Saturday, August 14, 1999

A Day in Iquitos

This morning we said good-bye to Terry, Marty, Pat, Lilia, Sally, Bill, Tamara and all our new Peruvian friends. We all promised to keep in touch. Lilia and Tamara were flying home to the United States. Everyone else is going to spend a few more days further down the Amazon. We are staying the night in Iquitos and then flying on to Lima for a day before heading to Cuzco.Blue wall tile

Our hotel in Iquitos was lovely, with a courtyard and a swimming pool. We dropped off our luggage, took our first fresh water shower in a week and then got ready to see the sights. Iquitos is a city of half a million people on the edge of the river. It was the center of a rubber boom in the late 1800's that drew many people to Peru. The colonial style buildings from this period are still found throughout the city. They are easy to spot because they have beautiful tiling on their exteriors. Iquitos is now the center of a new economic boom brought on by oil and mineral exploration in the rainforest. It is a very "bustling" city.

Iquitos trafficThere are no roads connecting Iquitos to other cities. Everything that isn't made here must be brought in by boat or airplane. However, there are roads throughout Iquitos that are filled with motokars. (Yes, this is the correct spelling.) Motokars are three-wheeled motorcycle taxis. Riding in one is like being in a pod race in the latest "Star Wars" movie. We hung on for dear life as we rounded the corners. Often we closed our eyes as the driver swerved around slower moving motokars, pedestrians, dogs, buses and trucks. We were happy to get out once we reached the market.


The Market

Béder and his wife, Lucillia, gave us a tour of the market. The local people buy everything from batteries to clothes to food there. While walking through the market, we were bombarded with so many new sights, sounds and smells that it was a bit overwhelming. The food section was particularly interesting and very different from our markets in the United States. There are many different kinds of fish here. While on the river we saw the holes the "walking" catfish make in the banks of the river when the river is high. In the market there were baskets of them available. Here, there is no refrigeration in the market so the vendors must sell their food fresh each day. That means are there many live animals for sale. For those of us who haven't grown up on a farm or ranch, the sight of all the live animals was a bitBucket of catfish

We also saw animals for sale that we knew were endangered and protected by law. There were many stalls where turtle eggs, turtle parts and even live turtles were for sale. Tapir, caiman, and peccary were also available. After spending a week on the river working to protect dolphins and learning more about the rainforest, it was difficult to see these other animals for sale. For many people in Iquitos, however, this is normal. The jungle and the river have always been sources of food. They have grown up eating these animals. Like people in many parts of the world, it may be hard for them to understand that some species of animals in the forest are diminishing and need protection in order to survive.

Turtle parts for sale


The Cyber Cafe

After our tour of the market we went to one of the Internet cafes. There are four of them in Iquitos. We were a little surprised that even in remote Iquitos, people have access to the Internet. We looked at our website and read our email. It was rewarding to see the information we have been sending home posted on our site. We expected to meet four members from the Delfin crew while we were there. They wanted our help in setting up email accounts, andPoster for Internet cafethey wanted to learn more about the Internet. They said that the two things they needed to learn in order to be successful were English and computers.

Unfortunately, they had to go out on another trip and couldn't make it to the café. Béder, who already has an email address, said he would show them all how to set up accounts when they got back.

We spent our evening getting ready for our early morning flight to Lima. We had had our clothes laundered earlier in the day. When we got them back, were very surprised that our white tee shirts -- which had turned brown form washing them with water straight from the river -- were actually white again. In our luggage we are still carrying all the plastic trash from our week on the river. As is the common practice here, all the trash on the boat went into the river during the week. We didn't want to put items in the river that were not biodegradable, so we have been carrying it with us. We plan to throw it all away once we are in Lima.

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