The mighty and muddy Amazon River, a two-hour flight east from Lima. Its rainy season in South America and the river is full of trees and branches and dirt. We’re equidistant to Columbia and Brazil. You can only get to Iquitos by air or water: It is the largest population center inaccessible by road. A half million people live there; motorcycle taxis (tuctucs) buzzing around. This is pre-pollution-control territory.
Two old buses later, lunch at the Yellow Star of Texas Café, down a bumpy dirt road, we arrive at a dock and board a typically funky Amazon River boat. The outboard noisy and dirty; the young driver machismo. Upstream for a few minutes, then across the mighty river, and we duck into an incessantly winding tributary.
Life on the river: We see families in dugouts, men fishing along the banks with nets, crude docks to serve isolated communities with water taxis. In an hour we reach the Amazon River Lodge, inaccessible by car and clearly off-the-grid. Electricity runs from 5 – 10 PM only.
Taking mahogany from the jungle in Iquitos
Antonio guides us in the jungle. He grew up there with his family harvesting fruit. Each week his family went to markets in Iquitos to barter for rice and sugar and other staples. The jungle is rich in its diversity of fruits, and vegetables, and meats like monkey. His family and others fish for piranhas and other species.
The jungle’s history includes extraction of latex from rubber trees for tires; harvesting mahogany, cedar, balsa, and other wood; and since 2004 a plan for 30 years of natural gas extraction – a $2.7 billion project — in a fragile biodiversity hot spot. Antonio uses his boot to expose a root, and machete to cut a two-foot section of it, which we raise it high and drink its pure water.
Back to Lima to regroup, pick up Stephanie and Kristin, and collect our long-lost luggage (four day between United and Copa Airlines), and then off to Cusco. Two days later we fly to Puerto Maldonado near the Bolivian border and riverboat on the Rio Madre de Dios to the EcoAmazonia Lodge. More excursions: Monkey Island to see four species of monkeys; caimans along the banks of the river after dark. A symphony of night-time river sounds.