Thursday, 30 October 2014

Iquitos and the Amazon Jungle

Visiting the Amazon jungle was everything I had anticipated and more. I only had a superficial impression of the place, but I guess I can't reasonably expect more from a 2-day trip. When I look back though, it feels so much longer - I can't believe how much I packed in.

On arriving at Iquitos I was surprised to get off the plane to heavy rain. After living in Lima for so long, which is permanently devoid of the stuff, I was most unaccustomed and terribly unprepared. But it wasn't a horrible England-type shower - it was warm and smelled fresh, and was actually quite pleasant after being cooped up on a plane for 2 and a half hours.

So after the inevitable long wait at the baggage collection area (seriously, why is it always my case that comes out last?!), I was very excited to get my adventure started, wheeled out my suitcase to the pick up lobby, and welcomed the sight of a man holding up a white card with my name on it. It was already dark so for the half hour journey to my hostel, I did not get to see much of the city. However, I did get an eyeful of dirty road water as a car drove past and whipped it up at just the right angle for it to fly through the driver's open window and into my face. I was worried I'd go blind but I seem to be alright so far.

The hostel, Golondrinas, I had booked beforehand, and for a mere 20 soles (£4), I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. It scored major points for its pool, and it didn't take long before my bikini was on and I was jumping in. As well as that though, the rooms were clean and comfortable, and I was out like a light when I crawled into bed in anticipation of the upcoming 2 days.

Jungle lodgings

In the morning I was up bright and early ready for my guide to pick me up from the hostel at 9am to take me to the jungle, where I thought I would meet the rest of the group. However, as it turned out, I had my own personal jungle experience on account that I was the only person who had booked up for those days. The only time I was a bit apprehensive about this was on the first day when we went out for a hike and I followed the man I had met earlier on that day into the deep jungle whilst he was armed with a machete. As it turned out though, the machete was to cut down the pesky branches that got in the way and not to carve me up, so I did come out alive. 

The day and night hikes were phenomenal. The size and colours of the butterflies were astounding, and they were everywhere! I also saw some of the biggest moths I've ever seen in my life. By night the wildlife was a little different. The guide, Ashuco, was pointing out spiders the size of my palm running into the undergrowth, but I was less interested in that than the frogs by the waterside. There were everything from the tiniest yellow ones to the hugest bright green. I was having a great time posing with my amphibian friends.

As well as these hikes, the trip was filled with other amazing activities - we went early morning piranha fishing (and I was pleased to have been able to catch 7 of them - despite the fact most were tiny), swam in the Amazon river (occasionally getting peeks of the pink dolphins we were sharing the water with), visited a local jungle village, and went on boat rides to admire the breathtaking scenery and watch the sun set. 

Catch of the day 

Look carefully and you'll spot a parakeet

Boat rides on the Amazon River

But I have to admit, the highlight for me was visiting Monkey Island, mainly because I have immense and indescribable amounts of love for the little hairy critters, and as a result, was absolutely bursting with excitement at the idea of having actual physical contact with them. I wondered if they might be shy, but they were anything but. On the island were a range of different species - capuchins, spider monkeys, woolly monkeys and more.

I was melting anyway as they bounded over to me and held my hand, rested on my lap, or climbed on my head, but I was almost a liquid mess on the floor when I saw a spider monkey, Susie, walk over with her 2-month old baby clinging to her chest. It was maybe a little bigger than my hand, but not much, and I had to resist with every bone in my body the temptation to grab it and run. However, although the baby was outrageously cute, I think my true soft spot was reserved for Tintin, the woolly monkey, who liked to hold and lick my hand and would clamber up so I could hold him. And he truly was the woolliest thing.

There were sloths as well as monkeys

Handling an anaconda is also an option

Tintin and me

Playing with some of the monkeys

Even though I was only there for 2 days, I feel I did and experienced so much. The dream would be to go back some day and spend longer there, maybe going a little deeper into the rainforest and getting a less touristy experience. The city itself I wasn't enamoured of, so I wouldn't be too bothered about visiting Iquitos again. But as an entrance point, it's probably one of the easiest and most obvious solutions for anyone wishing to go to the Peruvian Amazon.

I feel a little sad that the trip I was looking forward to so much is now over, but my melancholy is abated when I think about my trip to Machu Picchu with my boyfriend in 3 weeks time - and I'm guessing that will be equally as spectacular. 

Goodbye for now sweet Amazon - I'm sure we'll meet again.


  1. This journey through the jungle looks amazing! Ive booked a trip to Peru in September this year with a 3 day spell in the Amazon planned and this has got me super excited about it!

  2. Hi Louise. So glad this has got you all pumped up! Peru is such an amazing place, especially the Amazon. You'll have so much fun - although I hope you have more luck than I did seeing the pink dolphins (and not just a couple of fins).