This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution click to the left or right of an image in blog mode. The images were generated from video to give the best possible view of the journey.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Iquitos: 'Lost City' of Peru

Iquitos is fast becoming a 'lost city' like the fabled El Dorado of the Conquistadors, but not a city of gold but rather of enchanting squalor and timeless isolation. . While Pucallpa with its direct road access is the fastest growing city in Peru, Iquitos, the regional capital is in a state of economic and commercial attrition, cut off from the outside world except for long slow access by river boat, or flying in by air, as rich tourists do.

The city has an isolated degenerating feel that permeates the markets with their mountains of discarded rubbish, flowing over the entire landscape, in the dark atmosphere of its bare wood houses and the sense of unworldliness that comes from its degree of sheer isolation. That said it is one of the most enchanting cities in Peru and certainly on of the most unique on our entire journey, summing up the character of old Amazonas more than any other.

We already showed the images of our arrival in the port in our previous blog, so here we begin walking up one of the main streets, into town to find a place to stay.

A group of evangelists piping and drumming and calling for donations to their cause.

Iquitos is built on a high embankment above the flood plain but the promenade area tumbles down to a shanty town on the flood plain below.

Walking to the overview of the shanty town below.

The stairs on down.

Four panoramas of the shanty town on the flood plain.

A sunny view of the same area in the wet season (Wikimedia commons)

Some of the dilapidated buildings in town.

A walk down to the market area where the produce boats come in is an experience unique unto itself.

You pass through many dark streets with covered stalls.

and then hit the stairs leading down to the water level

Panorama of a street market on the way.

You then begin to enter part of the shanty town area where the buildings are thatched houses on poles.

We came to an evangelist loudly exhorting some followers on a megaphone.

Finally you reach the lower market area, where the boats bring in produce.

It is literally awash with discarded rubbish which the people are so accustomed to that they pass it by as if it doesn't exist.

... more than happy to sit amongst it as if on a beach together ...

... the way back here follows back streets with a more residential ghetto flavour ...

We met two different snake charmers, one with a small boa and the other with small poisonous varieties.

A snake charmer touting for money.

The second charmers slender snake.

A panorama of the promenade by day looking out towards the Ucayali.

A similar view in the wet season (Wikimedia commons)

Plaza de Armas (Wikimedia commons)

The central city has many fine buildings with ornate tile work, each of an individual design.

We wandered the promenade by night where there was a carnival atmosphere, with balloon sellers, a clown who tried to make fun of me in front of the crowd. Adam and Heath tried out one of the night clubs.

A panorama of the crows on the promenade at night.

The clown turns his sarcasm on me.

In the evening, I went down to the shanty town on the flood plain in front of the promenade to recite the preface to Caesar Calvo's novel "The Three Halves of Ino Moxo" a recitation of the native names of a diversity of the species that make up the life and character of the great Amazonas garden of Eden. Caesar Calvo is Iquitos' greatest writer, yet in the vestigial town library, I was able to find only one outdated volume. None of the bookshops had any more than pulp fiction and school books indicating a kind of cultural vacuum.

Reading the Iquitos invocation to biodiversity.

Comrades one and all in the shantytown evening as I read the invocation.

So I duly read the Iquitos invocation to biodiversity, on video from notes I had made before my departure on this journey as a statement for the protection of the diversity of life for the millennium.

Read at Iquitos 10th October 1999 from Caesar Calvo's shamanic novel "The Three Halves of Ino Moxo" (ISBN 0-89281-519-1) in respect of the tradition of the curandero, the living sacraments, as a warning of the immense loss to the welfare viability and natural experience of future generations in pronouncement of renewal of Biodiversity in proclaiming the epoch of the Tree of Life - Arbol de Vitae.

"Look at the jungle. If you try to listen to the sounds of the jungle what do you hear?" And as if he had just caught himself, as if he himself were both the blowgun and the dart and the hunter and the prey and the burning wood waiting in the kitchen, Ino Moxo raised his voice: "Not only the scream of the alert monkeys, not only the humming of the mosquitos, of the arambasa, which is the darkest and fiercest bee, of the chinchelejo, which you call dragonfly, of the chushpi, which infects you as it bites, of the charachyupaúsa which bleeds without warning, you not only hear the ronsapa hissing in the wind, and the mantablanca , which drinks your hair, and the quilluavispa of yellow flights, and the papási, which is born of worms, but is not a worm, and the wairanga, which never touches the ground.

