Trip Start May 30, 2005
130Trip End Sep 30, 2006
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I knew that Farah (From Sucre and Cusco) was in town but I really needed to get myself some breakfast before emailing her to see where she was. I found myself a little coffee shop near the center of town and splashed out again, this time on decent coffee and a toastie. I was talking to girl that worked there when the door opened and in walked Farah!
Neither of us could believe that we'd bumped into each other like this, and we just stared at each other, the coincidence is quite amazing. I'd only been in Iquitos for about an hour and with about 350,000 inhabitants the chances of meeting like this were nano-small. Incredible. It just so happened that I'd randomly chosen Farah's favourite coffee shop to have breakfast.
The other great thing about bumping into Farah was that she'd been invited to have some free lunch by the owner of a new bar/restaurant called "Betty Swollocks". I tagged along and also managed to score some free food. The owner was testing a new chef and all we had to do was give our opinion on the food, so now I'm a food critic! It looks like it'll be a cool place when it's finished and the American guy that runs it was really nice as well.
You'd think that a city in the Amazon might be a cool, quiet, chilled out place. It's not. In fact, it's probably more hectic than many other cities that I visited in Peru. For starters you have the moto-taxis everywhere, and the 2 stroke engines are not quiet. The drivers accelerate hard from every green light, the sound just dominates the whole of Iquitos, day and for much of the night.
At the same time though, there is something special about Iquitos, the amazon runs down one edge of the city, and groups of people hang out along the river front each night. There are loads of people with exotic pets such as monkeys and parrots casually walking around, and the members of the ex-pat community certainally have their own distinct personality! I'm glad that I came here just to see the human wildlife.
While I was in town the European Champions League final was played. I wanted to see the game so I searched round a few places beforhand looking for a good spot. I eventually found that the Yellow Rose of Texas had a sports room in the back with a large TV. I was talking to the owner, who was actually from Louisiana but that wouldn't fit the name so well.
"Are you showing the game tomorrow?"
"We sure are buddy, it's gonna be awsome, it's emmmm Barcelona against, errr....."
"Arsenal" I finished off for him.
I'll give him 2 out of 10 for actual football knowledge, but a whopping 10 for enthusiasm.
Sadly I ended up watching the game with a number of Spanish speaking Barcelona supporters, which would have been fine if Arsenal had held on. At least Mr Louisiana was right, it was an awsome game, but then I'm just talking about the size of his TV screen.
Farah and I headed down to Belem and the Floating market, a short walk from the center of Iquitos. We hired a man with a boat and he took us around for the next hour. It was as amazing as the floating village at Inle lake in Burma. The lives that these people lead are incredible, there were walkways and bridges around for short trips to your neighbour, but they needed boats for any longer trip.
The other amazing thing about the people of Belem were the sheer joy that they radiated. They were among the happiest and friendlist people that I'd met on my trip. They'd happily say hello to you as you passed. In fact we were invited into the local pub as we floated past, sadly we couldn't take them up on the offer. I loved it.
Farah and I rented a motorbike on another day and headed off down the one main road out of town. The traffic was mad, it really reminded me of Asia, that's perhaps one of the reasons that I liked Iquitos so much. It thinned out a little once we were past the airport and we were left to cruise along with the warm air blowing through my thinning hair.
We visited the zoo which wasn't as bad as many zoos in developing areas. The real reason for coming here though was for the beach on a river that runs through the zoo. However, when we arrived the heavens opened up and chucked it down. We had to hide in a nearby restaurant for the next couple of hours while we waited for the rain to stop. The whole idea of lounging around a beach had to be scrapped. Instead we just wandered through the rest of the zoo, having a look at the various monkeys and parrots that you're able to see on people's shoulders as you walk through the streets of Iquitos.
I didn't end up going on one of the slightly expensive trips into the Amazon itself, but Farah and I did spend a night in the jungle, although it was only a few minutes off the main road. You could still faintly hear the road in the backgroud it was still really peaceful and gave you a chance to have a little walk through some secondary rainforest (This is forest that's been logged and since grown back).
Before I left I was determined to see a sloth. I hadn't managed to catch up with one yet but I was hot on the trail. In fact all I had to do was go out to the 'Serpentario', a short boat ride from Iquitos. The whole serpentario was a little sad, as the animals were kept in small cages. This was ok for the small animals but not them all. They showed me the Sloth to start with and I was even able to hold it. It was so cool, although a little faster than I'd imagined it to be. They looked fairly comical as well with their 1960's mop top haircuts.
Next the guy wanted to show me a puma, they weren't doing a good job of looking after it. They asked me if I wanted to take a picture of it and I just said no, it's cage is too small and I walked straight past it. What I did like, were the Anacondas and Boa Constrictors. Now they were as long as I'd expected. I have to admit that have a little phobia with snakes, I was perfectly happy to look at the snake, but when the guy asked me if I wanted it round my neck, I told him no. Then he asked again, and I said no again. Then he asked again, and I said yes. Goodness knows what I was actually thinking of. He placed it round my neck and I didn't enjoy it being there, They took a photo of me with it on, and then I told, not asked, but told the guy to take the snake off. I don't know what possessed me, but I'll not do that again in a hurry.....
That was the end of my week in Iquitos. I had to get moving again. I'd have loved to have stayed for longer, perhaps another week and a trip into the real rainforest, but I guess that I'll need to save that for another time, should I ever actually return to Iquitos, who knows?