Iquitos on a Budget (part 2)

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Day 5 – We woke up at 04:30 and departed the lodge at 05:00 to go to where the Amazon and Nanay rivers come together as this is where the pink dolphins feed in the morning. We did see many of the dolphins, but mainly at a distance, and most of them were mostly gray and not that pink. After drifting around a watching the dolphins for a while we crossed to the opposite bank of the Amazon where the guide showed us a large area of rice growing, after which we returned to the lodge for breakfast. Breakfast was good and filling, with eggs, ham, cheese, toast, and margarine, but I would have liked a little fruit as well. After breakfast we were off to see animals, and our first stop was Fundo Pedrito where we saw and learned about piranha, cayman, paiche and the giant Victoria water lily

After visiting the Fundo Pedrito we were off to visit an animal sanctuary that was really more like a zoo, but was still interesting as you learn about the animals and get some interaction with them as well. The first interaction you get is with monkeys, they have about a dozen or more free roaming monkeys and these hang around at the entrance, this is because they sell bags of a small fruit to feed them, and I learned quick that if you buy a bag, you are likely to get mugged. I bought a bag and no sooner had the kid given it too me, I had a monkey trying to take the whole bag, fortunately my hands are big and I was able to cover most of the bag, but the monkey did manage to tear the bag open and get a few berries before I had a chance to hide them. Aside from the entertaining monkeys they also had birds, sloths, cats and a small anaconda (about 10 or 12 feet long), many of which you could hold.

After visiting the sanctuary we returned to the lodge for lunch and enjoyed a lunch of cecina, fish, juanes, tacacho, rice and salad, we then had some time to take another dip in the pool before having to clear out our room so that it could be cleaned for the next guests that had arrived that day. Our last activity was a walk to the nearby village of the Boras, here we were again treated to song and dance before being offered the opportunity to purchase some hand made crafts. After the village visit we walked back to the lodge, pick up our bags and boarded the boat that returned us to the port and then a bus took us back to the plaza.

Day 6 After breakfast this morning we got a motto-taxi to take us to Quistococha for S/13.00 Soles, Quistococha is a large zoo or animal sanctuary located on a lake with a nice beach for swimming, and entry was S/4.00 Soles for residents and S/9.00 Soles for tourists. When we arrived we first spent time walking around the areas where the animals were located, they have a large variety of animals there from monkeys and birds, to a pink dolphin and jaguars. I did not actually keep track but I believe that we easily spent a couple of hours doing this before making our way down to the beach. The one down side for me was the lack of shade around the lake, and not being from the area we did not have the ability to bring umbrellas with us, fortunately though there were a few restaurants so we just got a table and ordered a beer.

Something that we had not taken into consideration when we decided to do this on this day, was that it was Sunday, so the place was really quite busy, this really was not a big problem as there is lots of space, but it may have been more relaxing had we waited a day. Lily did enjoy the water while we were there and we had a few beers, fried yuca and split a juanes for lunch (S/45.00 Soles). We probably sat around people watching there for a few hours and then went up to the dolphin tank to watch a training/exercise session, which the trainer stressed was for the benefit of the dolphin and not those of us watching. After this it was another motto-taxi back to the house and dinner before calling it a day.

Day 7 So today was my day in a sense, as we went fishing and this is not something that Lily is interested in. After breakfast we took a bus to the port and hired a boat for S/40.00 Soles and about 3 hours of fishing, the boat took us up the Nanay river and stopped at several spots. Most of the locations tended to be loaded with smaller piranha as they would just pick the hook clean, we did make one stop where I actually lost two good sized piranha due to not enough steel, when I was packing my fishing gear for the trip I brought all long shanked hooks, but was not thinking that they might get the whole hook in their mouth, so my first two I lost due to them just biting through the line. After loosing the second one I went through my gear and remembered I had a spinner attachment for jigs with me and I used that to give me a little more steel, this did the trick and I landed the next fish, not the typical red piranha, but a larger silvery/blue colored variety.

Unfortunately after catching this fish our time was coming to an end and we had to head back to the port, so while I thought about throwing a spinner for a bit on the return trip (the boat was not all that fast), I decided to just enjoy the ride back and put my gear away. When we returned to the port I left our boat driver with an assortment of hooks as a thank you and we went looking for someplace to eat. We found a restaurant that had a nice view and ordered a grilled fish to share, but I tend to be a little picky when it comes to fish and did not like it, so Lily ended up eating the whole thing by herself and I ate at our favorite menu place by the plaza afterwords.