Not only do you hear the flute bird, the firirín, which can't fly and has wings, nor the ushún nor the tabaquerillo, nor the shánsho nor the piuirí nor the grayish timelo, nor the white white tibe, nor the taráwi, which eats snails and is too black, nor the sharára, which knows how to live under water very well, and even better above the wind, nor the blue zui-zúi, nor the great yungurúru, whose eggs are of the zui-zui colour, nor that giant red and white stork called tuyúyu. Not only will you listen to the all-knowing urkutútu. Nor the quichagarza, loose in excrement. Nor the ucuashéro , nor the tiwakuru, which only eats ants and sings in the top of the wimbras, nor the páwcar, which imitates the all songs of the other birds, with its yellow and black plumage, nor the unchala, the same as a wine-red dove, nor the paujil, which you may have tasted with flesh more flavourful than that of the makisapa monkeys, more flavourful than the meat from the small white lizards, more pleasant than the plum from the tageribá, nor the tatatáo, which is a bird of prey that some call virakocha. You not only hear the maraquiña duck, the locrero, the pinsha, the montete, which in certain places is called trumpetero, the tuhuáyu, the pipite, the panguana, which always lays five eggs and then dies, those blue macaws thay call marakána, nor the carnivorous wapapa (surely you have seen it on the Mapuya river), not only do your hear its cousin the wankáwi giving the alarm when a human being approaches, nor the chinwakullin, nor the korokóro nor the ayamáman, which weeps like an abandoned child, nor the camúnguy, nor that man-sized stork with grey feathers called mansháku, so many birds ...

Not only do you hear the fat clouds of insects, chirping out after dusk deep into the labyrinth of the jungle. Not only does the distrustful snake sound out, the túnchi forecasting a death, the sly quiet otorongo seeking warm flesh, nor the sticky ronsoco in the yuca patches, nor the huge fish with big heads in tricky nets.
Not only do you hear fish: the akarawasú, the gamitana, the tamborero, the paiche three metres long with a bony tongue, which lays creatures, not eggs, the peje-torre, which inflates itself with air and floats like a buoy, the dorado which has a single spine, the chállualagarto, the kunchi, the añashúa, the eel that kills you with just one electric discharge, the manitóa, the shitári, the doncella, framed in black fringes, the chullakaqla, orphan without scales, the tiríri, the fasácuy in the bottom of lakes, the shirúi, the maparate, the shiripira, the bujúrqui the makána which looks like a sword with three edges, the shuyu, which knows how to walk on land, a fish of the road, and the canero, which enters your anus and eats your guts, and the demento-chállua, which almost flies through the air, almost, and more incredible, the saltón, that giant fish that jumps several yards above the surface, weighs more than two hundred pounds and measures over two metres long.
Not to speak of the paña , which you know about as piraña which consumes you in a few moments without reluctance. And the kawára huge, and the palometa, tasting almost like a desert and the bujéo also called the river dolphin, the female being more delicious in love than a woman, more tasty according to the fishermen who have tried it, and it has a vagina and breasts like a woman, and delivers its yong like a woman. Cutting out the labia of a female bujéo and curing them, some shimimpiáre make infallible bracelets for the love affairs of rejected lovers, as is well known. And you also hear the great carachama with a stone mouth, which lives out of the water for a week or more , and which comes from long ago , from before the deluge, before the tiger came and dispersed our first Ashkaníka ancestors, so many fish ...

