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I came to Iquitos this morning on Viva Air Peru flight VV400. It was a fantastic flight, with the best legroom I have ever seen, a great BOB service, and the most amazing views of the exact point where the Amazon river is born!
But now it's time to fly back to Lima after a surreal day in this city in the middle of the jungle.
By the way, this flight is the fourth leg of this trip around Peru. Here are the links to the other legs:
🛫 🇨🇱 Santiago (SCL) 🛬 🇨🇱 Arica (ARI) on LATAM
🌄 Bonus: Tacna
🛫 🇵🇪 Tacna (TCQ) 🛬 🇵🇪 Lima (LIM) on Peruvian Airlines
🌄 Bonus: Lima (Miraflores; Historic quarter)
🛫 🇵🇪 Lima (LIM) 🛬 🇵🇪 Iquitos (IQT) on Viva Air Peru
🌄 Bonus: Iquitos (Amazon Rescue Center; Downtown)
🛫 🇵🇪 Iquitos (IQT) 🛬 🇵🇪 Lima (LIM) on Viva Air Peru (You are here)
🌄 Bonus: Pilpintuhuasi
🛫 🇵🇪 Lima (LIM) 🛬 🇵🇪 Tacna (TCQ) on Peruvian Airlines
🌄 Bonus: Erotic Incas?! (Larco Museum, Lima)
🛫 🇨🇱 Arica (ARI) 🛬 🇨🇱 Santiago (SCL) on LATAM
🌄 Bonus: Arica
🛫 🇨🇱 Santiago (SCL) 🛬 🇨🇱 Valdivia (ZAL) on JetSmart (Coming soon)
But before we head for the airport, let's float a little - they all float down here! (on the river, I mean ) - and visit a special wasi (house)
Iquitos lies at the point where river Nanay meets river Amazon. We'll visit a refuge for… pilpintus. Have you ever seen one? :D
To get to the refuge I have to take a boat like the one in this photo along river Nanay to a little place called Padre Cocha.
The ride lasts about 30 minutes.
Rivers are the highways of the Amazon.
Just like in normal highways, you can stop for a snack here and there…
…though these stops are usually out of reach for the locals. Wages in Peru are extremely low.
I forgot to ask about piranhas. Are there piranhas in this river? I hope there aren't, because I'm keeping my hand in the water!
And here we are at Padre Cocha.
It's a very little town…
…with narrow paths instead of streets.
I walk happily for some minutes… until I realize I'm lost! Luckily, a motokar comes my way and offers to take me to Pilpintuwasi. This path is the entrance.
Pilpintuwasi was born when the owner of this property, grew interested in local butterflies…
…and started doing research about them. She has found, for example, that many endangered species depend on one single, particular kind of plant to eat and lay their eggs. This has helped to understand how local ecosystems work.
Here's one of her babies. There are many of them around her, actually. In fact, pilpintu wasi is Quechua for butterfly house! A house full of pilpintus!
You can see them here in several stages of development. All of these are real, living baby butterflies…
…and the plants they depend on.
In time, Pilpintuwasi has welcomed other creatures that also needed a home.
This is the only decent photo I was able to take of a pilpintu. They are incredibly active!! Besides, there was a group of visitors at the moment, so the butterflies were always flying around or away. This butterfly is brown on the outside, but blue on the inside.
You can see the owner of Pilpintuwasi showing her work, and explaining the same things I learned when I was there:
It was a beautiful experience but it's getting late. It's time to go back to Iquitos for a late lunch.
As you see here, you can also traverse the Amazon in style.
I wonder how much longer will the pristine jungle around Iquitos last.
I wish the city were as pristine as the jungle!
I understand that Iquitos is an isolated place, but it's also a tourist spot! The Bellavista Nanay area (from where the boats to nearby towns depart) could really use some investment!
We engage warp speed from Bellavista Nanay to downtown Iquitos along La Marina Avenue, but a sudden shower forces the driver to stop and deploy this innovative high-tech rain shield. And this is also where I almost broke my spine because of a pot hole. It hurt!
I found this plastic cockade in the mud around the dock. I think that Peru is awarding it to me for my reporting services. I'll wear it proudly.
Upon arriving downtown I ask the motokar driver if he knows some place where I can try the local cuisine. At that very moment we are passing by a well-kept old building. He stops and says: That seems to be a restaurant!
The atmosphere inside is relaxed. The furniture is of good, heavy wood. There's low, calm music playing, and some affluent-looking people are talking in an affected way around a table at the other end of the room. "Should I stay or should I go?" I think to myself. But the menu is very convincing. They specialize in local food, which is precisely what I'm looking for.
This is their statement hanging on the wall. The name Iquitos is based on the name of the local original inhabitants, the Ikíitu (ee - KEE - ee - two) people, and this is what the restaurant was called because they want to promote the local cuisine.
So, what does the Amazon have to lure my empty, yet flabby belly? I love trying new foods and flavors, so I choose the weirdest name in the menu. I order ungurahui juice. And it's heavenly!! Later, I learn that it's the fruit of a palm! Here's a photo.
