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  • Writer's pictureMay MahaMetta

Iquitos: A city and a jungle

Iquitos can be reached by waterway or airway, but there is no road that takes you there because it is an island in the middle of rivers and the rivers of the Amazon area, including the Amazon River itself, are tremendously abundant, especially in the rainy season, from December to April.

And this difficulty of access makes the goods very expensive, putting prices at almost the same as in Europe and I don't understand how they can afford to pay since they don't earn so much money.

The city itself is a small city full of motorcycles that gives the sensation of a lot of pollution due to so much traffic. The boulevard is pretty, yes, but on the weekends it is very crowded, like any other in any other city where people walk on Sundays. And if you are looking for a foreigner, look for them there because everyone must meet there, in restaurants. You won't find me there because I'm a foreigner, but I avoid doing everything possible to get together with tourists. They get together when they travel because they somehow feel safer "among them", but I have met a lot of travellers to whom when you ask about the customs of the countries they have visited they tell you some stories they have read somewhere but that they undoubtedly do not speak of their own experience.

Casas flotantes del distrito de Belén de Iquitos
Casas flotantes del distrito de Belén de Iquitos

Before entering the jungle for my ayahuasquera experience, I wanted to get to know the area a bit. A couple of months before I read someone in a blog recommending to visit "the floating houses of Bethlehem" and I'm still wondering who writes such recommendations. Because the floating houses can be seen in the area of the rivers in Iquitos, not only in the Bethlehem district. And in that area, not only can you get stolen what you carry, but it is submerged in trash. They have always lived like this and do not consider not living like this because it is part of their way of life and the plague and pollution does not bother them. Or rather, they don't know they can live without that insalubrity.

I went with someone I met in front of my hotel, who when he was young was very rich because his wealth came from transporting drugs and selling it outside, and buying weapons for the guerrillas. They caught him, they stole everything from him and he ended up in jail for life. He was fortunate enough to be one of the inmates that President Fujimori released as a grace once a year. And it was his turn and since then he is free, but without wanting to get into more trouble. He lives taking care of motorcycles and earning about 10-15 soles a day, when he is doing well.

He told me that since he was in jail for 15 years, he is known as someone "dangerous" and nobody will mess up with him, so he accompanied me to "protect me". At least he earned his meal of the day.

To the market in that same district I went alone, as I didn't know supposedly it is dangerous, or that's what they told me later, but I felt safe and I was talking to the vendors and even ate grilled fish at the market.

The next day I did behave like a tourist: I went on a tour with a group of tourists. Why? because on the one hand, it is much cheaper than when you go on your own since you have to travel in boats continuously and if you do it privately, you are at the end paying a lot of money. In addition, you have to pay admission to the places where you are going, while in a tour is already included. But also, you don't have to waste your time asking how to get to the sites because they already take you directly.

There were three Spaniards in the group, but despite having sat down on the bus next to me, I never told them about my nationality. I found them very nice, but apart from those first 30 minutes, the rest of the time I was with Peruvians from different regions of Peru. From them and with them I can learn more about this country, its customs and traditions, something I do not need to learn from the Spaniards and if I have come so far it is not to join with Europeans, but with natives.

Despite not liking being a tourist, the truth is that I enjoyed the day. Peruvians are open and have a sense of humor that I like. That is, I enjoyed being and behaving like a tourist.

The first visit was to a nature reserve, Fundo Pedrito, where they had several caged animals. Sad, but that gives money that helps maintain the area. The saddest thing was to see the chicken cage next to the boa cage because chickens are the food of the boa. I don't even want to imagine how those chickens must feel every time they open the cage to take their brothers and put them in the cage next door, and then hear theirs ask for help while they are devoured, knowing that their turn may be the next time they open the cage. I wonder why they don't put more distance between the cages so that at least the few days of life they have, they have them in peace.

Then we visited the "Paradise of the Amazon" which is supposed to be a recovery center for animals that have been injured and that once recovered, release them in a natural place, but that has not been my feeling. I think the animals that are there, are there forever. The monkeys let themselves be touched, something wild animals do not do and the #anaconda does not attack when they put it around your neck because it is domesticated. They will not release her. Moreover, I asked why it had his tail cut off and the woman told me that a piranha had attacked her and that is why they took her there. However, I asked our guide afterwards (he was not with us during that visit) and he said that the animals are taken there when they are little to be able to tame them and that they cut the tail to the anaconda to show her "who is the boss there" and thus be peaceful.

Comunidad indígena Boras
Comunidad indígena Boras

After eating at the lodge where several Hollywood artists stayed during the filming of their films ("Predator" was filmed here for example), we had to witness a show from the Bora community, an indigenous community originally from the area of Colombia that came to live to the Loreto region (Peru) only about 60 years ago with the rubber boom. And I say it in the way I say it because on the one hand it seems painful to me that the Indians have to make a show of their dances every day, several times a day, to satisfy the curiosity of the tourists. We were the last group of the day, along with another group, in total about 75 people, and it was obvious that they did it without desire, without heart, without illusion and more than possibly tired of all that.

But on the other hand it is their way of propagating the way of life of their ancestors until the generation of their grandparents, since they no longer live like that or do those dances in their ceremonies, if they still do them.

Of course, they earn money and with it they can buy goods. But it is that civilization is making them need to buy because throughout their existence they lived without buying anything, only with what they produced and exchanged with other #tribes. Now they have mobiles and a big screen TV.

I love being in the #jungle, but it is sad that everything is ending.

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