The Calca Market

After our visit to the Sillacancha School the other day, we made a second stop—at the market in Calca. As we bounced along the road between one destination and the other, Funky Town blasted out of the radio up front. We passed cows and small shops. Corn fields rimmed the road, the mountains looming over all.

As we entered the town of Calca with its narrow cobblestone streets and raw adobe walls, Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun echoed through the car. We rocked out in our seats and when the van pulled to a stop across from the market entrance, we emerged out of the sliding door, laughing and dancing. We were ready for another adventure.

Wherever I go in the world, I love going to the local markets. I’ve visited markets in Bali, Mexico, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Jordan, all over the United States, and now in Peru. The markets are similar to each other, yet they’re also different. Since I don’t speak Spanish and couldn’t converse with any of the sellers, I had to be content to walk around with one of our guides getting the names of things—and later setting out on my own to wander and take in the sights and smells—many familiar and some grossly unfamiliar.

Here’s your own walking tour in pictures and captions of the Calca Market. Be sure to read all the captions under the photos. The story continues there.

Here’s the cheese merchant. She gave us a taste. Delicious and unlike any cheese I’ve ever had before. At home I never eat cheese, but when I travel…

Gorgeous delicious cheeses. Each town had its own flavor, style and packaging.

Across from the cheese merchant was the fresh juice stand. Brenda warned us to stay away from juice at the market. She uses a scale of food safety from 1-10 and says we all have to moderate our own risk. Cooked, hot food and fruit you can peel yourself is a 10. I’ve been eating the beautiful salads at Sach’a Munay with no problem. But when we leave here, I’m going back to cooked foods only. Brenda said these smoothies could be a one for the unacclimated stomach—definitely to be avoided.

We trust Brenda. We stayed away. But Adam, from Australia, who’s spearheaded the permaculture at Sach’a Munay and much of the garden at the school had no such reservations. He sat down and ordered his favorite juice with no hesitation.

Apparently Jello is very popular in Peru.

Preparing a bag for a customer.

Tamara doing her homework, making her teacher very happy. “Take notes in the market,” I said, and she did!

Alaina was doing her homework, too.

The morning coffee situation has been sketchy at Sach’a Munay, despite repeated requests to remedy the situation. On my last pass through the market, I found the coffee seller. I don’t drink it, but it smelled fantastic, so I bought a big bag to make my students happy for the rest of our stay. This is Nancy have a nose-gasm over the odour of fresh ground coffee.

Just like anywhere else in the world—where old posters go to die.

Woman entering the market.

I love winter squash.

A familiar fruit.

And their cousins for cooking—plantains or platanos— ripe when they’re black. Yum!

I love avocados everywhere in the world.

Black corn.

There were dozens of types of potatoes.

These potatoes are freeze dried and used in soups.

This is alfalfa, fed only to cuy or guinea pigs, a local delicacy. We’re going to get to taste them on our last night at Sach’a Munay.

They serve these round breads every morning as part of our breakfast at Sach’a Munay.

A merchant weighing dry corn for a customer.

Sprouted corn used for making chica, the sour home-brewed beer of the Andes.

You don’t usually see this for sale at home. Everything is so sanitized. Our meat never shows the animal it comes from. Not so here.

No comment necessary.



Chicken feet. I hear they’re full of collagen and absolutely make the best, most nutritious, most delicious chicken soup.

Two sheep, complete with flies.

Cow snout.

Friends visiting. Preparing a customer’s order.

Waiting for customers.

This woman was selling cheap trinket jewelry while talking on a bright pink cell phone.

Tools of the trade.

This woman and the two women beside here were cutting vegetables at lightning speed and creating giant bowls of them. They were soup ingredients and customers came and order pre-cut amounts of what they needed for their family’s soup that day.

The woman tending this corner of the floor was selling packets of medicinal herbs. I really wished I could have asked her what they were for. Apparently, they are brewed into tea.

You see cheap plastic toys like this all over the world.

Everyone needs rope.

These brightly colored bags—here shown folded on a shelf—are very practical. Many people in our group got them so they’d have a small overnight bag for going to Machu Picchu next week. Our big suitcases will definitely not fit on the narrow gauge train.

A woman watching an American movie dubbed in Spanish as she sits in her booth.

Juliana, who is fluent in Spanish, was able to establish real conversation with many of the shopkeepers. Her talk with this woman was particularly meaningful.

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