Monday, July 1, 2013

Peru-Brazil 2013 – Day 13 – Iquitos

For our last day in Iquitos we hired the services of a young man, Roberto, and his boat, to take us around the four rivers that bound the island of Iquitos: Intay, Amazonas, Nanay, and Momó. The Amazon has a high load of clay, so it looks like coffee and milk. The others, in contrast, are dark due to the abundance of humic substances, so it is quite interesting to see the place where any two rivers meet. (This is the shock zone I described yesterday). I remember seeing something similar in Venezuela, where the Rio Orinoco meets the Rio Negro. Well, this time we got our chance of seeing pink dolphins in the wild, and that was pretty exciting.

After chasing after the dolphins we crossed the Amazon and entered the Rio Momó, where an enterprising tribe of natives, the Bora, have established an outpost that tourists can visit. For a flat fee you get to visit the outpost village (the true village is a few kilometers inland), see their traditional costumes (including women who go around topless), see some traditional dances, and look at some of their crafts (I wish I could have bought the anaconda skin they had, but I am pretty sure it would have been illegal to bring it to the US). The Bora plant pineapples and manioc, but the main crop is coca, which presumably they sell to narcos to be processed into cocaine. Nobody talks about that part of their business.

We then stopped at a little zoo/animal rehabilitation center. This is a non-profit organization that receives animals that have been impounded by the customs service, and which come to them dehydrated and emaciated. They nurse them back to health, and after a while send them to a mid-way facility, where they are released back into the wild. Apparently there are several of these non-profits, which works well for everyone. The Peruvian government saves itself the cost, the non-profits do good and meet operational expenses by charging a small fee to visit the zoo, and tourism has one more thing to look forward to. For Annie the hit was the sloth, who was happy to hang on to her as if he was a baby. I got to carry the anaconda, while Annie cringed in fear, and we both enjoyed the monkeys (including a tiny mono leoncito, who followed us from cage to cage).

We also visited a sand bank with lots of aquatic birds on it, but no soon had we set foot on the bank that the whole colony took to wing, expressing their disapproval for the intrusion with loud sqwaks. The Amazon is now receding from its maximum flood, and in a month the sand banks will coalesce into a continuous beach as the river stage falls to its winter minimum.

We got back around 2 pm, not quite sure about what we wanted to do with ourselves for the rest of the afternoon. Roberto took us in his moto-kar to look for a bookstore (I bought a collection of short stories about the jungle), and then dropped us at a restaurant on the plaza mayor for us to have our lunch. It is reputed to be the best restaurant in Iquitos, but I didn’t think it was anything extraordinary.

Annie went back to the hotel to pack for tomorrow’s departure, and I went to walk along the famous Pasaje Paquito in the Mercado Belem, where all the herbalists and shamans display their wares. Pretty interesting to see, but I didn’t buy a thing. Back in the hotel we loafed for the rest of the afternoon, getting ready for tomorrow.

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