Our three days in Iquitos are a pleasant mix of relaxing by the pool, preparing and shopping for our Napo River trip, hanging out at some of the friendly ex-pat owned cafes and restaurants for a leisurely lunch or supper and enjoying a film or two on the huge TV in our room whilst we catch up on some email and planning.
The first day, Gerson takes us around Iquitos and shows us the main sights; the colonial buildings of the rubber boom era, the iron house designed by Gustav Eiffel, the town squares and the riverfront prom where some of the best restaurants are based.
Gerson takes us to a fun restaurant for lunch where there are huge jumping fish and turtles in tanks and a live band and very good food. We spend the evening at Karma Cafe, a popular expat and English speaking flashpacker hangout. The kids play scrabble and we sink in the comfy sofas and eat fresh breads, guacamole and chicken satay before the girls fall asleep in comfy beanbags!
The next day, Martin and Ben go with Frank, one of Gerson’s team to the local throbbing Belen market to start shopping for our trip. A floating market when the rivee is higher, but the river is too low. On the guidebook advise they take just a little cash – the throbbing market is full of live animals, turtles, parrots, chickens, everything and anything for sale – but they make a hasty retreat when Frank spots a dodgy character coming towards them and tells Martin of another time when he was stabbed in the leg there whilst taking some tourists to Belen and giving chase to somone who snatched one of their cameras.
We hang out at ‘Dawn of the Amazon’ one afternoon and ‘Amazon Bistro’ the next, meeting some really friendly folk from the US, UK and New Zealand who’ve made their homes in Iquitos. The kids play on the promenade with local youngsters and we sip delicious coffee to wash down a huge slab of chocolate cake!
We meet Kevin, who Lara spent a couple of hours chatting away to and who very generously gave her his treasured ‘magic’ neclace, to help keep us safe on our journeys. Thanks Kevin! I think the magic is working so far!!