2000 Jungle Journal
Today, we flew to the City of Iquitos. This is smack on the Amazon River. Fantastic! And like usual, getting there was half the fun. Arriving at the airport for our flight to Iquitos, we found it a challenge to buy tickets. We had intended to purchase our tickets with a credit card, but the vendor was out of credit slips. When we tried to pay in Peruvian Soles, they wanted only American dollars. Not really wanting to use up our stash of dollars on airline tickets, we insisted on paying in Soles. Then Kim had to run around the airport looking for an ATM to get money. Then the ticket seller wanted to charge us a commission to change our Soles back into US Dollars. After arguing back and forth, we paid in Soles and didn't pay the commission!. Fun!
The airports here are all similar. Inside, they are organized while outside on the sidewalks it is total bedlam. Taxi drivers shout out their fare and jostle to get close enough for us to chose them and their services. When we arrived in Iquitos, taxi drivers swarmed us but two tourist police came to our rescue and helped us select a driver to get us into town. Even though gas prices are comparable to those found in the United States, taxis are dirt cheap. One or two dollars would get us across town.
One of the recommendations we received from the SAE was to visit the local tourist office for up-to-date information on jungle lodges. The office has been revamped to provide useful information to travelers. In the past the office served mainly as an advertising office for the lodges without actually providing valid info. The new manager had photo books on the lodges, information on prices and even comment books where travelers had recorded good and/or bad experiences.
On our first day, we took a 3 hour boat ride up the Amazon to the Yanayacu tributary. The word
Yanayacu means ""black water". The term refers to the dark clear water that is created by the tannins from all the organic matter in the water. The tributaries are much clearer than the Amazon River itself.
After a night in our cabin listening to the night animal sounds, we rose at sunrise for a bird watching trip. We saw lots and lots of birds. Parrots, toucans, hawks, eagles, kingfishers, terns, vultures and an interesting bird called a horned screamer. This bird had horns coming out of the top of its wings and it really does scream. You can hear it a long way away. A lot of the birds were located by their songs. Our guide Luis, was very knowledgeable and was able to locate and identify a large variety of birds.
After breakfast and a rest, swinging in the hammocks on the porch of our cabin, we went on a nature walk in the jungle. Luis pointed out all kinds of medicinal plants and edible fruits. He also showed us what trees are used by the native people to build their homes, thatch their roofs, make charcoal (from a tree called appropriately enough, the firewood tree) and make household items. We also saw some beautiful butterflies, including the huge blue Morpho.
After seeing the lily pads, we went to where the Yanayacu meets the Amazon. At the junction of the 2 rivers small gray dolphins play. They like the abundance of food that comes down the tributaries so they stay in the area. The dolphins are only 4 - 5 feet long and have gray backs and pink bellies. We saw 5 dolphins and one of them even jumped completely out of the water while we watched. It was very exciting to see them.
We then visited with the students and the teacher at the school. When we arrived, the kids were playing their equivalent of "duck, duck, goose" only they called it "perro,
perro, gato" (dog, dog, cat!). The school is a one-room building with 4 chalkboards and about 40 desks. All the primary school-aged children sit in the room divided into four grade groups. The teacher writes a lesson on each board and goes from group to group teaching the lesson for that grade. There was also a kindergarten for ages 3-5. There weren't very many school supplies available, so the teachers were very creative in using local items like leaves and bark for art projects.