An easy flight (if a little delayed) took us north from Lima in Peru up to the stunning scenery of the Amazon Basin: our first glimpse of the mighty Rio Amazonas, and more trees than we have ever seen in our lives PUT TOGETHER!! We exited plane left onto the tarmac at Iquitos were met smack in the face by the chungle heat: this is gonna be a warm one!
We arrived at Charapas Hostel in Iquitos and signed our sweaty names on the registry book. Tom was struggling already – he had forgotten what the tropics were like and after basking in the luxury of altitude for the past two months, the reality of the area of the world we were in was taking its toll already!
We had planned around a week’s worth of time in the Amazon basin – spread over Iquitos in Peru and Leticia in the south-east corner of Columbia – their part of the three adjacent towns straddling the tri-border between Peru, Brasil and Columbia.
Our budget only allowed a short jungle trip to see what we could of the famed wildlife, trees and the scenery. This didn’t deter the jungle trip vendors who persistently followed us around (our taxi driver from the airport mysteriously managed to turn up at every turn we made). We even had a guest for dinner as no sooner had our food turned up then an independent guide called Pedro turned up, introduced himself, sat down, and proceeded to impart upon us all the details of the kind of trip he was going to take us on!!
We were getting a bit miffed by the persistence and consistency of the jungle tour touts in Iquitos, so we decided to high-tail it out of Iquitos and head for the less touristy Leticia, on the Colombian border. We got ourselves a seat on the 5am boat down the river the next morning.
Eleven hot and sweaty hours later we drew up at Santa Rosa – Peru’s tri-border town and clambered from our boat into a tiny water-logged immigration hut to get our exit stamps from Peru.
After solving another no-cash-from-the-cash machine problem by yet another phone call to the bank (luckily we had a small amount on another card which meant we could at least have a snack and buy water the previous evening) we signed up for a boat trip into the Amazon backwaters, sold to us a local fellow by the name of Jorge – who’d also been following us around various ATM’s, our hostel, out for dinner, to the local shop… etc etc!
It was a full day out and we were promised sightings of many animals and birds and, most gloriously, as the waters of the Amazon at present are over two metres higher than ever recorded – there would be NO TREKKING involved: SOLD!!!
We set off early down the river with the captain, the guide, and an Aussie bloke who jumped in at the last-minute. Throughout the day we saw sloths, monkeys, pink and gray river dolphins and many, many types of birds.
Our guide was a great guy, he spoke English very well (thankfully!) and was full of knowledge and passion about the area in which he worked.
He also told us lots about the indigenous people who live along the river and the dreadful conditions they have to live in at this time of year when the waters are so high – that’s the lucky ones who still have their houses to live in. Sadly many homes are washed away each year, with many families displaced for months on end.