Restlessness in Paradise: Planning for Iquitos

I am reminded of a discussion by Alan Watts about how boring heaven must be if it is actually like a Sunday morning in church. Hell must certainly be at least more stimulating, he wisely opines. I think of this as my friends and I sit around in the evening planning a trip to the Amazon. I’ve read enough blogs to recognize that a certain hellishness accompanies the overwhelming stimulation of the river and the jungle. But when the much vaunted view from our window of the old cathedral yields to a flashing sign of a hat on an old building, ennui has set in. My friend Marcel found such fascination in the neon last night. It was like being in the third pew at church counting the hairs in the old man’s ears in front of you.

So the three of us sit in a spacious apartment, eating well, drinking well, and spending out days at museums and markets. And spending out evenings charting out the next adventure. My French friends, Marcel and Veronique, have the splendidly civilized habit of stopping at 6:30 PM for drinks and snacks, and socializing. These days the socializing revolves around plans for Iquitos and Lagunas and the Pacaya Samiria Reserve.


Veronique is the navigator, starting with many hours with maps and research. She has come up with what seems like the best tour, Huayruro Tours Lagunas. which provides a guide and a small wooden boat. We stay in little refugios and sleep in hammocks. We should see Piranhas and lots of other wildlife, including, of course, the arachnas. The guides are a local family who spend most of their time working in the reserve as conservators.



We get to the reserve after a few day trip on a cargo boat, again sleeping in hammocks. We’ll spend three days or so in Iquitos, not using ayahuasca. I have romantic imaginings about the place-if I were more cashed up I would stay at the La Casa Fitzcaraldo, where the current owner is the daughter of Herzog’s executive producer. But imaginings will have to do. I understand the city is actually quite gritty and dangerous, maybe more so than the jungle. I’ve read that to go into the Belen market, it is best to take a guide just for security. The Amazon river itself starts at Iquitos. I’m considering a later trip from there across Brazil on the Amazon. But we’ll see how I survive the swelter of Iquitos.


So we plan. It is a most un-zenlike activity, forever in the future, and only on occasion looking up and out the window to the glorious present. Cuenca really provides a cozy sort of loveliness that allows us to bask in our plans.





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