21.05.2010 - 24.05.2010 26 °C
We got up at 420am to get the taxi to the airport and caught the flight from Lima to Iquitos. On arrival we were greeted by the tour company, got our bags and headed off to downtown Iquitos, (we were slightly surprised by the size of the river town, 500 000 people) we hopped on a bus and headed to the ferry wharf. Here we got on a long boat with a sizable outboard motor for our 1 hour trip up the river to our lodge. First we did a lap around the city area, Belen, on the river and looked at the floating houses that people live in as it is cheap and they do not pay tax.
5 minutes up the little river we came to the Rio Amazonas and the water changed colour dramatically from an oxygen-depleted black to a oxygen-rich brown, the typical Amazon colour. There were dolphins around the river mouth and we stopped and watched them for a while.
On arrival at the lodge we had a welcome drink of juice and settled into our room. We then went for a walk in the jungle and saw a birds nest with small eggs and many other interesting flora and fauna (and a million mosquitoes - we were very grateful for our Aussie 80% deet repellent, as these were tough customers and others were being bitten). And came back to relax in the hammocks.
Lunch as usual on tours was basic but plentiful. After a siesta in the hammocks, we set off for a river cruise to the animal rescue centre. Here we saw monkeys, a sloth, turtle, tortoise, toucan and snakes. The animals had been brought there by locals when they were injured etc, our tour guide had even brought a monkey he had found at a market in the city, they were totally domesticated and were happy to jump all over you. We also got a little briefing on natural medicines, including cat’s claw which they believe cures cancer. We all had to drink some sugar cane liquor, which was surprisingly ok!
We then went in search of dolphins but didn’t find any! Instead, we went for a swim in the river… bit scary after just holding a snake who’s mother or father might live in the river, but it was refreshing. We then spent the next hour or so watching the sun set over the river.
After dinner we headed out for a night canoe in the lagoon. The guide claimed that he had only seen 6m anacondas in there. We spent an hour on the lagoon and in amongst the flooded rain forest where trees covered us over. It was a bit scary and we saw some big spiders and frogs but nothing capable of eating us in one mouthful.
Day two found us up and off to a local village. We had refused to pay the 10 soles for gumboots as we purchased waterproof shoes and they needed a workout. The walk was not that bad but there were some wet and muddy patches. We saw a very big 250 year old tree, which is quite a rare sight so close to the river, as most have been felled for wood products, mining or farming (the residents protested and saved it from the chop) and had a great deal of jungle medicine explained to us… Never to have a sore tummy in the jungle again. We visited a family’s house in the middle of the jungle and chatted about life in the jungle, they don’t live a life of luxury, by our standards, but they have plentiful water and food and a great life by the river. The guides parents had grown up in the river and he explained that his grandparents struggled when they came to the ’city’ of Iquitos and missed their fresh fruit and fish.
The local villagers put on a bit of a show for us and we danced (well, walked around in a circle) - it was all a bit strange, they wore their traditional outfits, but normally wore Western clothes. They just wanted to trade everything we were wearing from our watches to our shoes for the jewellery they made. We did get to use the blow gun and shoot darts at a target. We both missed. We bought a few bits of jewellery from the locals… but they were more interested in trading than money. It was quite interesting stuff, lots of anaconda vertebrae and piranha jaws in the jewellery.
In the afternoon we went on a canoe ride through the flooded forest that we had been in the night before and to another river. We stopped at the local swimming pool, which was just fork in the river, but we played with the local kids and had lots of fun throwing them in the water, the little kids were great swimmers, but then they do live and play in the river everyday.
That night we went for a night walk in the jungle. We were about 15 minutes into the walk, just getting out of earshot of the camp music and the guide jumped back into the girl behind him. He had been talking to us about the only poisonous (deadly) snake in the Amazon and sure enough he had just avoided stepping on one that was about 2m long. Very big. His friend had died after being bitten by one 30cm long only 6 months ago. She was a long way in to the jungle and did not get any medical assistance. Fair to say that was the end of our jungle night walk and we had a well-shaken-up guide for a while.
The third day we went piranha fishing. We fished off the side of the canoe and used rotten fish as bait. We got lots of bites and pulled a few clear of the water before they fell off the hooks. The Canadian in the boat managed to catch one and he had it cooked for her lunch, it was only about 10cm long, not much meat, but a good set of teeth! The guide caught an electric eel, which was the only other excitement. Typical fishing trip.
In the afternoon we went to the ‘aquarium’. Here they had caiman (small freshwater-looking crocs) and the largest fresh water fish in the world, that live in the Amazon. We walked out on a walkway to a rotunda and on the way these very, very large shadows passed beneath us. We got out to the rotunda and the guide had some ‘fish food’ which these fish almost jumped out of the water to get at. They were massive, beyond what any of us imagined… about 1m, with huge mouth and jaws and they definitely snapped at the food!
The next morning we went to the monkey island. It was a rescue centre for monkeys and there were 7 different types of monkeys, from little tiny ones that could fit in your hand to larger ones. Some of them had returned to the jungle around the house and others were still living in the refuge area. It was great fun seeing all the monkeys up close and we fed them biscuits, made from egg shells mainly, so they got plenty calcium… not bananas, which seemed strange!
In the afternoon we headed back to Iquitos and then flew out to Lima, for a night, then to Quito, Ecuador for another night and then another early morning flight to Galapagos.