Out of the small group of people, I was one of the few who'd been to Iquitos previously. We all had plans to catch the evening flight to Lima, which gave us about three and a half hours to kill after leaving the camp.
"We'll go to the Belen Market!" I informed them all.
They were cautious about wanting to go. We'd been warned that we would have low energy after leaving camp, and that Belen could be chaotic. But I knew that we would be hitting the market towards the end of the day, and that it would be manageable with the group.
So once we got back to town, I walked the four of us to the market from the hotel. I knew the specific alleyway that I wanted to visit.
"Really?" asked one of my adventure mates when we got closer to the market.
He was surprised by the state of what lay before him. It was a bit scary-looking... But I reassured him it would be fine.
"Just don't eat anything," I warned him. "You'll see what I mean."
I walked them through the dense remaining "end of day" aisles loaded with bright colors and various smells. There were raw pieces of meat laying out for sale... As well as egg whites being beaten in a bowl in the heat, and fish being gutted at the table next to it.
The vultures had prime spaces for collecting scraps when people weren't looking...
"We're looking for the medicine alleyway," I said.
Eventually, we got to it. It was exactly as I had remembered from eight months earlier. The group was in search of crafty keepsakes to take home... And I was in search of a hammock.
We ran into one of the retreat's assistant, who pointed us in the direction of the best table to buy mapacho... Peruvian cigars that the Shamans use in the ceremony.
"Go see Erika's table," he said. "Ot's about 30 meters ahead."
Eventually, we found it...
And it was awesome! Erika gave up quite a few mapacho flavors to sample... Which my high school friend who was there with me insisted on snapping a photo of me smoking...
Ah! This is me after a week in the jungle... Without make-up... And perpetually dirty.
Also... I don't smoke. But I LOVE the smell of pipes and cigars. And since you don't actually inhale on either of those, smoking a cigar is really about the perfumed air they create for me.
I picked up three packs to bring home...
And they all made it home with me.
I wasn't able to find a hammock to bring home (they wanted $100 Peruvian soles - $35 USD) for them. And none wanted to negotiate with me! (So forget that!)
But I got the mapacho.