After our escapades in the desert oasis of Huacachina, it was time to head to Iquitos, a city in northern Peru, on the cusp of the Amazon Rainforest. So close, in fact, that during the rainy season part of Iquitos is overtaken by water.
We came here to see the famed Amazon and spend a couple days at an ecolodge within the clutches of the jungle. Our tour was four days and three nights long though if I had to do it again, I would cut it down to to three days/two night. This is not to say the tour was bad but because, well… I’m a bitch. JK, the jungle is cool and all but I’m a city and beach boy through and through. I guess my Southern California upbringing didn’t lend itself to preparing me for this kind of adventure.
Alas, I wanted to see the Amazon, and did thoroughly enjoy the tour with our guide Renée from Maniti tours. Renée was awesome and super knowledgeable on all things Amazon having lived there his whole life, plus he knew his way around a machete. Fun aside, it’s an important skill when bushwhacking your own trail in the Amazon.
Now back to your regularly scheduled program… the tour! Upon meeting Renée, he took us through an open air market on the outskirts of Iquitos where the locals come to sell their wares. And by wares I mostly mean “food.” Why the quotes you ask? Well because the locals have a lot of beliefs on what mildly edible things cure what, and the market was rampant with one very questionable thing in particular: meal worms, live and cooked 🤢. We politely declined the offer to try them… not looking to bring the next coronavirus to the world over here! (irony points because the nasty grubs are supposed to help with bronchitis/asthma).
After we made our way through the market, we were whisked away to the lodge, where the three of us would be staying in a single room with an open concept (mosquito nets all around though, don’t worry). And when I mean open, I must specify that the bathroom that had a wall that didn’t quite reach the ceiling, so privacy wasn’t much of an option 😬.
After dropping our bags off, Renée took us on a short walk around the grounds for our first taste of the jungle. While we didn’t see anything of note, there were spiders abound that looked like they could ruin your day or week. Following this, we had lunch before going on the second excursion of the day, and what would be my favorite thing we did without question – the animal sanctuary.
There weren’t a ton of animals but they did have some of the ones we cared most to see… namely sloths and anacondas!! The best part? They let us hold them! Surprisingly, the anaconda was rather docile when it came to us manhandling his 10 ft+ body. Maybe he was just having a good day because he got to see us 😁. Don’t try this at home… they can be quite mean if you happen upon them in the wild. The sloth, not surprisingly, was also docile, not to mention hella fluffy!! None of us wanted to give him back once we had him in our hands.
Following the sanctuary we went to a tree known for over friendly monkeys, assuming you have food. Of course we did, so we spent several minutes here being adorably harassed by monkeys as the thieving primates tried to steal every bit of fruit they could!
Next, we got to test our mettle with the Amazon River! Our first task was to see if we were better than native 8 year olds at catching the infamous sharp-toothed piranha. Though we did all manage to land at least one, they were pretty tiny guys. Good thing this wasn’t a test of our survival skills because we would have gone hungry. Then, swimming was actually more a test of see who is brave enough to jump in the river because we immediately had to get right back on the boat. All three of us jumped, Jeiny and I even attempting flips. Can confirm, we won’t be in the Olympics for diving anytime soon, but we gave it the ‘ol college try!
After quite the afternoon of activities, we went back to the lodge and completed a night hike through the surrounding area. This wasn’t my most favorite thing but it was certainly a novelty. We saw much the same as we had that morning, with one exception… centipedes. I can’t say I ever need to see those things again. We also attempted to coax a tarantula from its humble abode (hole in the ground), but he was not feeling very friendly.
Day two brought a long morning hike, searching for more exotic animals, though we only saw much of the same. In the afternoon, we got to let our hair down with a trip to a local rum “distillery!” Quotes again, because it was not your typical experience. There our guide showed us, or rather coached us, through the manual extraction of sugar cane juice from the sugar cane plant.
Upon proving ourselves worthy, they let us get down to business (kind of like Mulan but completely different) by trying the different rum concoctions they make. Most of them involved a lot of fruit or local roots plus rum. We also got to try some pure rum from a bucket! In the end, we purchased a bottle of “Flamingo,” which was a mixture of all the different flavors. I’d like to think our bottle was limited edition because I used my usual charm to have them add a float of pure rum on top 😉
While mixing up our juice they also taught us a new vocabulary word – to flamingo. This is what the locals call it when you continuing drinking (presumably flamingo, because it goes down so easily) from one day into the next, soo their term for a bender! We’ll definitely have to use this in the near future 😉
Considering we left the distillery slightly toasty, with a bottle of Flamingo for 50 soles (approximately 12.50 USD) and a fun new slang term, I’d say we really came out ahead! The day ended with us back at the lodge and the Flamingo bottle empty. Not a bad way to mark the halfway point of this tour.
Check out part two for the rest of the adventure in a couple days!