Not only do you hear snakes, the innocent afanínga, harmless among the pastures, barely defending itself by swishing its tail, and the aguaje-rnachácuy, which breathes in the water and has skin like the surface of the fruit of the palm, and the deadly small naka-naka stalking in the rivers, and the mantona with its useless length of ten metres, harmless to anyone with its ten yards of strident colours, pure naive ornament, and the poisonous five meter long chushúpe biting its prey several times, and the yanaboa reaching fifteen metres in length, as thick as a man, whom it first hypnotizes and the devours, and the sachamáma boa with ears, different from the yakumama, which lives only in the water. The sachamáma is a land boa, it inadvertently undergoes mimesis: grass grows freely on its body. The jergón instead undegoes mimesis but with a purpose: As it grows its skin turns to a reddish colour, mottled like brilliant leaves, and you can spot it by its aura, by that brilliance, that the jergón leaves in the places through which it will pass, as a signal, as a soul.
You hear so many existences, so many silent wisdoms, when you hear the jungle. And that is even without being able to hear any longer the song of the fishes which once brightened the waters of Pangoa, the Tambo and the Ucayali rivers, muscial animals that foresaw the arrival of the great black otorongo, and fled days before its arrival and were saved. You must know that the otorongo, with its giant paws produced an avalanche of rocks that killed the life in the rivers. Only those singing fish, which in their songs spoke and listened to the future, could survive the mud of those paws. Even though today they may no longer know how to sing, or perhaps if they still know how to sing they must do so in secret, withsounds our ears are not accustomed to perhaps in another dimension ...

You should know that everyone, even human beings when they are very young, can hear the future, just as fish could do before the deluge, as so many present day animals can do. So many lives that know what will happen and cannot speak to us, warn us. Children in general, have nine senses, not five, and I have seen some that have access to eleven. As they grow, their bodies gradually become poisoned with foods and with miseries, and as their souls become home to stained thoughts and dreams, the bodies and the thoughts of men lose their senses, their forces. That is why the sorcerors, the great shirimpiure,in order to fully exercise thepowers of air, to fully develop the powers of seeing use the spirits of children, souls like new little families, occupying the abodes of their body, the ruinous dwellings ...

Not only do you hear animals, the awíwa, the worm one can eat like the zúri, another tasty worm of many colours, and the noisy toad that weighs more than a kilogram and is called wálo and the bocholócho, which knows how to sing , and in its song knows only how to say its own name, bocholóchoooo, calling always to itself from afar, and the manacarácuy, a fighter, invincible among birds, and the cupisu, a small water turtle, whichy eats its own eggs and flesh, and the firece wangána, wild pigs that live in herds of savage fangs, and the tokón, that monkey with a huge hairy tail and the allpacomejeen an ant sentenced to live in the ground, and the bayuca, poisonous worm covered with blue, yelow, red and green hairs, and the large ant without poison that feeds on mushrooms and is called curuínce, and the añuje, almost like a hare of some size, and the isango, which we can't see and bites us, getting into our flesh like a punishment, and theanañawi, the eye of the dead, which others call the firefly or glowworm, and the achúni, sought after because it has a bony phallus, which when powdered is used to season the potions usd by impotent men , and the other wild boar with coarse hair and a snowy collar named sajino , and the ronsoco, perhaps the largest rodent in nature one metre long and one hundred kilos in weight, and the apashira, whose name is used by villagers as a synonym for a womans sexual parts. The sounds come from so many animals that you've seen, that you haven't seen, that no one will ever see - creatures that learn how to think and converse just as human beings do ...

