Guest post by Adrian Walker, “The Snake Whisperer”
With the lodge deal agreed upon I settle in to life in Iquitos prior to the property handover which will take a further 2-3 weeks. There are legalities, inventories to be prepared, fine details to be arranged. Everything moves slowly in this relaxed tropical city.
Settling into a rhythm of eating at Dawn on the Amazon, arguably the best café in town and watching the passing parade of beggars, street vendors, touts, rogues and a handful of friendly gringos comes easily, even when Bill, the café proprietor, is obliged to ask a vendor to move along as their display is blocking his waiters paths and so ends up in a heated argument with the customer. Such incidents are rare as most obey the rules and a simple shake of the head is usually enough to keep the borrowers or sales folk moving along their steady ways, café to café, gringo to gringo.
Much of the cities tourism is generated by ayahuasca, a vine of common occurrence which is sliced and prepared as a psychedelic drug which was originally taken by the village shaman to enable communication with the spirit world, but has now morphed into the drug of choice for young western travelers. From all I can gather the primary effect of ayahuasca is to cause vomiting and diarrhea in those that imbibe but still they come, perhaps in search of a high or even seeking some form of Amazon enlightenment or healing. From time to time we hear a success story and these are sufficient to attract Chris Kilham, Fox TV’s medicine man, to Iquitos regularly.
Saturday nights are the liveliest with music, acrobats and martial arts exhibitions all visible from a front row seat at the café. The standards may not be quite Olympian but one admires their skill nonetheless as they tumble along the Boulevard without the benefit of mats or other gymnastic comforts. A misjudgment will mean a head splitting collision with the unforgiving concrete of the roadway.
Police patrol regularly, generally looking bored and disinterested in cleaning up the illegal trade in marijuana and cocaine that also flourishes openly along the boulevard amongst the cigarette dealers and others. This is the 3rd world and a living must be picked out somehow as begging is an unprofitable exercise, even for the lying deaf mute society who parade the street with computer generated signs proclaiming the disability you quickly learn they don’t have. They’ll poke their sign under your nose, be declined politely and 5 minutes later may be seen chatting quietly to a restaurant owner or policeman further along the Boulevard.
Such is the cycle of life in Iquitos and as the due date for the move to luna y monte lodge becomes closer I grow impatient to escape this chicanery.
Then of course there’s mad mick, an Englishman who made Iquitos home some 14 years ago and now runs the city’s only English language newspaper in addition to a bunkhouse, real estate agency and almost anything else including a marriage agency. He’s the nearest thing in town to a mogul and regularly drinks at Dawn on the Amazon, delighting in trivia questions and reminiscences of days and characters past and present. Mike knows them all, has fathered a son in the city, and is frequently set on by the hordes of child beggars selling small items to supplement whatever their families can steal.
The Road To Iquitos
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 Walker and his family are living in one of my apartments while looking to open a lodge in the jungle. He was kind enough to write this series of articles for my Captain’s Blog and the Iquitos Times. We hope this is Chapter three of his new book, The Road to Iquitos. To read chapters one and two please click these links to The Road To Iquitos, and The Road To Iquitos, Part 2.