The Chariots of Death

by Captain Bill

The Chariots of Death, Motorcars

A guest post by Adrian Walker, “The Snake Whisperer”

The Motorkar is Iquitos most popular method of travel for tourists and locals alike. They’re cheap, get you between points A and B fairly efficiently and generally the drivers know where they’re going, whether a popular cafe or Belen whorehouse.

There are however pitfalls and dangers in Motorkar travel and the passenger should always take care to obey the following 5 basic rules of Motorkar travel….

  1. Unless it’s pouring with rain wear sunglasses or better still, welding glasses. The sand that is being thrown from other vehicles will blind you  in seconds. In the event of it being pouring with rain, walk instead.
  2. Carry small change as virtually every driver has none whatsoever to give you change of a note or at times a 5 sol coin for a 2 sol fare.
  3. Be prepared for something between a undergraduate chiropractic session and a Ben Hur chariot scene when you step aboard. This is what’s coming.
  4. Ensure no body part ever strays outside the vehicle frame or expect loss as the driver passes a bus with less than a millimetre to spare with a fleet of other motokaros coming rapidly towards you all prepared to decapitate.
  5. Be frightened, very frightened.

Drivers range widely in both aptitude and talent with some considering themselves Iquitos’ answer to Alain Prost, full speed ahead at all times unless an unwanted red light causes sudden braking hurtling you forwards at unexpected speeds. Others prefer the ‘find every bump and pothole’ in the road technique, this ensuring your breakfast is in serious danger of being lost either on the roadway or (shock, horror) in the rear seat of the vehicle. Don’t worry if this happens as the drivers see it as an achievement and small reward for their skills  They’ll only charge you an extra 2 sols or so for cleaning up after you.

Of course the more experienced drivers are capable of utilising both methods simultaneously in which case a crash helmet is recommended as hitting a deep pothole at 40KMH can render your skull at risk of an unpleasant impact collision with the framework of the vehicle. The seating is something designed by a Chinese mattress manufacturer with considerations for minimal cost. This ensures you will step out with a sore bum is nothing else. Sitting on an airborne crafts wing is probably safer and certainly more comfortable.

Keep in mind that 99% of Iquitos’ Motokaros are unroadworthy, some having no rear vision mirrors, others blowing clouds of exhaust fumes sufficient to give rise to climate change theory, and one memorable occasion when the driver pulled in for gas and removed the sock that had replaced his cap. Fortunately he wasn’t smoking.

Whoever conceived the Motorkar clearly had a childhood fascination with Boadicea and Ben Hur and so after dismissing horse drawn apparatus as too slow and expensive to maintain, they arrived at the chain drive attached to a low powered motorbike. Laotian tuk tuks are as cheap, more efficient in that they carry more passengers, quieter and generally a tribute to Eastern innovation. This leaves the Motorkar as either Peru’s indictment upon herself or a further tribute to eastern marketing. As all of them have Chinese built frames perhaps the latter is closer to the truth.

Also be aware that anyone, even a trusted friend, who advises you prior to your visit to Iquitos, that Motorkar travel is safe, comfortable and cheap either has a substantial shareholding in Honda or Marvila, is a compulsive liar or has never been here.

Of course some people who plan to stay a little longer make the error of purchasing a motorbike to get themselves around on. The motorbike is nature’s prey for Motorkaros, subtly knocking drivers down when an opportunity arises and no police are in view. This obviously results in injury and obliges the once motorbike owner to utilise Motokars for hospital visits following the ‘accident’

Finally also take extreme care when disembarking as Motokars are capable of rolling suddenly as passengers are proceeding to climb off, additionally others are fitted with gringo traps to trip the unwary, causing both yourself and the contents of your pockets to fall haplessly on the road, there to be collected by swift footed passers by who have arrived to assist you, presumably to relieve you of the excess weight factor of mobile phones, billfolds, laptops etc. Generally the driver gets a cut of the proceeds.

Enjoy iquitos, travel the roads by Motorkar as all tourists should do at least once but remember before alighting to be frightened, very frightened.