Day 8 This was our last full day and we decided to visit the Pilpintuwasi butterfly farm and so we again made our way to the Nanay port and this time we took a boat colectivo to the small town (Padrecocha) where the butterfly farm is located. It is not the easiest place to find as there are not many signs, but the locals all know where it is at, I think if you basically just make your way in an upriver direction (Left) you will get there, but the locals were all helpful with directions and motto-taxis are available at the port if you want to make things easy. Visiting Pilpintuwasi was interesting as they are also an animal sanctuary and have other things than just the butterflies, and entry includes a tour through the butterfly house as well as the grounds and explanations of all of the animals.

After visiting Pilpintuwasi we made a quick stop at a native center next door where they will dance (for a fee) but also offer hand made goods. After this stop we headed back t the port, when we arrive we noticed a restaurant just next to the port and decided to check it out. The name of the restaurant is “El Gran Yacare” and I highly recommend it if you happen to visit Pilpintuwasi, while it is a bit on the tourist price side, the owner is very nice, the food was excellent and you can even take a swim right off the deck if you want, she will also give you a ride back to the port if you eat there in their fast boat, and even pick you up if you call in advance (#945-522-316). There is also another reason that I liked it, she has fishing poles and will let you borrow them to fish right off the deck, of course had I known that this was going to be an option I would have brought my gear with me this day. I mainly used the bigger surf rod that she had, hoping to get something larger, but again the small piranha were a problem, constantly stripping the bait off the hook, I did though manage to land one of the red bellied piranhas. We had a good lunch of grilled paiche, ordered a plate of fried plantains and had several beers and the total was S/67.00 Soles, after lunch the owner Leili took us back to the dock and dropped us off, and as we were leaving the next morning we headed back to the house so we could start packing.

Day 9 Today we departed, we got a motto-taxi outside the house to take us to the airport and our flights back to Cusco were uneventful.

Summery:

To sum things up, the total cost for this trip (not including flights) was S/1,686.70 Soles or $511.12 USD at the current exchange rate.

Although we did not go very deep into the jungle, we still enjoyed the trip and felt that it offered a good sample of what the jungle is like. We would actually compare this trip to the Manu or Puerto Maldonado tours that we did, as neither of them were very deep trips either.

For reference all the activities that we did on the tour are easily done on your own by hiring a bot at the dock, the total cost would end up being more than the tour itself, but if you are only interested in doing one or two of the activities, then it would be cheaper than doing the complete tour.

For anyone on a tight budget, that is considering a trip to the jungle, this would be a good option, but unless you have to see the dolphins, or are interested in going to a lodge to do ayahuasca, I would consider Manu or even Puerto Maldonado as alternative options, especially if you are going to be visiting Cusco anyway, as these other locations can be done without the addition of a flight, and would be similar experiences in my opinion, Personally I think that I enjoyed Puerto Maldonado better than Iquitos.

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Iquitos on a Budget (part 1)

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Iquitos is one of the jungle regions that I have not yet visited and it had been a long time since Lily had visited, so we decided to take advantage of some slow time at the property and visit Iquitos. Our initial research was not looking very promising though as almost every lodge we could find was over $1,000 USD per-person per-week, which was more than we wanted to spend, so we decided that we would just book a place in Iquitos and see what was available for day trips.

While this did not allow us to get very deep into the jungle, we were able to sped a week in Iquitos, do a 2 day jungle tour, visit several places and overall really enjoy ourselves for just over $500.00 for the whole week, not including airfare. As we generally tend to be more of the budget type travelers this was the perfect balance for us, and we now know that you can visit the Amazon in Iquitos without breaking the bank. So just how do you manage Iquitos on a budget, read on my friends and all will be reveled.

Lodging Lets start here as I don’t feel like listing lodging for everyday. We booked our accommodation through Airbnb and we found a private room w/private bathroom in a shared house for $20.00 USD per-night, multiply by 8 nights and add the $10.00 service fee and our 8 nights of accommodation cost a total of $170.00 USD. As we had use of the kitchen this also saved us money as we were able to cook some meals ourselves and did not have to eat out all the time.

Day 1 Our flight arrived late (around 10 pm I think) so we did not do much more than just go to the house. At the airport we got a motto-taxi to the house for S/10.00 Soles.

