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Iquitos and the Jungle

Time October 28th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The Jungle

Last week, I spent 6 days in Iquitos, including 3 days in the jungle about two hours downriver from the city in a lodge.  While at the lodge, we took several hikes and boat rides, visited some small communities, a shaman (healer/herbal medicine expert), went to a wildlife rescue center, swam in the Amazon River, fished for piranhas, and ate some very good food.  I was surprised at how many people lived in the jungle; there are no roads in the jungle outside of Iquitos, but plenty of people live there in small villages and use the river for transportation.  The lodge felt remote, but it didn’t feel like uncharted wilderness in the middle of nowhere.  There were plenty of boats on the river, and a small town very close by.  The people who live in the Amazon are mostly farmers, fishermen, hunters and loggers, and they take their products by boat to Iquitos to sell.

The nearby village:




The rescue center we visited was incredible.  Their were monkeys, toucans, macaws, a sloth and an anaconda that had been confiscated from people trying to sell them as pets.  The rescue center was a small park on the Amazon River with no fences, cages or walls.  The animals are brought there when they are confiscated, fed and nursed back to health, and allowed to leave whenever they please.  Unfortunately, because of hunting, we didn’t see many of these animals in other parts of the jungle.  Because the animals can leave whenever they want, those that stay in the center are very friendly and comfortable around humans; particularly the monkeys.

When I first got to the center, I went up to one of the monkeys to take a picture, and he immediately ran up to me, grabbed my hand, and led me somewhere else.




The same monkey from above and her little alien-baby monkey:



This guy was particularly fond of me:



Sloths are every bit as ridiculous as people think they are.



They would try to scratch you sometimes, but their motions were so slow that you couldn’t help but laugh.  Later, we saw the sloth come down from his tree and start crawling across a field at a snail’s pace:


We also met with a Shaman, which was really cool.  He told us about a few different plant medicines and herbal solutions, including an alcohol called “siete raices” (7 roots) that is used for all sorts of ceremonies and treatments, as well as all the same things alcohol is normally used for, and Ayahuasca, an extremely powerful hallucinogenic drug that is coupled with a ritual and used for self examination.
Iquitos is a city of about 450,000 on the Amazon river in the middle of the Peruvian rainforest.  It is considered to be the largest mainland city in the world that cannot be reached by road.
After I got back from the Jungle, I was in Iquitos for two days.  The rest of the ifsa group left, so I was able to explore the city alone.  Travelling alone is a very different experience from travelling in a group, and it was something I had wanted to try for a while.  I did a lot of wandering through the city and its many markets, as well as visited a butterfly farm/animal rescue center.  In the airport while I was leaving, I met two other solo travelers from Ireland and London and talked to them for a while, and we shared a cab back to Miraflores from the airport after we landed in Lima.