Over the Andes to the Amazon

October 6, 2007: Sleep was a little more than a two hour nap.  We had booked the next day earliest flight to Iquitos, thinking back I should have waited a day or at least a later flight.  We collected our luggage and had to walk a few blocks to the main street to catch a taxi.  My uncle, aunt and two of my other relatives walked with us to get a taxi but the few taxi drivers that saw us wouldn't stop because we had so many people and large luggage.  We finally got a ride to the airport and we were on our way to Iquitos. That is a view from the plane when we were coming over the Andes.

We flew over the Andes, at first we saw snow capped mountains but that gave way to a gigantic sea of green, a forest that never went away before we landed.  We watched the sun come up from the plane and then the Amazon River came into view.

Iquitos at seven in the morning could be best described as a sauna.  It reminded me of the few months I lived in the deep south, in Brunswick Georgia but in Iquitos there's no relief of air conditioned buildings.  We were picked up by my aunt (Tia Hayde), my cousin (Janette) and the pastor of a local church that owned his own moto-carro.  My first observation of Iquitos as we rode from the airport to my grandparents house was that it look almost exactly the same as in 1988 with some small differences such as random Internet cafes and somewhat newer cars.  Iquitos does not have cars in large quantities because up until recently it was the only city left in the world that could only get reached by plane or boat.  I think there is a road that connects Lima to Iquitos now but its very dangerous.  The majority of people still ride a boat or take a plane to Iquitos.

I was very happy to see my grandparents, since I hadn't seen them in 19 years, my grandmother reminded of an older version of my mother.  My grandfather really didn't know what was going on, so I had to keep reminding him that I was his daughter, Milca's daughter.

The houses in Iquitos are either cement or "tropical".  All the floors are cement so the intense rain does not get everything wet.  The City of Iquitos was doing road construction in front of my grandparents house so our running plumbing water only worked for a few hours a day with weak pressure, so we showered by bucket.

We rested for a while as much as we could in all that heat and then Janette took us into town so we could exchange our dollars for sols.  The money changers are finicky, very finicky.  They would not exchange an even remotely distressed bill, which we had plenty of.  We did some grocery shopping and saw some of the city and went home to meet some more people.  The thing about going into a small town like Iquitos is that everyone who knew my mother wanted to meet us but I had no idea who they were.  I gladly met them but I had just traveled over 24 hours on almost no sleep so to this day I still don't know who I met.

Right after meeting a bunch of people, we went north outside of town to a zoo called, Quistococha.  We saw monkeys, paiche, alligators, birds and more monkeys.  I had been here before when I first came in 1988 and it looked exactly the same.

The monkey laying around.....

A lake in the zoo.

An Amazonian alligator.

After the zoo we came home for dinner and met more people.  There was a light thunderstorm but the lightening kept us up all night.  The thing about true Californians compared to the rest of the USA is that we are not used to lightening or thunderstorms so it was just very loud.  We hung out a little more with my cousin and grandparents and finally went to bed almost 48 hours later we slept.