Day 2 Today we basically explored Iquitos and checked out tour agencies. We walked to the Plaza de Armas and to Plaza 28 de Julio, taking pictures and in general getting ourselves oriented as to what was where. We also checked out several tour agencies and found that in general, you can get tours into the jungle for about S/200.00 Soles per-person per-day, these of course are to lodges that are not too far away so you are not going to get deep into the jungle with these options. We then took a motto-taxi to the Nanay port to check on prices for a boat to take us out fishing later in the week, while there we also found an agency employee offering multy-day tours for S/140.00 Soles per-person, per-day and we made arrangements to meet him at the office later.

After checking out the port area we took a local bus back to the main plaza for lunch, and we found a nice place about ½ block North West from the East corner of the plaza called “Dulce Gourmet Grill”. They have a S/10.00 and a S/13.00 soles menu with a variety of local dishes, and most importantly they had nice cold beer. Today I tried the chicharron de doncella, which is a nice mild fish with no bones, cut into chunks then lightly battered and fried, the dish was served with beans, rice, salad and fried plantains, total for lunch with beer was S/29.00 Soles. After lunch we went to meet the guy at the tour agency and after looking over their options we decided to check out the 2 day option, The agency is “Amazon Camp” and the total we paid was S/560.00 Soles for the both of us and included all the activities, lodging for 1 night and 4 meals. After booking our tour we went to the store to get groceries for breakfasts and dinners which totaled S/100.00 Soles and then we went back to the apartment for the evening.

Day 3 We started today off by taking a bus to the Belen neighborhood and wandering through the street market. In the street market you will find a wide variety of goods fruit, vegetables, meats and fish, while there we did try a drink made from the aguaje fruit which is the fruit from the same palm tree they get the grubs we saw the day before from. After wandering through the market and then down into the Belen neighborhood we headed back towards the Plaza de Armas, enjoying the sights and sounds of the streets until reaching the malecon, which is a walkway along the edge of the river area. We followed the malecon to the “Amazon Eco Museo” and checked it out. The museum was S/10.00 Soles each to enter (S/15.00 non-resident rate) and had a variety of interesting displays of tools, textiles and artifacts from a variety of indigenous tribes.

After visiting the Museum (and enjoying their AC) we decided to sit and relax a bit and enjoy a cold beer. We decided to head towards the Plaza de Armas and on the way we saw “The Yellow Rose of Texas” restaurant and bar, between the name and the outdoor seating we decided to check it out, the food prices were a little high and we had planed on trying the local juanes today so we just relaxed and had a beer (or 2) and some fried yuca. After the beer we sot off in search of our juanes but found that it was likely too late in the day as the stands we had seen earlier were all closed up, instead we opted for our menu restaurant again and this time I tried the cecina con tacacho, cecina being a type of cured meat and tacacho is roasted bananas that have been partially mashed and then rolled into balls. We decided to end the day after lunch as we still had to get things ready for our 2 day jungle tour that we were starting the next day.

Day 4 So today we headed to the tour office with breakfast to go, and boarded to bus to start our 2 day jungle tour at about 9:00 am, the bus took us to the port where we boarded our boat and headed for our first stop of the day. Our first stop was a local village where we saw some dancing, got to try a traditional blow gun and had the opportunity to browse through locally made crafts. After the village we walked to a Kapok tree, a local example of the largest tree species in the Amazon, and then made a stop at an observation tower before returning to the boat. Next we made our way to the lodge where we had a delicious lunch of lagarto (crocodile), fish, salad, rice, pasta, and fried bananas.

The rooms would not be ready until 17:00, so we wandered around the lodge a bit before we departed for our next activity, fishing. The fishing was okay, the only real problem that I saw was that the equipment was well used and I am sure that my hook was not the only dull one there, but there were a few people who caught fish, mostly small ones, but a nice variety. After the fishing we returned to the lodge where we got our room and changed to go enjoy the pool a bit. The room was basic, but roomy, clean and comfortable, the rooms are all laid out in two rows and elevated on stilts, they were all connected by a long walkway with the first row walkway running from the dining room all the way down past the pool, this was the row that we were on and the door opened to a nice view of the jungle. The pool was a very nice amenity and one of the reasons that we chose this agency, as not all of the agencies have pools at the lodges, and after a day of walking around a hot and humid jungle, a dip in a cool pool is very refreshing. After the pool time we had a nice dinner of lomo saltado and then did a night walk that was fairly uneventful, likely due to the noisy people in the group, after which we went to bead as we had an early start the next morning.

 

Follow my blog or check back later for part 2 of “Iquitos on a Budget”

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