkato del Brujo, or Shaman’s Alley, a place where all the magic, mystery, and medicine of Amazonia is on offer, for good or ill.
It’s a one-of-a-kind market that defines Iquitos, and the Amazon herself, and will stay with any traveler forever- just make sure you know how to haggle, and don’t get robbed.
With enigmatic, overgrown ruins, panoramic views, and walls big enough to repel an invading Incan army, Kuelap is truly a lost city in the clouds.
Take one step inside this ancient fortress, and you’ll feel like you’re the first person who’s seen it in a thousand years.
In the middle of the Sacred Valley lies the Salinas de Maras, an ancient font of that most coveted, magical spice which has shaped our world in more ways than we know.
Salt has been harvested from this majestic, natural spring for thousands of years by the indigenous people of the area. Perhaps the oldest salt mine in the world, Maras is still as active today as it was in the days of the Inca.
To travel by boat through the Amazon is to travel into an isolated world. It requires ultimate surrender, and constant vigilance.
Surrender, because nothing is certain in this riverine world of floating houses, mestizo magic, and pink dolphins. Departure time is irrelevant, if the boat even leaves at all.
Vigilance, because everyone, and everything, will stop at nothing to ensure their own survival, just like the endless jungle that extends for miles and miles, in every direction.
Walking through the narrow temple door, I venture into a realm that systematically severs my awareness from anything outside this primordial labyrinth.
Finally reemerging back into the sunlight, I try and say something to our guide. Yet the only words I manage are simply, “No hay tiempo.” “Time does not exist here.”