Chariots of Death, Motorkaros

A guest post by Adrian Walker, “The Snake Whisperer”

The views expressed by this author are not necessarily the views of Bill Grimes, Dawn on the Amazon Tours and Cruises, or the Captain’s Blog.

More articles by Adrian Walker for you to enjoy, about his experiences in Iquitos and the Amazon Jungle;

The Road To Iquitos;

The Road To Iquitos, Part 2;

The Road To Iquitos, Part 3;

The Road To Iquitos, Part 4, Ups And Downs In Iquitos;

Bird Watching From Dawn on the Amazon;

Bedbugs And Their Ilk In Iquitos;

King Of The Boulevard, Iquitos Peru;

Iquitos, An Urban Ecology;

A Cautionary Tale From Iquitos;

Giant Anaconda – Fact Or Fiction;

Golfing The Amazon;

The Amazon Toad;

Ayahuasca, Eternal Life – A Skeptics Viewpoint;

The Flight of Death;

Man of Le Launcha;

The Road Goes Ever On;

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mike Collis May 18, 2013 at 8:36 am

Thanks Adrian, a great read although I think you used your literary license in excess.
I have lived here for 15 years and use motocaros every single day.
During those 15 years I have been involved in one accident which resulted in a bruised arm and the loss of an expensive fossil watch.

2 adrian walker May 18, 2013 at 11:29 am

Mike, most of us here in Iquitos are grateful that it was just the fossil watch and not the whole fossil that was lost!

3 Dag Walker May 18, 2013 at 3:55 pm

One of the many attractive aspects of living in Iquitos is the lack of government regulation of simple human activities such as hopping into a taxi for a ride. In most of Europe or America one needs phone a taxi company for a ride, then wait an hour or longer because the licence fees are so exorbitant only the few can afford them, they become monopolies, and are grossly expensive. Often, one is forced to take public transportation, not a matter of conscious caring about global warming/climate change/new Ice Age/carbon footprint reduction but a result of a moralist’s tyranical punishment of the free individual. In Iquitos, one hops a weird replica of a Model T, and off one goes, free as the wind. Free as the unfettered marketplace of man in fair competition for a dollar. Mototaxi riding, like jaywalking and spitting on the sidewalk and smoking in cafes and taking ayahuasca, is a freedom denied to Modernists today at home. Yes, it can sometimes be scary, but such is life for the free person responsible for his own life. And, though I have no stats to back me up, I suspect Mike Collis is right: that there are few accidents in the helter skelter of a daily round by mototaxi, especially when one compares this city to any in Sweden, the latter being so over-regulated that traffic accidents were killing unwary drivers in terrible numbers simply because there were too many signs to watch to give attention to the road.


It’s a mototaxi ride in Iquitos. I love it. I also love sundials, though I didn’t know they were called fossil watches.

4 adrian walker May 18, 2013 at 7:28 pm

P.S to Mike. Is this the owner of the Iquitos Times accusing someone of “literary licence in excess”

5 Mike Collis May 19, 2013 at 8:03 am

Oh God!

I hope you don’t have a pepper spray

6 adrian walker May 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm

I could source someone who does easily enough!

7 james richardson May 22, 2013 at 10:26 am

I agree with your Chariots of Death characterization, Adrian! I have lived in Iquitos for years and I can attest to the dangers of the motocaros. Each day on my motor cycle I come close to several accidents because of the cavalier manner and carelessness of many of the motocaro drivers. I witness at least one accident a week during my travels.

Why does everyone want to pepper spray Mike these days?

8 adrian walker May 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm

James,Thanks for that and may I assure you that I see Mike regularly and as yet haven’t had occasion to pepper spray him! A good clip behind the ear when he misbehaves seriously seems to suffice and is far more sociably acceptable and responsible.
Also James, would you care to contact me on as I’d like to have a chat with you re a business proposal.

9 adrian walker May 28, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Of course there are exceptions and Dave Thomson, only gringo Motokaro driver in town, is one. Contact Dave on 962621137.

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