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Iquitos and the Jungle

 

 

Iquitos is Peru’s gateway to the Amazon, where there are opportunities to swim with dolphins, fish for Piranhas and see a host of bird life in one of the many riverside retreats.

 

The small but bustling town, which sits on the banks of a tributary to the mighty Amazon, is a fascinating place to launch your trip. The pleasant main square contains the Iron House, designed by Gustave Eiffel, and an artisan market, complete with a riverside promenade, which offers a place to take a gentle stroll by day and to drink, party and watch the street entertainers by night.

 

The easiest and most exciting way to reach the port is on one of the many motorcycle taxis, which zip you through the streets to within inches of all obstacles in their way, before arriving at the place where the Amazon trips embark. There you can board one of the metal boats tied to the jetty, each one of which has space for around eight passengers (pick one with fewer occupants for a more comfortable journey).

 

Even though the boats whip along as fast as they can, it takes three hours to get to the most remote parts of the jungle, where the greatest opportunity of seeing wildlife exists. The river soon flows into the mighty Amazon, where it widens and changes color from brown to blue. Only once you are back on one of the tributaries, however, does the animal life explode with the arrival of storks, herons, dragonflies and flying fish.

 

The jungle lodges, which sit on stilts to raise them out of the high-rising river in the wet season, are relatively similar in looks but differ in levels of luxury and comfort. Most will offer the essential mosquito nets and plenty of hammocks on which to kick back and relax as well as jungle guides to show you the vibrant life of the rainforest. A three-day trip offers enough time to get out and explore through jungle walks and river trips.

 

At the lodge, bird calls wake you from your slumber. After a hearty breakfast, you are led through the jungle where leaf-carrying ants trot across your path, banana spiders cling to webs above your head, furry black caterpillars and big hairy tarantulas hide in sodden tree stumps and, if you are lucky, monkeys swing from the trees. Seeds and maggots are available to test your jungle taste buds, while vines dripping pure water can be chopped to quench your thirst. Piranhas swim in the river waters and are there to be fished with primitive rods, making a tasty lunch. Vultures, cormorants, kingfishers, ospreys and eagles rule the skies until the clouds arrive to scare them away, occasionally bursting into a spectacular rainforest downpour, where the only shelter offered is by the trees on the banks.

 

The jungle is a thrilling place to explore and offers a tantalizing mixture of pleasure and pain. The pain of heat, humidity and mosquito bites is counteracted by the pleasure of raw wildlife, papaya juice, hammocks and relaxation in the shade, and the ride back to Iquitos arrives all too soon.



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