Iquitos - Day 91-92
Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
254Trip End Ongoing
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Another crazy day of travel awaits! I was woken at 2.30am by the French guys who I met on the boat from Manaus. We're travelling together from Tabatinga to Iquitos so we shared a room last night at a guesthouse near the river border with Peru. We leave by fast boat for the 10 hour journey at 5am, but first we have a tiny little problem! The French guys decided to stay up all night rather than sleep. When they woke me, they said a group of locals have been stood outside the guesthouse all night smoking crack cocaine. The French guys had been watching from a balcony overlooking the street. As you can imagine this worried us slightly, especially as we need to walk down to the docks very soon to get a water taxi across the river into Peru. Three Gringo's with big backpack's walking to the dock in the middle of the night, I think the likely outcome is we get robbed by the crackheads, interesting predicament. Thankfully, the night-watchmen from the guesthouse offered to walk us to the docks, so we left the security of the guesthouse and confidently walked past the crackheads who were starring, menacingly. As we quickly walked down to the river the crackheads followed, rather unnerving! We reached the dock without being robbed, boarded the small water taxi and motored into the darkness of the river. Bye bye Brazil, hello Peru!! We made it with all our belongings and more importantly ourselves intact.
After 15 minutes on the water, we reached the mostly submerged Peruvian island of Santa Rosa where the fast boat was moored. This boat will blast up the river to the jungle metropolis of Iquitos in no time. Peruvian immigration official's stamped our passports before boarding the boat and we were off!
The boat was like a rocket compared with the other boats I've taken so far on the Amazon. I was sat on the back seats near the massive turbo-charged engine. The noise was deafening for the entire 10 hour trip. I love engines but this was too much! Sleep, which I was so longing for was near impossible, but it's better than spending another 3 days on a packed slow boat sleeping in a hammock.
We arrived in Iquitos by mid-afternoon in a rather tired and sorry state. Dozens of harkers were vieing for our attention, "jungle trips, hotels, transport", the last thing you need when you're completely knackered. It was like being in Asia again with the tuks-tuks buzzing around and the constant hassle, but regardless I'm so glad to be in Peru after 2 months in dangerous and expensive Brazil. I really think I'm going to enjoy my time in Peru, I feel much more at ease already.
Iquitos is the biggest city in the world with no roads in or out. The only way it's 500,000 inhabitants can escape this concrete island in the Amazon basin is by slow boat or plane. The city doesn't feel remote though, it's just like any other frantic south American city but on the outskirts lay pristine primary rainforest. I may head into the jungle again, could be my last opportunity before I hit the mountains.
We found a cheap hostel in the centre of town called the "Hobo Hideout", very appropriate to match my vagrant slash nomadic lifestyle. Only 3 quid a night too, that's more like it! Had a walk around the city centre to get my bearings and returned to the hostel for a much needed shower. We went out for Pizza this evening which was the first non rice and bean based dish I've eaten for a long time.
Day 92 - 08/04/09
I feel very ashamed, I've booked a plane ticket today to fly to Lima from Iquitos. I pledged at the beginning of my south American travels that I wasn't going to take any flights within the continent, overland and boat would be the only options. Today I broke that pledge at the prospect of another 7 day boat journey on an unsanitary Peruvian boat. I'd done so well not to cave in to the temptation of flying for so long. This will be the first and only flight I take in South America, I promise!!
I've decided to head into the forest again tomorrow with the French guys. I'll be meeting up with a local shaman in a small village 4 hours south of Iquitos on one of the tributaries of the Amazon. I'll be taking part in an Ayahuasca ("Vine of the Soul") ceremony tomorrow evening which involves drinking a concoction of hallucinogenic jungle vines. This concoction is one of the most potent natural substances on the planet and I've been assured that the shaman is extremely experienced and is the real deal. The ceremony usually lasts for 3 to 4 hours (depending on the person's tolerance or strength of the potion) and is performed deep in the forest at a remote location. Ayahuasca is used by the indigenous people for a wide variety of uses such as general healing, riding of parasites, talking to the dead, igniting creativity to name only a few. I'm really excited to have the opportunity to participate in this indigenous ceremony which has been practised in the Amazon for hundreds if not thousands of years. The ceremony will be performed tomorrow evening, the French guys won't be talking part, so only myself and the shaman will drink the sacred Ayahuasca. The French guys will watch the ceremony and give me some moral support if times get hard.