Frog Milkshakes & Alligator Heads – Braving The Gamarra Markets

*Disclaimer: Some of these photos are gross, just saying*

In my last couple of days in Lima, I was pretty content with what I’d seen. I’d made great new friends, seen cool things, eaten amazing food and had a bunch of fun. Though there was one thing that I’d heard about that I was very intrigued to see.

One of the guys that I’d met during my time here was one of those hard-core traveller types. He has stories of catching a boat to the Amazon and spending a week with natives drinking ayahuasca – things like that. So when he was telling me about the witches market in downtown Lima, I was a little hesitant to visit but intrigued at the same time. Of course, my intrigue got the better of me and accompanied by three other pals we set off to find this hidden market.

The Mercardo de las brujas (or witches market) is situated in the La Victoria neighbourhood of Lima, one that rarely visited by tourists. We caught a cab to the Gamarra markets where the witches market hide and were let off into a scene of chaos. The Gamarra market spreads itself over 20 blocks and you can pretty much buy anything you would ever need. There were clothing stalls, toy stalls, material stalls, there were vendors selling all sorts of weird and wacky looking food and there were masses of fruits and vegetables available -we’d hit a market wonderland! Not only was the market full to the brim of things to buy, there was masses of people scurrying from A to B. We definitely were out of tourist territory, during the few hours we spent there I didn’t see a single other Caucasian there.

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Welcome to chaos
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Gamarra Markets

We wandered through the busy streets, constantly looking around in awe at the scene around us. Us, being four white people stuck out like sore thumbs and copped stares and pointing every corner we took. After asking for directions from some confused locals (and being told we probably weren’t safe here) we finally came across the Mercado de las brujas. If not for the large crocodile head staring at us, or the long python skin draped across a table I wouldn’t have picked this to be the witches market. However as we bravely entered further and walked past stalls full of potions and powders, strange herbs and dried frogs dangling from the ceiling we came to the conclusion that this must be it.

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I think we found it – the Mercado de las brujas
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Everything on offer here
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Turtle fat and snake blood

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Fascinated by what was on offer we were drawn to the creepy dried baby llama foetuses, the different array of stones and trinkets offering all sorts of remedies for every health problem on the planet. Our fascination turned to disgust when we came across a particular stall offering frog milkshakes. Yep, you read that right – frog milkshakes. The poor, unaware froggies sat peacefully in their tank until the shop owner would scoop one up, kill it and throw it in the blender with some other herbs and powders before serving it up to a willing customer. I couldn’t stomach the thought of even touching one of the frogs, let alone drinking one and my pals agreed; we hightailed it past that stall as quickly as possible!

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Dried baby llama foetuses
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The poor froggies waiting to be made into milkshakes

We continued through the market stalls until we reached the street again where snakes blood and turtle fat were on offer. Bags and bags of quinoa, chia and maca powder sat on the street, at a fraction of the price that they are in Australia. We continued on, leaving the witches market and all its craziness behind. I didn’t really agree with the poaching of animals for their skin etc. but it sure had been an eye-opening experience! We walked through to the end of the markets were a large amount of food stalls were waiting for us. Ordering deep fried potatoes with vegies and fresh juice, we devoured our food trying not to think of the poor frogs waiting to be blended.

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Streets of the Gamarra Markets

The Mercado de las brujas is definitely worth a visit but be prepared for an intense time. The mass of people is overwhelming at times and the sheer array of things on offer can be a little too much! Be super cautious of your belongings and go in a group. La Victoria isn’t the safest part of Lima and is renowned for pickpockets. But most of all go because you wont see anything like it in the streets of Miraflores and surroundings. It’s a whole new side of Lima that will probably shock you but amaze you at the same time.

j.x

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