Recently I had the privilege of traveling abroad to Peru. We flew from Philadelphia to Lima, the capital. From Lima we went on to Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest. It is the capital of the Loreta region and is the largest city in the world that cannot be reached by road. You can only get there by boat or plane. It is a major port to the Amazon River because three rivers surround it: the Nanay, Itaya and the Amazon. There are twenty-four regions in Peru. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to get to know any other region than the jungle but this was an adventure and experience to be explored for anyone who likes to be one with nature, learn about plants, trees, jungle animals and Peruvian people.
Iquitos is a launching point for a lot of jungle tours and excursions. It is only about 2,000 miles from the Amazon mouth and is downstream to the Ucayali and Maranon Rivers. They have a wet season, which is hot and humid. It was about 80-100* with about 85-90% humidity. The wet season is between November to May. The water level raises and falls about 30 ft throughout the course of the year. In fact, the biggest market place in Iquitos , Belen, had a floating city and part of the year the houses float & the other time it is held up by stilts. (Next week I will explore the Belen market & floating village)
The rubber industry in the early 20th century was the only real industry to develop and provide wealth and resources for this region. Once the merchants smuggled rubber seeds and cultivated crops in Brazil for easier transportation the region was left to wither away. In the recent past gas and oil has been discovered in this region, government is allowing corporations to build a pipeline and hopefully the Peruvian rainforest will not go by way of other precious resources and be destroyed in the pursuit of making money.
That being said, it is definitely a tourist destination even for those that are living in the Loreta or Jungle region. Each weekend vendors of all sorts, entertainers, music, adults, children all coming together to enjoy life and have some fun. It was wonderful to soak up their culture in the main square where they had military parole demonstrations, popcorn vendors and handmade jewelry.
The local people use these motocars/rickshaws, motorcycles that have a buggy on the back, to get around. The streets are buzzing with people street vending on all the major corners, people on the back of motorcycles (nursing babies) and transporting all kinds of things (a refrigerator) on the back of the motocars. Some people lounge, nap, eat in their moto cars. It was very endearing to see the strength and resourcefulness of the Peruvian people!
We met a group of American doctors who are working on mosquito research to help find vaccinations for strains of malaria. We also bonded with some of the local restaurateurs who were really hardworking and talented. The jewelry salesmen/vendors who were fun and sometimes a laugh yet relentless!
The food was fresh, satisfying and usually really cheap. They eat a lot of fish, plantains and fruit. The indigenous fish is pacau and dorado. We ate the Peruvian fruit, camu camu, mangoes, coconuts, papayas, macambo and some others I can’t remember their names. Fresh juice is a daily staple there. All I can say is yes for fried platanos!
Daily I was hot, mosquitos followed me everywhere, challenged to speak Spanish and find our way in a foreign land. Stretching myself out of my normal routine and image of a vacation- I was in the jungle and loved it!
Sorry to all the vegetarians!