Published: September 5th 2010September 4th 2010
Welcom to Iquitos
It might be an 'island', but at least it has its own beer...
We are in Iquitos
The world´s largest city unreachable by road, 371.000 human souls in a sweaty, chaotic cradle of the Peruvian Amazon: Yes, this is it, and here we are! We took a speed boat from Leticia/Santa Rosa. Ruled out the slow boat that would take 4 days upstream, most of the time spent with sleeping, reading books in hammocks, wondering when the next stop would be and wishing good luck to the captain for navigating among the sandbanks in the shallow water. The Amazon is damn dry now. We definitely have to come back when the water is high as the whole region must be completely different. So yes, we came fast, 12 hours, only 2 sandbanks hit: all fine.
Upon arrival to this overheated jungle metropolis we noticed clearly that we are out of Colombia. The mototaxi touts were almost climbing into the boat through the windows in order to sell a ride to us to the city centre. They are so funny, they discuss among themselves that we are gonna go with them, based on a single word we mention between ourselves: centre. After the hassle, we made a deal with one of
River home on the way to Iquitos
Typical home along the Amazon, during high waters it can easily get flooded...
the fellows for really cheap, and he took us where we wanted to go, no scam, so all okay!!! We are in Peru and this time it's official!
We ended up in a down-to-earth superbasic and run-down hostel with 8 bunk beds only. Very cheap price, nice owner, cute cat called Ayahuasca, so we took it. The bedsheets seemed clean, and this is most important. Went for a stroll and soon we realised: this place is bloody touristy. They actually built a promenade along the river (which is dry now) where all the tourist bars line up selling expensive food and beer. Full with westerners and local artisans trying to sell their bracelets, bed covers, or basically anything you can think about. And on top of this, tour touts are approaching us from each directions trying to send us into the forest. No thank you, we have done that already.
So we soon realised that we only gonna spend here 2 nights and use our full day for all touristy activity we might do. Tours are overpriced (all in US dollars, why???) and pretty similar to what you can do in Leticia. Actually Ayahuasca is so much present
Here is where we disembarked.
that restaurants have special menu for the related diet... At the end we decided to visit the local market as our touristy stuff.
Getting to Lima? - Not so simple...
The first night we already tried to arrange our flight ticket out to Lima, but here it does not go so easy. Some airlines discriminate between Peruvians and foreigners regarding prices, while others have websites with pretty cumbersome payment systems. So mission failed.
Had dinner (no rice, no fried bananas, no chicken, and yes we are fed up with typical food), nice pizza and salad, and headed back to our hostel for a rest. Taking up the stairs we could already smell the marihuana: oops, our room mates are having a good time. Indeed, they were smoking in the room, passing a bottle of rum around as well. 5 guys who just arrived to town on multiday trips on the river. What can you do in such a situation? Start having an argument with them that they should not smoke pot in the bedroom, etc? I am sure it would not have worked, so we just accepted it as fact, joined their conversation and actually
The shantytown of Belen
This is the poorest part of the city, could be in India...
found out they are okay people. We slept well that night...
Saturday market in Belen - If it ever moved, it´s for sale here
In the morning we quickly arranged a ticket to Lima (surprisingly it´s cheaper to buy through the flight agent than via internet, no clue what the trick is...). Had breakfast, tried the juice of the local super plant "asai" and headed to the market. This part of the city is a bit dodgy, but no issues. Part of the market area is on paved streets, while a section is supposed to be "floating". Well, as you know the rivers are almost dry, so no floating for us, but we had a stroll in the neighbourhood and could see the floating homes, built on huge tree trunks, ready to get on the waves. During winter in the high water season it´s possible to paddle around here, must be cool and I am sure the view is completely different.
We went back to the market, took some photos of "normal" products, misterious jungle potions made from magic herbs (ayahuasca is on free sale here, this is too bad, it should not be taken
Herbs and potions for sale
Local shamanic products are very popular here. One of our roommates is taking now SVSS, which is "siete veces sin sacar". Good luck with the translation! Hint: aphrodisiac...
without a trustable shaman) and some imprisoned or de-boned endangered animals. Yes, they eat here caimans, turtles and sell the monkeys and sloths as pets... Very bad, but anyways, I guess the "dog market" in Yangshuo, China was more shocking than this place...
So this is it about Iquitos, tick mark and let´s go. Tomorrow we fly to Lima and will try to catch a bus to Pisco on the same day. Fingers crossed this all go fine without being mugged on the way by some infamous taxi scams...
There are more photos below