I missed the boat. But I got a plane and consequently…
Greetings from Iquitos, the world’s largest city which is not connected by any roads! Instead it is sort of an island surrounded by the Amazon River and then doubly isolated by being surrounded by hundreds of miles of dense rainforest with nary a city or town inbetween. Outrageous really. What is the city like? It has about 500,000 people (though when I asked, the mototaxi driver said 20,000) and it is loud and bustling. It’s super hot and humid year round. Way too hot for shoes. Also it is expensive because almost all regular items have to arrive by plane. To be honest, I’m not sure why so many people live here. Though perhaps I’ll find out.
Right now I’m full of delicious caiman, which I had for lunch in a buttery sauce that would make the Cheesecake Factory blush. I was just walking back to my SERVAS host’s house to get my travel wallet, which I seem to have left here. Perhaps I will also take a nap and go out later.
My initial impression of the city is one of drama and crazyness: a party city in the middle of the jungle. Many tourists. Many locals wanting to get laid. In fact, outside of Iquitos the only thing Peruvians could tell me about the jungle was that there were many “mujeres callientes”. And they don’t mean “calliente” in the way that a cup of coffee or fresh bread is hot. Time after time I would mention I was going to the jungle and Peruvians would advise me to use protection. “Maleria?” I would ask innocently. “Condoms” they would reply. One particularly macho Peruvian looked at me with fear in his eyes: “Sometimes I am not wanting to have sex and I say to stop and they do not stop.”
So needless to say, Iquitos has a somewhat sleazy reputation. But what do the locals think about their city? I asked my SERVAS host who owns a taxi rental business: What makes the jungle different from other places in Peru? She answered that without a doubt it was the “mujeres callientes” that gave it the local flavor. Cheerfully she pointed out a liquor on the shelf of a store: “This is called ‘Breaking the Panties’!” Apparently a local favorite.
Every time I hear about this I ask if this cultural phenomenon is true, if it’s dangerous because of deseases, if it’s new and why it exists? The answers are 100% consistant and they are:
TRUE? yes, everyone says it’s true.
DANGEROUS? yes, everyone says it’s good to be ultra safe though no one says the place is desease ridden.
NEW? not a single person has any idea whatsoever about how long it’s been like this (though I’m guessing it’s old as the trees)
WHY? 2 explanations: 1) no one wears any clothes around here, which is partly true. Most people are half naked. and 2) there’s nothing to do in the afternoon because after 1pm it’s really warm and people just kind of lay around.
Synopsis: I have never been to a city where the promescuity of the local population is attached to a sense of pride.
Finally the pictures are up to speed with my trip. Mostly. I’ll be going back and doing more pictures as I get them uploaded. There are many many but if you want to see them, check the gallery my brother set up for me.