Iquitos is a Miserable City
Iquitos is a miserable city.
The constant droning buzzing roaring of mototaxis pollutes the city air as much as their noxious exhaust. If the mototaxis aren’t annoying, the insistent salesmen will be. We couldn’t walk more than a few steps before another guy would attach himself to us, asking us where we were from and if we wanted to do a jungle tour. If you stand in one place too long looking indecisive, a horde of mototaxis drivers will descend upon you, each demanding your business. Seriously, it was the worst we’ve experienced thus far.
Iquitos was the heart of the rubber boom from 1860 – 1912. Millions of dollars of rubber was exported through its port. Rubber barons from Europe and the United States brought enormous wealth to the city. They also brought slavery and disease. They were clearly more interested in making money than contributing positively to a growing community. When the boom went bust, the rubber barons disappeared, leaving Iquitos to pick up the pieces. Beautiful buildings from that era still haunt the city’s streets.
We visited this Peruvian city for a total of four days; thankfully, we had some friends with us. Friends we had met in Guatemala and who we had visited in Arequipa were now traveling around Peru and happened to be in Iquitos for the same time as us. They both spoke better Spanish than us, which made navigating the stinky, dirty city much easier.
Iquitos, the largest city in the world that is only accessible by plane or boat, does have a few redeeming aspects, most of which involve animals.
Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm
This place was amazing. It helped to increase the butterfly population in the Amazon and it rehabilitated animals with the intention of releasing them into the wild if possible. We lingered here for several hours.
Manatee Rescue Center
When we were in Florida, I wanted to see a manatee, but they are quite elusive and prefer quite places underwater. Not only did I get to see manatees at the rescue center, but we got to touch and feed them! They rescue manatees – mostly babies – nurse them back to health and release them back to the wild. Manatee skin feels like an eggplant! They don’t have any teeth and they love to eat vegetables. They are pretty much awesome.
At night, all the locals come to the pedestrian only street bordering the River Itaya to hang out and watch street performers. Mototaxis become a distant hum instead of a blasting roar here. Dawn on the Amazon became our place to have a good – albeit expensive – meal (especially breakfast) while enjoying the view.
Ayapua Steamship Museum
Knowing nothing about the rubber boom before, this museum was invaluable in learning about the history of Iquitos and gave me great insight as to why the city felt so sad.
We were more than ready to leave Iquitos, but we were sad to say good bye – for now – to our friends. Hopefully, we can meet up with them again someday.