The town of Iquitos, Peru, or “Tuk Tuk City” 🙂
This will be a six blog endeavor to accurately and pleasurably take you on our journey to South America, this October of 2022. Our journey started with a flight to Miami, Florida from Belize, our home. You might ask, why Miami when we are destined for South America ?The answer is we can’t get there directly from Belize, nor many other places 🙂
Marsha in Fontainebleau Lobby relaxing after “hurricane Flight”.
Things did get a bit “dicy” flying to Miami, as we flew in a hurricane ! Not the drink, but a real hurricane. We were the last flight into Miami because of it, just barely made it in, and realized this when the pilot came on and said “Everyone buckle up, we are in a dangerous situation, and flying in a hurricane, so stay in seats, and hang on” !
Me in Miami Beach after flying in the Hurricane 🙂
We did land ok, buy with lots of turbulence, and checked into the Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach South. I know, kind of “ritzy”but I did get a good rate. Fact is, the city, beach and hotel were deserted because of the hurricane, except later tons of residents from West Coast Florida were checking in because of evacuation orders. The good thing, we got great seats at the restaurant for Sushi :).
After two days in Miami we flew on American Airlines, directly into Lima, Peru, then on to Iquitos, Peru. Iquitos is the port to the Amazon River, where we would embark on a five day “Luxury River Cruise” on the Amazon River. Let me say that we highly enjoyed and suggest others making this trip to also stay a couple days in Iquitos as well for two reasons. The first is “shit happens”, with flights, weather, etc., and giving yourself an extra day to be sure you make the cruise can be key. After all, you wouldn’t want the ship leaving without you.
Ramp down to loading area for boat to Island Restaurant.
The second reason is Iquitos is more than just a “tourist trap” as you will read in internet posts and articles. I call bullshit to that. Yes it has bunches of shops selling junk, but it also has some nice views of the waterfront, good restaurants to experience Peruvian food and cocktails, especially the countries favorite drink, the “Pisco Sour”.
Marsha enjoying her first ( of many) Pisco Sours.
We stayed at the Doubletree By Hilton in Iquitos, which I found to be perfect, room, view, restaurant and service. As we were to stay there two nights, then be picked up by cruise line and return after cruise, we asked to keep large luggage in storage while gone. No problem.
Me enjoying the first of very many Pisco Sours.
While in Iquitos, we tried some of the local food and checked out some shops. One highly recommended restaurant was the “Island Restaurant” you need to take a boat to. It’s a two level restaurant in the bay, that includes a swimming pool. This was where we enjoyed our first “Pisco Sour”.
My new favorite beer, Cusquena, from South America.
One thing about Iquitos, more so than anywhere else in Peru, is the Tuk-Tuks 🙂 There are thousands of them here, racing around the village. Its the main mode of transportation here, including from the airport. As we had a lot of luggage that wouldn’t fit in a Tuk-tuk, we were lucky to find a “taxi”, which was a sedan held together by tape 🙂
As this entire blog project about our month in South America will be an honest attempt at the various segments, so others can make an “informed decision”, I will start with the Luxury Amazon Cruise with Rainforest Cruises. We never really got any “itinerary” for the cruise and what we would be doing each of the five days. That being said, we had no idea what time we would be picked up at the hotel for the one hour trip to the port where the ship awaited us. I had been told that the hotel would know this, but when I asked the front desk, they looked at me with a blank stare. When I told them it was with Rainforest Cruises…..same blank stare. They had no idea who this was.
Luckily we met another U.S. couple also going that had the same experience, but finally was contacted that the bus would pick us up at 10:00 AM at hotel. Actually, before ten the bus showed up, and guides as well as a “Lab Tech” showed up. Yup…thats right, nose swabs for … you got it, Covid !
We all “passed” and boarded a really nice bus for the ride to the cruise ship. On board the bus, the guides introduced themselves, and talked about the cruise ship and things we would be doing. After about 45 minutes they announced that we would be taking a “bathroom break” in a local village. This I will tell you was quite an “experience” for most of the bus. As I have spent quite a bit of time in Asia, I was not surprised but would have expected better from a “Luxury Cruise Line”. The “stop” was a small, and I mean small store, and we walked to a back room with a curtain in front of two “non-plumbed” toilets. There was a barrel of water and a dirty “bucket” to dump after done. All in all, very “stinky”, but, oh well, welcome to “rural Peru”.
*** I will not be including a photo of toilet ! 🙂
We finally reached to “port”, which was end of a dirt road, and a treacherous walkway down to the boarding vessels which would take us to the awaiting cruise ship. Bright orange life preservers awaited us, and as we took off from shore, everyone was excited as we headed to the vessel. It was easy boarding the River Vessel with many helping hands. I will say that this was the case every day, as we left and returned from excursion. In fact we had not only some elderly cruisers, but also one gentleman with advanced issues, and the crew took excellent care with him.
Climb down to small craft was “interesting”.
Room Key aboard the Zafiro
I was extremely pleased with our “upgraded” suite, the “Master Suite”, located on the 2nd floor, with enjoyed a sweeping front glass window so we could enjoy watching where we were going.
Our suite and awesome view.
Exploring the ship, the dining / entertainment area was well appointed, fancy and had an awesome bar. There was also a large open area at the front of the boat with another bar and a hot tub, tables, loungers, etc.
During the cruise, we were taken to different areas of the Amazon, and divided up into two smaller craft to explore areas and tributaries, searching for wildlife, day and night. The guides worked hard to spot the different birds, sloths, and other wildlife for 5 days. They did succeed to some extent, however, the two of my “bucket list” creatures of the night, we never found, the Anaconda and the Cayman. I will say they really tried at night to find Anaconda, because at this time of year, they are giving birth, and usually plentiful.
