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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gamarra- An Eye Opening Shopping Tour

Yesterday, my new Canadian yoga buddy, Colleen and decided to do another lovely tour with Haku.  At this point, I must be getting close to ten tours with them, and when Edwin picked us up he had some gifts for us from his lovely wife, and co operator, Zuly:

So sweet!  We headed out and drove about 30 minutes before we got dropped off in Gamarra, an area in the La Victoria district of Central Lima.  We really didn't know what to expect when we got there, other than this is where all of the Peruvian brand name "knockoffs" are produced and sold at wholesale prices.  Edwin did fill us in a little bit as to how to be safe and what we might see when we got there.  He told us that most of the area is relatively safe, but we would be going "outside the gates" for a short while and we did have to be extra vigilant and make sure we had nothing valuable showing while we were in that area.  As in most areas of Lima, pickpockets and grab and runs do happen, especially to gringos.  With Colleen and I sticking out so much (both tall, very white and blonde) we make natural targets.  Both Colleen and I have had no trouble anywhere in Lima, and know that being aware, and not gawking around is very important, as it is anywhere.

We made a quick stop at a street vendor selling organic coconuts and some delicious sugar coated shaved coconut treats.  I went for the patty of crunchy sugar coated goodness and was to die for!  Peruvians never cease to amaze me with what they can come up with.  He was also selling the husks of the coconut for a natural fertilizer to use in plants, a practice which I know is also being used in North America as I have done it as well.  

We also found a typical Peruvian fruit vendor, something that I make use of almost everyday in my neighbourhood.  

As we were walking down the street, we came across this armored police vehicle, that looked really badass.  Edwin told us that when he was growing up, these were almost the only vehicles in Lima.  He remembers his mother being picked up to go to work in one of these.  

The streets were packed, but were nothing compared to what they would be later in the day.  150 000 people visit Gamarra each day to buy and sell goods and 60 000 Lima residents work in the factories and stores so it was no surprise how crazy it was!

We got to our first actual stop, a large building in the heart of Gamarra filled with shops and production facilities.  We took the elevator to the top and were greeted by the owner of the building, a 60ish year old man that seemed to quite enjoy the presence of a young blond girl.  He spoke little english, but was still able to tell me how beautiful I was and how glad he was that we came to visit.  He took us up to his restaurant on the top floor with an amazing 360 view of Lima.  We said our goodbyes and he insisted we could come back anytime and he would be sure to remember us.

We made our way down the very packed, sweltering elevator and headed out on the streets again.  We came across some street performers in huge Carnivale style costumes.  And naturally we had to get a photo with them.  I am well aware I look awful, and pregnant in this photo.  I also saw the cutest cat sweater in the window of one of the stores and had to have it.  I have been looking for a cat shirt for weeks and this was a steal!  

Along our trip we had several children run up to us asking to buy various things and also just for money.  It is not feasible to give to every one of them, but when this family of three adorable kids came up to us selling Christmas reusable shopping bags, how could we say no?  I bought two for 1 sol each, quite a bargain!  They were happy to pose for a photo after, except the little one, he was having none of it.

Along the streets were countless men and women carrying loads of textiles and fabrics to the various production facilities.  Most of these were on small trailers or dollys that weighed 3 or 4 times what they do.  They make only 50-70 soles for 12 or more hours of this hard labour.

We reached our second stop, El Paraiso.  It was again filled with store fronts attached to small production facilities.  Inside were many American brandnames like Billabong, Volcom, Converse, Quiksilver etc, along with amazing Peruvian designed clothes.

We made a stop at Umberto's production facility were he and his staff design and make amazing Prom dresses.  It was a rather small facility and the dresses were gorgeous.

We also stopped into another very state of the art facility and visited with some of the workers.  Here they do the brand name "knock offs"  I saw Playboy and Converse as well as an American/Mexican Catholic design shirt that they were working on that day.

Down a couple floors we were drawn into a store with some fantastic men's designs called TNSR.  It was mostly skater type clothing and they had some of the most well made button up shirts and hoodies that I have ever seen.  The owner is a lovely woman who started making clothes because all the boys in her family were skateboarders.  On our way out she gave us these really cool notebooks.

We walked out and saw this adorable little boy sitting alone on the street enjoying an ice cream sandwich and watching the city bustle around him.  

Lining the streets were men and women selling clothing and shoes.  I have to remember I am never allowed to go there myself or I might buy out the city.  We also saw this cool chalk drawing.

The highlight of the trip (okay, maybe just food wise) was a quick stop at picaron stand.  Picarons are basically like mini donuts that you would get at the fair back home but made with sweet potato and fried in oil and covered in maple syrup.  This specific stand won the "Best Picarons in Lima" this year.  And wow, they did not make a mistake on that one!

We neared the "gate" that Edwin had mentioned, were there is not security and it is a little bit shadier.  We were told that if we come back alone, not to go out there.  I did not feel unsafe or threatened, I just know that there was more of a chance of pickpocketing or robbery there.  Right away I noticed the delicious smell of cooked sweet potato.  This old fridge had been converted in to an oven.  So innovative!

We got into what Edwin called the Witch Market.  There were all sorts of herbs and plants used for potions and natural medicine.

note the turtle shells.  Freaked me out a little!

We stopped to have our Coca leaves read by an Incan woman.  You may remember from previous blogs that Coca leaves are what is synthetically produced to make cocaine, but are mostly used in Peru for tea and is said to help with altitude sickness in the Andes.  My fortune turned out really great.  She said I would have a long happy life, with lots of traveling and good health.  

Our final stop was to a very trendy restaurant called Trez, where we enjoyed a delicious juice and a great visit.  

We even got to take the train home!  It reminded me so much of the New york Subway, but was actually much more modern and clean!  Loved it!

Another amazing day with some amazing people!  Everyone enjoy their day!  I'm headed out for a massage and coffee and a trip to San Isidro with my darling Jules!

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