Last Day on the Amazon

2013.Jul.21 Sunday · 2 comments

in Life, Restaurants

I’m going to wrap up Iquitos with a short post – I don’t have a huge number of photos to share from the last day because I forgot to charge the camera battery and it ran out early on in the day, but in the end, it was a day that we spent relaxing after a short bit of touring.

Manatee Rescue Center

Our first stop was the Manatee Rescue Center – actually I think it’s just the Amazon Wildlife Rescue Center, but manatees seem to be what they work with. I gather that at some times of the year there are a whole lot of manatees being cared for – many are brought by local villagers when they are found “abandoned”, which apparently is when the villagers have killed the parents for food – so in a way the rescue center kind of acts as a farm to raise the babies until they’re old enough to fend for themselves, whereupon they’re released into the river only to repeat the cycle down the line with their own children. The center is staffed by volunteers from around the world, most of whom seemed little interested in sharing much with tourists, other than selling them little bowls of “sea lettuce” or bottles of milk to feed the babies while petting them – I’m sure that goes towards the upkeep of the place. It may also have been because there were only half a dozen manatees in care right now and they’re just bored with little to do. We petted some manatees, fed them, tried to ask questions of the staff, gave up, left. It was still interesting, simply because of he work they’re doing, though as noted, the longterm implications of what they’re doing are, perhaps, questionable.

Quistococha Zoo

From there we moved on to the Quistococha zoo, which, as zoos go, is pretty pathetic, and that’s saying a lot. Much as I’m always fascinated by the animals in zoos, especially those that are more exotic, I can’t help but note the conditions that they live in in many places. This place is particularly deplorable – the cages are beyond small for most of the animals, they’re not clean, as best we could tell there were no staff on site other than a guy at the gate to take money, one guy pruning some trees, a couple of workmen cutting up dead wood, and a security guard wandering about. From what we could determine, the animals are generally fed once or twice a day, when someone shows up to do it. The zoo has an attached beach on a lake where we spent most of the afternoon simply relaxing, took a canoe out, got caught in, surprise, a heavy downpour, got soaked, came back, hung out awhile drying out, and then took a mototaxi back into town.

Rustica - cecina

When taking info from the internet, one’s expectations aren’t always met. Rustica was touted in various places as one of the best spots in town, and several sites noted it for creative takes on regional fare, comparing it favorably to Al Frio y al Fuego, the floating restaurant we went to a few days before. I have no idea what sort of hallucinogenics those folk were on – the place is a large, family style restaurant attached to a dance club. The menu consists of basic pastas, pizzas, and parrilla, and nothing else. But once there, and with our guide in tow whom we were taking out to dinner as a thank you, and it being a place he’d never tried and always wanted to, we stayed. A shame. His cecina was so tough and chewy he barely made his way through it.

Rustica - pollo al broaster

Henry’s grilled chicken and fries were so oily that you could mop it off with napkins that became instantly soaked through, and his salad never showed up.

Rustica - pizza

And my Pizza Rustica was a sort of flavorless, dried out mess of half a dozen different meats, some mushrooms and olives. I’d never tried pizza in Peru before, but I don’t think I’ll hold this version against the whole country. Service was inept and slow, and the kitchen poorly timed – our plates came out separated by time – the cecina arrived about five minutes before the chicken, and both of the other guys were done eating before my pizza showed up, twenty minutes later, along with the hot sauce Henry had requested when his food first arrived. All they seemed interested in was turning tables as fast as they could, for which there was no reason other than not wanting to work, the place was never more than about a quarter full.

So, a roundup of Iquitos. We enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. There were obviously some tourist things we enjoyed more than others – favorites were the Belé market, the Pilpintuwasi butterfly farm and the jungle walk. And, we didn’t go on one of the 3-5 day “cruises” which would have taken us deeper into the jungle and to some potentially far more interesting spots – but this time, we wanted to get more a flavor for the city. In some ways the place reminds me of Key West – it’s very touristy, it’s hot and humid, and it’s filled with expats – the sort of late 50s early 60s guys who seem to be running away from something and are hanging out with similar guys, drinking a lot, smoking dope, cursing, ogling women, trying to pick up young girls, and basically being a bunch of asses in a place where they don’t have to answer to anyone. It’s far more rundown than KW, and probably far more dangerous, though we didn’t feel threatened, even on our last morning when we plunged back into the Belén market on our own for a little while to buy things – we didn’t take in cameras or anything, but honestly I didn’t get the feeling that that would have really been an issue, at least in the upper market area.

Highly recommend our hotel, Casa Morey, even if it is one of the pricier ones in town, it’s not that high priced unless you’re on a strict budget and it was well worth it. Try the local cuisine, even the weird stuff, you’re in the jungle, you might as well do something different – I was surprised at how many tourists we saw just going for sandwiches, burgers, pizza and pasta who wouldn’t try anything new – even on our treks out of town on the two days that we had others with us, there was one person each day who simply refused to try even something like a fruit (washed, and/or peeled, so that wasn’t the concern, or shouldn’t have been) – it may be a once in a lifetime to try some ingredient. Our favorite meal was at La Gran Maloca, even if it is “off the strip” – it’s only two blocks away. In terms of setting up touring, it’s something we found we probably could have done much of on our own and been more selective, and done for less money, waiting until we got to Iquitos, other than if you want one of the longer river voyages. At the same time, we were really happy with having it all arranged in advance, and again thanks go out to Bill at Dawn on the Amazon who put things together for us, as well as to the others from other companies who responded with ideas, particularly Miles at Rainforest Cruises who was also very helpful, even though we didn’t end up using his services.

Would I go back? Yes, but only as a launching point for one of the longer tours – maybe even one of the full week or ten day trips along the length of the Amazon into Brazil.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

David July 21, 2013 at 18:06

All in all sounded like a pretty amazing trip.

dan July 22, 2013 at 09:12

It really was. For anyone coming to Peru who’s either already been to the major tourist spots like Machu Pichu and Lima and is looking for something else, or who has enough time to add it in, I would.

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