From the dreamy Galapagos islands we flew back to Peru, to spend a week deep inside the Amazon jungle. We started in Iquitos which is a small city in the middle of the huge forest, only accessible by air or boat and completely surrounded by the ‘Selva’ (jungle). Our first encounter with the Amazon was pretty stunning: as soon as we got out of the plane we were struck by a tropical heat, extreme humidity and wild vegetation literally all-around. Despite the rush of the moto-taxis that you can see and hear everywhere, people live at the same rhythm than the Amazon in Iquitos: very slowly most of the time… In the evening people set up chairs and tables outside to enjoy the fresh air, and many small stalls and street vendors appear along the river, giving the city a very convivial atmosphere!
A must see in Iquitos is the ‘Mercado de Belen’, which is set up every morning along the river in the South of the city. The market is huge and you can easily spend several hours here and buy crazy things for even crazier prices (a.k.a suuuper cheap), going from spices and tropical fruits to piranhas and turtle meat but also shoes, clothes, furniture and even goods imported from China! Watch out for your camera and the mud, and the visit will be amazing.
Leaving Iquitos behind us, the three of us left on a 3-day tour inside the Selva with our guide Juanito! We left Iquitos by car, taking the only road that leaves the city to a small little town called Nauta, which is the farthest you can go by car. There we met our captain and boarded a small wooden motor-canoe which would bring us deep inside the jungle. We navigated most of the first day, passing tiny and very remote communities along the way, and then we entered the beautiful Pacaya Samiria natural reserve, one of the biggest reserves of Peru (2 080 000 ha!) with an impressive flora and fauna. In the afternoon our boat stopped at one of the 109 little communities that live deep inside this forest, called ‘Buenos Aires’! About 10 families live in this community, and one of them took us in for the night. We walked around the houses and sympathised with the locals and their many kids who were extremely nice and SO polite. After dinner we left on a night jungle trek to spot giant (very poisonous) ants, snakes and even tarantulas (which apart from stings are harmless!)… We slept on the first floor of the house of the family, on a rough mattress, with only a mosquito net as protection for all the bugs and spiders that lived 5 meters from our bed. As you can imagine, Camille didn’t sleep so well but the experience was amazing.
The programme for the next day was another jungle trek, piranha fishing, and swimming in the river WITH the piranhas. We left Buenos Aires (Peru) and continued deeper inside the natural reserve on our boat. The second night we set up tents right next to the river and ate the delicious piranhas, caught just a few moments before. In the evening we took a small canoe that we had brought along with a few paddles and left the campsite to go spot alligators! Armed with a few flashlights and mosquito repellent we started to go down the river and had to look for 2 red lights along the shores… the eyes of the alligator. Surprisingly we saw many, and SO close from our campsite! But Juanito (our guide) assured us that the alligators who live in this jungle are quite small and harmless. We approached the red dots and tried to catch a few, unsuccessfully (luckily 🙂 ). Exhausted from the day we slept like babies in our tents the second night, barely even hearing the staccato coming from the animals and the bugs whose habitat we were invading.
The third day started with fish for breakfast (again), and swimming in the river. We left in the late morning back down the river and reached Iquitos in the evening, exhausted but so happy we got to experience this.
Our adventures in Peru have come to an end so the next day we boarded another boat in Iquitos which would bring us to the border. After another whole day of navigating down the Amazon River we reached the intersection point of Peru, Colombia and Brazil! It’s actually one town with three different zones: Santa Rosa (the Peruvian side – by far the poorest area of the city), Leticia (the Colombian side – and richest area) and Tabatinga (the Brazilian, more dangerous side). We decided to stay in Leticia, which offered the best accommodations, and to have an extra stamp to our passports. 🙂 After the last days in the jungle we had to say goodbye to La Mama, who left back to Belgium, while we started the last chapter of our trip: Brazil!
- Golden Snake travel agency, and ask for Juanito as a guide! He was super nice and knowledgeable, and knows the Selva like the back of his pocket. Amazing experience guaranteed. Also, we recommend opting for the ‘adventurous’ trek (sleeping in the house of a local and in a tent) rather than sleeping in the fancy lodges. The lodges are more comfy yes, but all outside of the park and you miss out on the experience of actually camping in the jungle and meeting the locals! And you can’t just take you canoe and go swimming, piranha fishing or alligator spotting whenever you want if you sleep in a lodge.