The flight to Iquitos was short, about ninety minutes. The city's population has exploded over the last thirty years from a population of 50,000 to nearly 500,000 on the back of oil, tourism, timber- mostly mahogany and cedar, and exotic aquarium fish. Our guide of the moment and for the next few days is Orlando. The bus to meet us at the airport was a classic. Quite literally. A 45 year old Jurassic Park cluncker with a slated painted mahogany roof, curve front and rear panels and those old style built for bums not for comfort seats. It had windows that sat in the cavity of the side of the bus under a flap that you had to lift, pull the window out of it's recess and lower it down to sit on the flap. We were introduced to our driver who was not only their "very best" driver but also is a very good mechanic. That seemed like a dubious point to have to make.
|Oh the memories, bumpy rides to school, cream on top of your milk|
and chalk screeching down a black board
The bus trip through Iquitos was interesting. There is a daily street market that operates over 20 blocks and attracts 40,000 people a day. Like most of the markets in S.E. Asia, refrigeration is non existent. Produce has to moved quickly so it's all priced accordingly. We drove right through the middle of it all, it was heaving and chaotic. The weather here is totally unpredictable. It can rain, shine and rain all in the space of ten minutes. It was sunny when we left the airport and raining lightly when we went through the markets. Vendors are trying to conduct business from under tarpaulins and make shift plastic tents. We were warned to keep our cameras inside the bus lest we lose them to a black haired "Piranha". We arrived at the small port where we were going to take our boat down the Amazon to our jungle camp, 27 miles down the river. It didn't look much but when our captain let it loose it took off like a Kiwi jet boat.
|Turns out shes built for comfort and speed|
Iquitos is about 380 square kms, is the sixth largest city in Peru and the largest in the Amazon basin. It has the Amazon on one side, Itaya and Nanya rivers on the north and south sides and the Moronococha lake on the north east. You can only get here by plane or a week long boat trip. This explains the low crime rate, there's no place to hide. When we left the port we left on the Itaya river which folds into the Amazon. It's that same trout pond brown as the Mekong. They're seem very similar in a lot of ways. At full throttle the boat sat very low in the water, I could drop my hand in from my seat, if I wanted to. With a ph level of 47 the Itaya river is almost toxically acid, not that it worries the fish. Fish from the river supply a thriving seafood industry. As the river tips into the Amazon the ph drops dramatically down to a respectable and more normal seven.
|The murky waters of the great Amazon|
Our resort is called The Ceiba Tops and it has a great pool with an awesome water slide which we gave a bit of a bashing before meeting Orlando for our night time walk.
|This place was always going to get a thrashing|
|WARNING WARNING, INCOMING CVW'S|
|.....and a perfect touchdown.|
We had a quick Pisco Sour and a big bowl of pop corn in the bar area while we waited for him to arrive. It was here where we had the pleasure of meeting the only talking Macaw I've ever seen. In fact the only Macaw I've ever seen. No dusty old parrots here. These birds make a Mardi Gras look dull. It does seem to only know one word, Hola, but hey, its still a talking Amazonian bird.
|Could this be the world's only Pisco drinking, popcorn eating, talking Macaw ?|
The walk was muddy, dark and despite layers of insect repellent all manner of flying things want to land on you, buzz you and generally annoy you. But this is not a walk through Kings Park, we're in the Amazon, so bring it on insects. First thing we saw, stuck to the side of a tree about 6 metres up, was a massive Tarantula. Big, furry, black and right where we want him to be. We got dive bombed by jungle bats, one almost landing on Christina and saw a tree Boa perched on the outer branches of a tree waiting to strike and bring a bat home for dinner. We saw a millipede as fat as a breakfast sausage. One of the lodges "pet" Tapirs came crashing through the jungle and scared the crap out of us. Apparently it likes to follow the night walkers when they go into the jungle.
|Tupac crashing our night walk and scaring the crap out of us|
|Callum's seen it, Christina hasn't ..yet.|
The resort has two "pet" Tapirs, the other is named Cynthia. Imagine you've crossed an Anteater with an small Elephant and you've got a Tapir. I say "pet" because we were warned that they are still wild animals that disappear into the jungle for two weeks at a time and come back when they feel like some easy pickins. In other words they'll go you if they feel like it. I like the smaller one, because it's the smaller one. Also it's cuter. The locals call it Nancy but I've decided to rename it. I'm calling it Tupac. Tupac Tapir.
|Tupac and his posse|