The sounds also come from plants, from vegetables: the katáwa, with poisnous sap, the chambira which lends its leaves to make rope, the breadfruit tree, which they call pandisho the tall makambo, with big leavesandafruit resembling a man's head, the spiny ñejilla, which grows in the lowlands, the rugged pashako the machimango, with impossible odors, the chimicúa , whose branches tear with the slightest breeze, the wakapú with harder heartwood than the bloodwood, the itininga, the witino, the itahúba, the winkungu, with its black spines, and the straight treee called espintana, which when fallen is good to sit on and talk, and the wakapurána, better for firewood, and the chonta, heart-of-palm, from waseai, cinámi, pijuáyu and hunguruáhui, palms. And the hunguráhui from whose fruit flows an oil which makes hair grow. And the creeping wayúsa whose leaves contain a powerful tonic to erase weakness, and the sapote with a fruit the color of green shade. And the very hard tawarí. And the shiringa, the rubber tree that unwittingly brought us disgrace. And the quinilla and the tamaráo, and the shapája of oily fruits and the wiririma and the giant shebón, offering leaves to thatch rooves with, and the vegetable marble we call tágua, and the sitúlli, that rarest banana with great red flowers and the wingu, a bush whose fruit becomes a cup to hold drinks and is called tutúmo and the pitajáy , the black and hard pona and the giant aguaje, and the andiroba, and the caimito, with furits like a virgin's breasts, and the waqrapona, waisted palm and the delicious anona, and the cashú, which is almond on the outrside, and on the inside more sweet and juicy, and the apasharáma, with a leather-curing sap, and the barbasco, with a poison root, and the citrus camucámu, semiaquatic, and the capirona, matchless as firewood and charcoal, and the aripasa, with its small green-gray round fruit not to be eaten and the curmala, and the punga and the cumaréba and the cashirimuwéna, and the ashúri, which protects teeth from caries, and the catiríma, whose fruits are fought over to the death by some fish, and the beautiful cocona, and that tuber eaten raw, called ashipa and the pucaquiro with very hard red heart wood and the leafy punqúyu under whose shadow nothinbg can live because it expells venom from its branches and the leafier parinári, with a large red fruit called súpay-oqóte, devils ass, and the lupuna in the river banks, with its immobile wings red on white, just above the ground, thebiggest of trees in all of Amazonia. And the other one that rains like a winter roof. And the other one that inflates and explodes worse than a hundred bullets in the night, deep in the forest. and the renaco, growing more than forests without leaves and without flowers and the garabatokasha, whichcures several types of cancers and dissolves the torpor of the aging joints, and the tamshi, which distances you from the cold and the coca used with ayawashka for divination, and the kamalonga is used also for diagnosis, and the renaquílla entertains the lame, and the wankawisacha cures alcoholics forever, and the chamáiro helps in chewing coca, and the blackscrew floating beneath water, halfway down thin rivers which betray better than the juice of tohé when the moon is green and the time is good to cut cedars without splitting their bark, and the paka, which also sounds like a tunnel along vanished rivers, and the zarsaparilla cures syphilis, and the green papaya eliminates the mange and the bad breath and its leaaves cover the toughest meats and turn the juice of the flowers of tohé. And the tohé which makes you see the worlds of today and the worlds of tomorrow that form those of today,and the para-pára, better known as the as the hipporcúru . That leaf never loses its shape, as if it returns to the original shape in the branch , always returns to how it was, to its size, to the size and form of its two births. And it is not for that reason but for the powers that flow from afar hat the leaf of the hipporcúru knows how to return sexual youthfullness to men and the quinoquina, which centuries ago learned how to wash rotting wounds, And the vine of the dead ayawaskha sacred, the Mother of the Voice in the Ear. With ayawaskha, with oni xuma, if you deserve it, you can pass from dreams to reality, without leaving the dream ... So many, so many plants all producing sounds.

The abuta - pay attention - the abuta, a medium height tree whose reddish root is boiled and when the liquid is drunk, in a few days the sugar in the blood is erased, diabetic no longer suffer. And the mariquita, half lover, half flower, which knows how to open only in the purest shade. And the tzangapilla, orange and large, an only daughter, a flower warmer than a feverish forehead. All of them, all of them produce sound as the stones do.

And above all, you hear the sounds of the steps of the animals one has been before being human, the steps of the stones and the vegetables, and the things every human has previously been. And also what he has heard before. before all that you can hear at night in the jungle.. Inside each one of us hears throughout life, dances and fifes and promises and lies and fears and confessions and war shouts and moans of love. Voices of the dying that one has been or that one has only heard.. True stories, stories of tomorrow. Because everything that one will hear, all of that sounds in the middle of the night, in the jungle. It is in the jungle that sounds in the middle of the night. Memory is much, much more, do you know? The truthful memory also remembers what is to be - and what will never come about, it also retains that. Imagine. Just imagine. Who could hear everything? What could hear everything at once and believe it?"


  1. Peru is the most fascinating travel destination in South America. Peru is a rare and a complete combination of a diverse country which offers coast, desert, highlands, mountain ranges and jungles to its visitors. The country has a rich ancient history with cultures like the Inca Empire, Moche, Nazca, Chachapoyas, Chavin, Paracas, Wari, the Norte Chico Civilization and Chimu. There is also a theory as per which descendants of the Vikings live in the Peru.

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