Then comes a big glass of arazá juice (I'm terribly thirsty!) along with the main course, which consists of yucca and other wonderful vegetables, aaaand these nuggets… that are not chicken… nor fish… nor pork… nor anything I have tried before. They are a huge revelation! The meat is a bit like chicken, but much better. Can you guess?
It's lagarto, which is Spanish for alligator or lizard. What kind of alligator? No idea! I only know that it was de - li - cious!
That's how coronaviruses start spreading among people. I feel guilty now! XD
This video shows how lagarto meat is sold at a local market.
After dining on the maneater and going for one more stroll around the city, I hail my last motokar of the day…
…and gladly surrender one more percentage point of my hearing capabilities…
…for a final ride in this noisy but unforgettable means of transport. 12 Soles (4 USD) to the airport. Una ganga!
For your information, IQT is not any airport.
It's the largest airport in the Amazon. Show some respect.
It's located 7km from downtown Iquitos…
…and serves about 1 million people every year.
A (blurry) sight of the main hall…
…to the right…
…and to the left.
A bit further left you find some services…
…souvenir shops (exceptionally good prices for an airport!)…
…even bank offices!
…and an assortment of shops. Here on the right you see the access…
…to the boarding room.
Bottom left is the arrivals area that we saw in my previous report.
People are enjoying the warm tropical evening outside. Not me. 25°C is already too much for me, let alone 30 with this level of humidity.
It's supposed to be cooler inside…
…but they keep the doors open all evening. There only air conditioning system…
…are those fans!! What's the point of blowing hot air to an already languishing passenger? I'm soooo tired…. it's so hot in here….
…and nobody seems to care!!!! I think I'm gonna die here. Steamed like a dumpling.
At long last! They open the counter at 7:23.
That short-haired lady is determined to prove that her bag complies with the airline's baggage size policy. She forces the bag into the measuring bin savagely… and it gets stuck! And it gets stuck FOREVER!! When it's my time to go to the counter, she and that airline lady are still pulling and huffing and sweating… in vain. Where are men when you need one?! XD
Can you hurry, please? I really want to get into that plane.
The boarding room is spacious…
…and it's divided into at least two different areas…
…with all the amenities you might expect…
…including a cafeteria that sells home-made food.
This reminds me that I will arrive at my Arbnb after midnight, and I'll be hungry. So I buy these two examples of a local delicatessen called juanes. At first I thought it was one juan, two juanes, but it turned out to be one juane, two juanes. These banana leaf packets look interesting, but they are filled with simple chicken and rice. I had been told they were wonderful, but I didn't like this airport version very much.
Peruvian Airlines will be late, as usual, but at least it's confirmed.
Enter text here…
Oh, God. Thanks for this view! I'm so tired.
The apron is lit with an ugly yellow light. I wonder if there's some practical reason for using yellow light.
Somebody help that lady!
Goodbye Iquitos. You're interesting, but one day of you is enough for me.
If I'm coming back? Mmm… maybe. For some more lagarto, perhaps!
The seats in this cabin are much closer to what I've seen in other cabins. In my deep ignorance, I just fail to understand what that square in front of me is for, and the purpose of that space with the sign "Do not remove." Whatever was in there seems to have been removed already!
And, boo hoo, no trace of the great legroom in my inbound flight.
The tray table is larger, at least…
…and decorated by a local artist.
The armrest is showing signs of wear.
Not squeaky clean. But, exhausted as I am, I deeply appreciate the possibility to recline my cushioned, non-ironing-table seat.
While waiting for takeoff, I see this phenomenon for the first time ever. Lots of steam coming out of the air conditioning vents!
It's not just "a little" steam!
I guess it's due to the high humidity and the heat outside. The air moisture condenses into steam in the cooler cabin. And I'm right. Here's the scientific explanation.
We take off in the middle of the night. Not much to see outside. Shortly after takeoff the FAs hand out the menus. The alligator is long gone by now, so a little snack will be welcome. What about some Peruvian empanadas?
Or the veggie that I tried this morning and was so good? I think I'll go for it.
Aaaand… there you are, little friend!
Veggie? "No hay, señor." Empanadas? "No hay, señor." I'll have to make do with a lame cheese sandwich, the only thing that "sí hay, señor." :(
Nothing special, this coffee. LATAM's Colombian Juan Valdez is much better.
Cecilio thinks the size is not bad.
Let's see this beauty!
Isn't it lovely?!
Needless to say, I quickly fall asleep after this unforgettable day. I just can't believe the things I've seen, the people I've met… and the food I've eaten!!
The landing announcement wakes me up. LIM is as yellow as IQT.
We're welcomed at a remote position.
Straight to the exit…
…and I call an Uber with my last 4% of battery!!! I couldn't charge it at IQT because I forgot my adapter. :(
Only one last piece of advice if you're planning to visit LIM. Carefull with the traffic. I can never repeat that enough when it comes to Lima!!
Gracias for reading! :D
Viva Air Perú
It seems like you get either good legroom or cushy seats. Not both. Great menu on the inbound flight. Leftovers in the outbound one. In a nutshell, the experience varies wildly. They don't have a standard cabin.
Surprisingly good. But please, install cellphone chargers!!! And air conditioning!!
Just make sure not to get run over as you cross the street!