The next day in Iquitos we awake to dark skies and rain pouring into the rising Amazon. The morning storm increases and the wind lashes against the mosquito netting in our run down backpackers. We decide to go see the floating market in the city, eat a measly breakfast from the unfriendly Tattooed ex-military man who does not seem to want to have anything to do with the work that he does.
We pack our tourist equipment (camera's and money) and walk out into the torrential tropical rain with our sandals and shorts and traverse along the banks of the river through busy streets. The cracked pavements, intricate tile work and flaking paint give an intense atmosphere to this sprawling city. We walk past old-looking shops selling SIM-cards and cheap phones, motor cycle spares and little restaurants. Towards the infamous market that expands from the banks of the river onto the river, where the commerce flourishes in flooded streets and floating shops.
The market is busy, with all sorts of produce for sale. From crocodile tails to jungle tobacco. Coconuts to dried monkey meat. The best olives I have eaten to turtle eggs. A mix-up of cheap Chinese goods and illicit jungle meat. The rain pouring down incessantly, puddles forming on the plastic sheets protecting the old ladies from the rain. Tall Dennis bumping his head against one of these, causing it to overflow and drench his shirt in warm water.
We walk off the banks and down towards the river. The river has risen into the city and the streets are flooded. Wooden walkways have been created above the road come canals. The bottom floor of the houses underwater, but the locals still sitting upstairs happily reading the newspaper through the open windows. We come to a water taxi parking lot and decide to take a ride out onto the river. Hanna gets lifted on the boatman's shoulder and into the wooden boat, we trudge through the manky water. The boat man starts the motor and we slowly cruise through the streets and out onto the open water. First stopping at the petrol station to buy fuel for his boat. We then ask him to take us off to the famous floating restaurant that is found in the middle of the river, apart from the hustle and bustle of the city.
We cruise along watching the city go past on the banks, winding our way through the trees which are all underwater. Onto the open black coloured river, which is actually a tributary of the Amazon, and Iquitos lies where the river enters the ocean of the Amazon. The boatman is freezing, we are all OK in our nice jackets. Eventually we get to the floating restaurant and dock alongside. It looks flashy and smooth a beautiful tourist place with deck chairs and a clear swimming pool that floats in the water. There is a large group of grey haired tourists (Americans) with big belt bags, safari jackets and long white camera lenses faltering between their legs. An authentic Amazon adventure, in the luxurious overpriced tourist boat. We are offered fried plantains while we look at the menu, nope we are not prepared to pay these prices. Thanks for the free chips now lets head back to the city, where the real world lives.
We get delivered back to our run down floating backpacker, walk up the banks and down the street and find a little restaurant that has open patio doors on a busy street. A set menu, busy and cheap. A fantastic meal is served, baked patatoes with a sesame seed sauce, famous in Peru and delicious. Rice and fried plantains, Avocado salad served with lime and tomatoes. Fresh, flavourful and inexpensive. A real menu with real food. We discuss the next stage in our little adventure.
Anna, wants to float around, not sure what to do. I have an idea of getting local boatman to drive us up or down the river for an hour or two and then drop us off in a little village. Spend a few days there and take in the culture. We decide to wait, Anna then says that her friend is coming. First we heard of this.
We head back to the guest house, to chill out for the rest of the day. Her friend arrives, a good looking Dutch guy, Jaap. He is sunburnt, has a beard and is friendly. But you can see that there is only one reason he is here, Anna, or maybe is that Anna in a dark room alone. The group dynamics change in a second. We are not sure what should happen. Anna spoke to people, she wants to head off down the road, hike for two hours to this Rasta place that was recommended to her by a friend. Jaap would like to do that as well, and have a true 'Jungle experience'. Fly in from the coast, meet the girl and head to the Jungle and take Ahuasca and have a true spiritual experience before heading back to the coast and learn to surf. Hmm, culture clash, lets go eat dinner.
We walk into the city, Dennis, Anna and I would like to wander around, find a local busy place and eat something interesting. Jaap wants a steak, near the square and preferably recommended by Lonely planet. In the end we compromise, that is what life is about. We sit in a steakhouse, I order a veggie dish (which was pretty good, but expensive). Jaap then jumps out his skin and almost stands on his chair. A rat just ran past, into the kitchen and up the wall. He tries to control himself, but is freaked out, he wants to leave. But we are now settled, and would like to eat. Hilarious to watch how he tries to regain his composure and put on the slick traveller look again.
No decisions are made, we finished our forgettable meal, and we decide to sleep and see what happens in the morning.