The guides explained that the Amazon River was extremely low, and that they couldn’t go deeper into the Amazon because the ship couldn’t make it. We actually got an example of this one day while enjoying lunch, as we felt the ship ground out in the middle of the Amazon River. It took the Captain multiple attempts to “un-ground” us.
Speaking of lunch and food, I will say the meals were excellent on-board. Lunch was always a buffet, but a tasty one with many choices. Dinners always served table side, and both meals enjoyed bottomless wine, or cocktails at your expense, plus coffee, tea, etc.
We enjoyed an evening onboard with a visit from a local Shaman who explained via an interpreter her role in the health and well being of the eight communities she was responsible for. I found this fascinating, as she explained that the Amazon Villages used her services for illnesses as well as a “midwife” during births. When we asked how she handled the Covid issue, she explained many developed symptoms, and she treated all of them with local herbs and Shaman methods, and had no serious issues or deaths in her eight communities. Another “interesting” fact we heard about was that there were still “Witch Doctors” in the Amazon Region, still used today. They are still used for “spells” and other “methods” to “eliminate” any village people harmful to others in the village. Where the Shaman gets a “calling” to become one, Witch Doctors can just decide to be one, and based on that I believe they are just bad guys, who wanted to become “hit men”, and did.
The Shaman we met was a female, very, very rare in the Amazon, and she is well respected in her communities. I in fact was so impressed by her that I asked her to give me a blessing on a Amazon Village necklace I purchased, and she smiled and blessed it and me.
We were informed that the next day we would start with a expedition to the shore of one of the villages that the Shaman looked over, to plant trees and give back to the Amazon. It was a great experience and we all enjoyed planting one for each couple. The Shaman was there and blessed all the seedlings.
Who knows, I may return some day to a large budding tree 🙂
Our special tree that we planted in the Amazon Jungle.
We also had the experience of visiting one of the Amazon Communities, watching them prepare food, visiting their school, meeting the local children, having a song sung to us, and we sand a song for them. We also get to meet up close the cutest monkey. Lastly we got to experience how they make their local alcoholic beverage ! Ladies of the village chew a local vine, and spit the juices into a bowl, which is allowed to ferment into a “fine booze”. I did not partake in the process, nor the beverage.
One of the excursions in small craft, was to an area known for abundance of Piranha, where were were given the opportunity to fish for the Piranha with polls and “meat baited hooks”. I think we all caught one, which was quite exciting. Locals eat them, we passed. Later in a different location, we were invited to Kayak and or swim in the Amazon waters. We had learned from the Shaman that the reason most Amazon families have anywhere from 6-10 children, is because 20% of the children die each year from infections gotten from Amazon waters.
We passed on swimming and instead headed to the ships bar.
Lunch served on the small boats
Our final evening adventure in small vessels up a tributary we discovered in the distance, a Sloth in a tree, something our guide really tried to locate in days past. We then proceeded to an area against the bank to observe a fantastic sunset over the Amazon River. The guides tied the two boats together, and proceeded to serve us Champagne Mimosas on the boat to celebrate our voyage.
It was quite special.
The next day we packed up and headed to the small boats to head to shore and the awaiting bus. We had gotten to know the small crew, the Cruise Director, the Spa lady, Bartenders, Guides and Crew, and gave them a warm farewell. Ten off to shore where I had my final big surprise !
A well deserved Mimosa (re-filled 3 times) at a perfect sunset.
Boarding the bus we embarked on a three hour trip back to Iquitos or the airport. However, they made an un-expected stop at a “Manatee Recovery Center” that we had not expected. Although they did have a few Manatee in tanks recovering from injuries, they also made us tour a bunch of other enclosures with other animals. At various points, the “zookeeper” told us not to attempt to touch any animals, and that “tourists always try and don’t listen”. Maybe it was just me, but I didn’t like the tone or way that he talked about “tourists”, especially at it was obviously all about us giving him donations.
Enjoying a “Stella”, the 1st of many in South America.
We boarded the bus finally, and headed back to Iquitos, where we checked back into the Doubletree overnight before heading to Lima, Peru, the next day.
Ahhhh…Lima. Peru, where they eat these guys, and we did too 🙂
My final thoughts based on this experience are both positive and negative. Although I had a quite enjoyable five days in the amazon, I would have planned differently, even though all my research made me plan this way. We didn’t get to explore deeper into the Amazon because its waters we to shallow, at this time of year. I figured that the “rainy season” would bring more issues, but instead it left us pretty much “high and dry”. We didn’t get to experience many things I had expected to, mainly because we couldn’t go “in deep”. However, many on the cruise were excited about the adventures. In hindsight, after discussing the experience with my wife Marsha, we came to a conclusion.
Maybe if we lived somewhere like L.A. or New Your City, we would be feeling different now. We live in Central America, Belize, where we enjoy Jungle Rainforest Adventures, Tropical weather, Parrots, monkeys, Iguana’s and other exotic creatures. It’s hard to impress us with the Amazon, when we live in a country much like it.
So I say, if its on your “list”, experience it for yourself. Take our experience and make yours even better. After all, we only have one life to live, so experience life.
Experience new things, places and cultures, because at some point, you won’t be able to anymore.
Please “Like” my blog, and look for the next five adventures:
Sacred Valley, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru
Mendoza Wine Country, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Iguazu Falls, Argentina / Brazil
What a great adventure, do you thing you will go back in the rainy season? I look forward to reading more about your trip.
Enjoyed your adventures. Looking forward to your next adventure. Belize is on our bucket list. Hope to see you two. And I look forward to the day we cross paths on an adventure.