Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Iquitos - Marchitada y Bonita

The trip by boat from Pucallpa to Iquitos took three days and three nights, with an extra day's delay thrown in when the Henry I, despite all assurances, didn't leave port.

It was an experience and an adventure, most of everything I had hoped it would be. I'll try and find time in the next few days to describe the journey in all its detail and texture.

For now, in a few snatched moments in the internet, I content myself with reporting that Iquitos is an absolutely intoxicating place, a faded and soporifically lazy tropical dream. At the same time as understanding why many people who live here have the goal of moving somewhere else, you can easily comprend why visitors never want to leave.

Within an hour or so of arriving, both Hugo and I independently concluded that it reminded us of our received image of Cuba. Attractive colonial buildings in the centre, eroded and peeling in the heat. Palm trees hanging lazily in the windless air. Fleets of motorbikes and ancient buses buzzing through the streets. People sitting outside corner stores and motorbike repair workshops playing cards in the evening. Fiestas every night with people of all ages joyously shaking their hips to salsa and cumbia. Beautiful women strolling casually through the plazas. Endless variety of exotic dishes, strange fish and fruits.

I don't have time right now to describe the things we've done so far, but must mention the overwhelming warmth, friendliness and hospitality of the people. These are cliches; nevertheless I defy anyone to find a place where the local population is at once as nice and as interesting as here.

I should mention that is also very safe; this is the first place in Peru where people talk down the dangers rather than exaggerate them. Lima seems like a planet away. Social conditions are not much different from the rest of Peru; it's more that the possibility of crime doesn't seem to occur to many people. It would generally involve moving slightly too fast to be feasible.

Will try and write more when I can.

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