Very fortunately for us, our flights from Cuzco to Lima and then from Lima to Iquitos were on time and without incident.
So, we arrived at the Iquitos Airport at around 5:00 p.m. on May 15 and were collected by a representative of our hotel — Hostal Ambassador. It turns out, the representative was actualy an employee of an Amazon jungle lodge company called Paseos Amazonicos. Upon arriving at the hotel after the 30 minute ride from the airport, Jesus (the rep.) briefed us on what his company could offer us. We didn’t want to leave the next day (Tues.) but did want to go for a five day adventure beginning Wednesday the 17th. His lodge seemed good and off the beaten track. You see, the jungle lodges that are actually on the Amazon river itself aren’t as good for viewing wildlife because the Amazon river is like a highway for the locals. So, the Paseos Amazonicos lodge was on the Yarapa river about 140km from Iquitos. This was a good location and the price was only $45/person/day. Unfortunately, Jesus could not promise us they would have a guide availible for us on Wednesday. We really wanted to depart on Wednesday and come back on Sunday so Jesus was good enough to refer us to a couple of other companies he thought were reputable.
Well, after two hours of talking with Jesus about jungle lodges, we finally checked into our room and headed out to find dinner. Itquitos has a realy unusual atmosphere that’s kind of difficult to describe. Our first impression is that it is a cross between Africa and Thailand. It doesn’t really appear to be set up for tourism (although there are tons of street touts trying to earn commision from jungle lodge sales) and most of it isn’t very attractive. Really, most of the buildings look very industrial. Below is a picture of one of the main streets with the primary modes of transportation shown. (There are very few cars in Iquitos.)
It is also interesting to walk down the street at night and see people sitting in lawn chairs on the concrete sidewalk about a meter away from honking, rushing traffic and a meter away from the concrete slab that is the exterior wall of their home. There didn’t seem to be many restaurants around either. We walked over to the Plaza de Armas and found the restuarant center of the city. This is where several of the Lonely Planet recommended restaurants are located. I like to try and branch out from what the L.P. recommends but the restaurant directly next door to the Yellow Rose of Texas didn’t appeal to us at the time.
So, we settled on the Yellow Rose. This place is owned by an American Expat (yes, a Texan) who was formerly the director of Tourism for Iquitos. Well, he has the place all decked-out with preserved turtles, alligators, iguanas, armadillos and some fish as well. The seats of the barstools are actually saddles! To add to the atmosphere, the waitresses wear ten-gallon hats and something that looks like U of T cheerleader outfits. The food was mediocre but the beer was good and extremely cold (one of the Yellow Rose’s claims is that they have the coldest beer in town). I had some gator nuggets and Michele had the dinner menu.
The Plaza de Armas itself is quite attractive. Here are a couple of pictures of the church and the fountain we took at night…
Church in Plaza de Armas, Iquitos:
Fountain in Plaza de Armas, Iquitos:
The next day (Tues. the 16th) we spent almost the entire day continuing our search for a good jungle lodge. We finally decided on Muyuna Jungle Lodge which is located about 3 hours away from Iquitos by boat on the Yanayacu River. The cost ($470/person for 5 days/4 nights) was a little more than what Jesus was offering us but it was where we wanted to go when we wanted to go and was highly recommended by several guidebooks. That night we found some dinner and quickly used the internet before returning to our hotel to pull the unnecessary items out of our packs to leave behind while we were in the lodge.