|roasted grubs on a stick|
"Hodgepodge or hotspot?" That is the question that screams through my mind as i narrowly escape the endless rows of amazon tour companies beckoning my attention on the streets of Iquitos.
The masses descend upon Iquitos like a swarm of piranhas to a carcass. A general rule of thumb is that people are here for one of two reasons or perhaps abit of both. Foreigners are in Iquitos either getting a taste of the Amazon jungle or to participate in a Shamanic ceremony taking Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca for those that may not be familiar is a psychedelic tea concoction made from plants and herbs of the Amazon. It is taken as part of a special ceremony with a Shaman preceding over it. Ingestion of Ayahuasca can result in dizziness, vomiting, hallucinations and visions. Unfortunately there are those who did not take the ceremony seriously and do their research and ingestion of the tea resulted in death.
Ayahuasca popularity is evidenced by the amount of restaurants one can walk into in Iquitos where they have two menus, a regular menu and the other for those who are on the Ayahuasca diet. Namely no fried food, no alcohol, no fatty foods or spicy foods either etc.
In Iquitos mosquitos will feed off your body if like a stupid sucker one walks out without repellant. Likewise, crooks and robbers feed off naivety like there is no tomorrow. Whether one is here for Ayahuasca or the Amazon, you can bet that there is someone out there who is more than willing to overcharge and under-deliver on the experience you are looking for.
The best protection against crooks in this place isn't with a gun or pepper spray, it is with knowledge and research. Knowledge that tells you that Tahuayo Lodge has one of the best reputations out there. Research that informs you that there is both a false monkey island and butterfly farm and a real monkey island and butterfly world and how exactly to get there. In Iquitos many boat drivers are being paid a special commission to take naive unprepared visitors to the fake versions of the real places.
When it comes to Iquitos, doing a little homework goes a long way in having a flawless stay in the city. Instead of getting ripped off by some unsavory tour operator; conned by a disingenuous Shaman; robbed at Belen market or fallen victim to a scam, one can take your hard earned cash and sit outside enjoying a cup of coffee at Amazon Bistro. Or hear the excited chatter of Ayahuasca drinkers as they converge at the Karma cafe while enjoying delicious spoonfuls of Thai green curry.
Or perhaps your greatest triumph of all will be having returned from Belen market with camera intact full of magnificent pics without getting robbed because you were smart and took a guide and little cash, unlike those other silly gringos who decided to pop by there with a $4000 camera hanging from their neck for all the world to see......
|Pilpintuwasi butterfly farm and animal orphanage|