Friday, April 11, 2008


So we didn´t get on that boat. Later that morning we decided to go pay a visit to tourguide Ronaldo, only to walk right into him as he entered our hotel. He led us to a few aerocharter places -- including the Peruvian Air Force one -- to try and find a small charter plane to the border town of Santa Rosa. Alas, no luck. The only thing for it was to buy tickets for the speedboat leaving the next day, Saturday morning.

This left us with an entire Friday to spend in Iquitos. Fortunately one mr. Ronaldo, local tour guide, was full of ideas. For 200, 150, 130, 110 Soles he put together a program for us. At 14:30 punto Peruana we boarded a mototaxi that took us to a little market where we boarded a small boat.

We sailed up one of the tributary rivers flowing into the Amazon at Iquitos. The boat entered a narrow passageway through the jungle. It was beautiful and tranquil. Except for the cacaphony of our outboard motor that is.

The first two visits of the tour were to local indian villages. At both places we were presented with a tribal dance after which we got mobbed by the dancers who swarmed around us, pushing trinkets and souvenirs in our faces and hands. We each bought one little piece for 5 Soles, just to stimulate the local economy a bit. One of the tribes doesn´t even live in the village. They live in the town nearby and only come into the village to put on their touristy show. It is good that they are preserving their culture, but it´s sad to see that this is the way they have to do it. Some of the younger villagers looked visibly embarrassed doing the tribal dance, and I wonder how authentic it even is. I bet that at the end of the day they go home to the town and watch TV. So much for authentic culture.

On the up side I did learn to shoot a blow dart gun. I got three tries to hit a target and gloriously made it on the third try. (Actually I didn´t quite hit the target itself, which was tiny already, but I hit the even tinier icon onto which it was fastened, so I may have desecrated their protective spirit). I might have not minded buying such a dart gun, but I didn´t want to lug it around Brazil and Argentina and Chile with me for three weeks.

Picture posing be damned, there's sales to be made!

Armed now with my new wristband sporting real anaconda teeth we sailed on to the third stop: a local wildlife preserve. It was a very small complex of floating huts connected by planks where we got to see sloths, turtles, baby alligators (boy was he pissed off), and the star of the show: a 10 ft live anaconda. Being deathly afraid of snakes, my #1 fear, I stepped up and had my picture taken with the anaconda.

Yes it is.

Notice the armband on my right wrist (surely the anaconda didn´t mind its teeth being there) and the red tribal facial paint that I had received at one of the indian villages.

Turns out later that those bags behind me contained some recently caught boa constrictors, that had not been let out of the bag yet because they were still far too agressive. Boa constrictors are land snakes, whereas their cousins the anacondas are water snakes, so the anaconda is quite docile on land. The zookeeper also tried to drape a boa constrictor around my neck but he couldn´t untangle it from the other three.

A tangle of 4 boa constrictors just to the right of me... what could possibly go wrong?

We were then sheperded into a hut with an ara (a type of parrot) with a one word vocabulary, who duly answered my ¡ola! with an ¡ola!. They sat us down and we feared another song and dance act, but instead we were served "jungle wine", some sort of fermented gasoline made from tree bark with honey and sugarcane, or some such. It was known under many names, one of them being "jungle viagra". No comment.

The day was capped off by a short tour around the floating shantytown of Belen, where some of the huts are on poles but most of them actually float. Their form an acquatic labyrinth that stretches for hours. It was quite fascinating, but unfortunately it was dark by then so we didn´t get to really see much of it.

Tanking gasoline into a coke bottle.

Tomorrow, Saturday April 12, we´re boarding the high speed boat to Leticia/Tabatinga at 6AM. See you in Colombia/Brazil!

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