Shopping with the Locals

May 28 (Day 10)

Before our trip, we had developed a rough itinerary that set aside Days 10 and 11 as contingency days in case we couldn't fly out of the Amazon and had to drive back to Cusco as part of the 8-day tour. This was a real possibility in the event of rain and/or fog so we decided to play it safe and not book our train tickets for either one of these two days.  Well, our flight occurred as planned so we had two days to spare in Cusco before our trip to Macchu Pichu.  

Besides taking it easy and relaxing, we visited the Central Market (Mercado Centrale) where the locals and a few curious tourists (like us) go to shop. 
You can buy pretty much anything natural here. From fruits, vegetables, meat, reptiles, fish, spices and cheese to woven souvenir garments, table clothes, stuffed dead baby alpacas (yes, the locals were buying these for their kids) to flowers and prepared foods and fresh juices, this market has it all under a single roof. It was definitely a sight to see, as you had aisle after aisle of vendors in questionable sanitary conditions (especially in the meat section).
This was one of those times when we really wished we had access to a kitchen to cook because the food looked delicious and in many cases, unique to South America, and we were eager to try cooking up a storm with these delicacies. I was particularly interested in trying all the different varieties of potatoes and corn, as the potatoes I had at restaurants were so flavourful that I can only imagine how all the other varieties tasted like.
Speaking of different varieties, there were countless different types of corn that were so colourful and the kernels were so huge... Mmmm, mmmm, corn on the cob would have been delicious!
You definitely can't find this type of variety of vegetables in stores, or even markets, in Canada. Who knows if such varieties even exist in Canada.  I was very tempted to find and buy seeds of all these interesting fruits and vegetables but bringing back agricultural products is a major inconvenience (with little chances of even happening, especially with my luck at border crossings) so I decided not to bother. But it definitely rekindled my interest in researching heritage and heirloom seeds to grow in my own backyard.

Not having access to a kitchen hindered our purchasing choices that day but it didn't mean we left empty-handed.  We bought mangoes, bananas, apples, pears, grapes, avocados, brazilian nuts, and local cheese, and headed back "home" to sample some of them on our balcony.
Now this is how tropical fruit is supposed to taste like!  While the grapes and apples left something to be desired, the pineapple, avocados, bananas, and mangoes were simply delicious. The brazilian nuts were great too.

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