A Suggestion for Supper in Iquitos Peru
Marmelita and I locked the Dawn on the Amazon office at 7 pm and agreed to go to one of our favorite restaurants, Parrilladas El Zorrito. We flagged a moto-kar and told the driver, “Zorrito’s, at Fanning # 355,” and negotiated the fare down to the proper one and a half soles before getting in.
In a few minutes the moto-kar stopped near a large, hot, charcoal grill on the sidewalk by the edge of the street. I paid the driver, and we stepped over to the screened-in cabinet to see what our choices were. We usually both get a whole fish, palometa is our favorite, wrapped in bijau leaves and cooked over charcoal. This time I felt adventurous and decided on turtle liver cooked over the coals.
We shared an Iquiteña Extra beer and listened to the acoustic music from two street musicians playing in the doorway. They are practically the house band at Zorrito’s. I noticed they had a new guitar, and they sounded great. When they passed the hat, I put in my usual one sole, I am not a big tipper. They did not buy a new guitar with my tips.
The turtle liver was good with the onion and lime sauce, but I probably won’t get it again. I wished I had gotten a fresh palometa like Marmelita.
We decided to walk the several blocks back to our home. We turned to the right as we left Zorrito’s and turned right again at the first corner. We walked along holding hands, weaving in and out and around life on the sidewalk.
One of the charming characteristics of Iquitos is that since most people do not have air conditioning or TV, a big part of life is lived on the sidewalks, in parks, plazas, boulevards, and streets, with doors and windows left wide open. Children play hopscotch and jump rope. Young lovers furtively kiss behind the bushes, neighbors bring chairs out onto the sidewalk and sit together. Some play cards and drink beer.
I like to look in the open doors and windows to see how the locals live, work, and play. Most homes have a picture of Jesus, not much furniture, usually some hammocks hanging, no screens, sometimes a dirt floor.
Nearly everyone that evening was friendly, except one woman who raised her voice in anger at a shopkeeper, yelling her abuse. I wanted to wait and see what happened but Marmelita pulled me on. Like most Iquiteñans, she hates violent conflicts.
We walked past a skinny, wrinkled, old man in a rocker. He wore a frayed hat and shirt that looked like he had worn them half his life. He stared off into space. He did not look up at us.
I said to Marmelita, “That old man must’ve outlived all of his peers and friends.” It made her sad. Perhaps she was thinking of her 93 year old grandmother. The concept actually made me happy, as the alternative to outliving one’s peers is not a good one.
I thought for the thousandth time how wonderful Iquitos is compared to more modern cities, where the sidewalks and parks are deserted, the doors are locked and the blinds are drawn, and people are insulated from their neighbors.
We walked to the river, turned left on the boulevard and into a crowd of jungle guides, hustlers, prostitutes, Shipibo indigenous selling their hand sewn visions, a dog and monkey show, slapstick street comedians, jugglers, ten foot tall clowns on stilts, shoeshine boys, and beggars. We know most of them, and they know us. When we got to the door of our office the circle was complete.
Tourists in Iquitos can follow this path, and if you’re smart, you’ll get the palometa.