Guest post by Adrian Walker, “The Snake Whisperer”
Although Iquitos has no connecting roads to any other cities for many of us the road here is a lengthy one. For me the journey began in late October 2011, in a southern Chinese city named Xishuangbanna where I was involved in a wildlife documentary. I found myself sharing a fine Chilean red vino with an old friend, who nowadays runs a business in the city but has spent much of his adult life in South America. As the wine flowed I mentioned my desire to find a suitable eco-lodge in the tropics and he immediately suggested Iquitos, a place I had heard stories of but never visited. He spoke of the biodiversity, the gentler regulatory principles than could be found in my Australian homeland, and the generous prices he felt would be available. I made a note and upon returning home entered Iquitos in my browser.
From that point my journey had commenced as my initial research confirmed all he had said and it soon became clear that only an extended visit could resolve the question of to lodge or not to lodge.
A successful eco-lodge has many requirements, the main one being what I refer to as magnet species, which is to say, birds or mammals that are localized, rare and thus in demand by the ever increasing number of those we in the trade know as twitchers. Twitcher can be translated to a person who wishes to see more bird species than his neighbor or fellow birdwatcher, and so seeks out these very species. Twitchers are often well heeled and think nothing of high rates if they achieve their goal of sighting these rarities and so adding them to their ever growing tally sheets.
Added to this Peru boasts nearly 20% of the world’s birds, second only in numbers to Colombia, again making it an attractive location for eco-tourists, those who travel with binoculars, telescopes and cameras and consider souvenir shopping an interruption to a good day’s bird spotting.
These folk would comprise my market and the last pieces in the jigsaw remained to get to Iquitos and find the appropriate lodge at a fair price.
Living in northern Australia there are no direct flights to South America so my route would be a serpentine journey stopping first in Auckland, the beautiful harbor city of New Zealand, after which to Santiago, and then to Iquique where a friend awaited me on the edge of the driest desert on Earth, a long environmental way from the Amazon jungles. Together we caught a bus to Tacna and Peruvian soil, before another flight to Lima, and finally a delayed flight to the warm, sweet air of Iquitos. Arriving on a Saturday night with a hotel booking for 2 nights a taste for the local beer was easily acquired as we sat with our garrulous host and graciously declined his offer to purchase his hotel.
As a jungle dweller and student of nature for 4 decades Iquitos would effortlessly cast its spell across my eyes in the coming days and the graft was complete within days.
And so the question of to lodge or not to lodge metamorphosed into one of to lodge but where to lodge and as I write that question is drawing steadily to a conclusion.
The Road to Iquitos, part 1
Guest post by Adrian Walker the author of Diary of a Snake Whisperer, Birds of Mission Beach, and several books of fiction.
Hello, this is Bill Grimes reporting from Iquitos Peru. Adrian and his family are living in one of my apartments while preparing to open a lodge in the jungle. He was kind enough to write this article for the Captain’s Blog and Iquitos Times. We hope this is Chapter one of his new book, The Road to Iquitos. To read chapter 2, please click to The Road To Iquitos, part 2.