Unique Iquitos

Indeed, it is unique! Apparently the largest city in the world inaccessible by road – who knew? Well, I did in a way although not quite succinctly as this but I did know when I was travelling there it was by flight rather than buses on any a=part of my journey from Chile to Lima then Iquitos.

Having been directed there by a French hostelier I stayed with in Lima, he had been to the Amazon jungle and advised this route instead of via more regular routes. He had been to the zoo that I didn’t aim for, but glad I didn’t see I guess as it wouldn’t be comfortable to see the caged animals ‘a wall away from their natural habitat’ (see this mentioned in the link below)

I loved it! It was noisy indeed with locals running motorkaros – thousands of them everywhere – and shouting across to each other on roads, park areas and at the ports!

I loved the people – so frank, interesting and cheeky in so many ways! From the guy sat near me in a restaurant openly happy to chat and possibly more, the same with a very cute Peruvian on my last day there on my way out of the Amazon for second time – long hair, strong body, nice looking and very ‘promising’ … but I had a flight to catch.

The Peruvians are quite short but so am I so it wasn’t that obvious to me, but I found their honesty and forthright attitude refreshing and easy to manage, no matter what they had to say. There is little left to guess at.

There was a man who ‘picked me up’ on the riverside, calling himself ‘George – George of the Jungle – (unsure where they get their education in English, sales or marketing!); he took me around the town and pointed things out, from the authority offices I probably couldn’t get in without him to the two huge lizards on the trees above the Nanay river

Then we took a motorkaro down to Belen (Bethlehem in Peruvian but a poor, sad and no doubt difficult unsafe place to live I’m guessing) to the market and potentially a boat ride I chose against because it didn’t feel safe, especially for me as a woman on her own – and he then expected payment even though he hadn’t asked, offered or negotiated – but by now, on my travels, this was a familiar pattern so I was neither surprised or offended – it’s how they make their money.

It cost about £12 in UK money and was well worth it. I also took a trip by motokaro around the town and to the port to explore for about £12 too, for a whole day if I wanted but it got too hot and tiring so I gave up but my driver was grateful, and again, he took care of me. IN part perhaps so I didn’t disappear and he got his money but whilst in the port, where I knew it wasn’t ‘safe’, he watched my back and then walked with me, helping me find a drink – Inca Kola! Very sweet but nice. It would otherwise have been over-whelming for me, unable to speak Spanish then.

The market was interesting and glad I wasn’t alone I think; although I don’t fully trust them not to rip me off in some way I also have to trust people to get to see things you cannot plan too carefully like this.

The market was real and local, wet foods on sale from turtles and caiman meat, to specialised tobaccos with who knows what in them (ayuhuasca hallucigens for some I guess!). Fresh herbs and veggies, people calling, most knowing ‘George’ of course. We sheltered under the tarpaulin stall in a downpour (frequent by now all over Asia and S America for me!), looking up at the large condors perched above the stall across, waiting for the quell to fly again.

Condors are all over Peru – it’s capital, Lima, nicknamed ‘city of the condors’, and Cusco, as they fly constantly overhead, watching from the rooves of historic cathedrals and colourful building around the squares, over the mountains and flats as I bussed around, and at Miraflores holiday locality where I got the best shot of a condor with a 13-14 foot wingspan when, after trying for more than an hour, just watching and waiting for him flying past, to get a clear shot – he seemed to fly round in slow motion, felt he made eye contact and gave me a nod for the most amazing shot on my iPad (better apparently than another tourist with a very high end expensive camera who hadn’t even noticed the condors in Cusco!

I digress. My tour. The boat trip followed this, from the market to a long flight of wide steps down to the riverbank, through blue wooden shacks on either side. A young teenage boy beckoned me – clearly, a part of the tour plan they shared the money with, maybe even George’s son for all I know; but it was too isolated for me, my instincts said no and I listened. Although I was often taking risks they were calculated and instinctively monitored, and I was wary but willing to try new things always.

So I went back to town. I loved the few days exploring the town and Plaza des Armas, the stay before the first trip, on night before my second and my last night in Iquitos on my way out of the Amazon jungle.

There were few shops but modern banks and cash machines, too, local bars and outdoor gatherings I enjoyed joining in – singers, entertainers with people sat around in like an amphitheatre enjoying life and relaxing in the warm evenings with family and friends, eating at the riverside restaurants for tourists or maybe wealthier business owners, including tasty salty fish from the local river and a variety of food options from pizza or local dishes I preferred to try.

I stayed in two places – one basic hostel that coincidentally was actually next door to Maniti Expedition offices I realised when I was called to the desk for a visitor! In Iquitos, the middle of nowhere – who could it be? It was the young man from there coming to bring me to the office for my trip!

The second hotel, after my second trip out for one night only, was nicer and a little more expensive, an hotel v hostel but not the same atmosphere for me.

I actually also got to visit a local family and chat to local people because of Asuco, so that was fun. He took me out to his family party on the last evening there, with beer, food and dancing, the children playing on the street outside. I met one of them again in Plaza des Armas on my last day when someone called me over having recognised me from the previous evening, when I had been out there to their house.

These sort of experiences you cannot plan but have to take in your stride, willing to take some risks and always opportunities!

FURTHER READING

Guardian article on Iquitos

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