Monday, October 11, 2010


Wow, the last few days have been intense. Shit has been real up in here, as they say (or may not say anymore).

Right now Ross and I are in Iquitos, the largest city in the Amazonian jungle, only reachable by boat or plane. The humidity here is absolutely unbearable. It feels like you're trapped in a sauna that's been wrapped in llama wool, dragged through a forest fire, and then left sitting in a swamp. It's mildly uncomfortable. Fortunately we've decided that Iquitos will be the place where we splurge (because you have to have a good splurge every once in a while if you're going to survive a year of backpacking), so we got a hotel with air conditioning! Oh sweet, sweet air conditioning. Possibly the greatest invention known to man.

Past the heat and humidity, Iquitos is a difficult place to describe. It's the kind of place where, instead of driving cars, mom, pop, and 3 kids pile onto a motorcycle, sans helmets. Instead of squirrels hopping around the main plaza, there are giant rats. The marketplace offers sloths (as pets), larvae (as food), Valium, and Chicha next to the usual array of splayed chickens and fish (Chicha is a beer that is traditionally made by grounding corn, moistening it in the maker's mouth, and then forming balls to lay out to dry. In short, we've been calling it "spit beer," but despite that it's actually quite good). During meals, we've been approached by children begging for food, a boy selling quartz, and one drunk, overly enthusiastic waitress who insisted on hugging each of us on our way out (I didn't mind this at all - maybe we've been enjoying too much chicha). The people are beautiful and friendly, and the juice is so good it's like a smack in the face. It feels wild and unkempt, but also laid back and fun - completely removed from urban mores. Pictures would probably be a lot more successful at conveying a sense of what it's like, so I'll wait until we have those up instead of writing any more.

We've booked a guided tour into the jungle for 4 days. Tomorrow we take a motorboat down the Amazon river for 3 hours to our ENTIRELY SCREENED lodge. Ross's brother, Sean, just did a similar tour of the jungle last week, and was attacked by ants. ATTACKED BY ANTS. As in, one moment he was walking along being all British, the next moment there were ants down his shirt and in his hair, biting the shit out of him for committing the grave sin of brushing against their tree branch. He also reported that there is such a thing known as "sweat bees," which prefer to attack the nose and eyes. I'm slightly terrified of this aspect of the jungle. I completely flipped out when we had to sleep in a hostel that had a cockroach in it. Hopefully it will be like aversion therapy and I'll come back completely unaware that bugs even exist. After this is over I will laugh in the face of cockroaches! Ha ha! Or, alternatively, I will actually go insane and spend the rest of my life rocking back and forth, mumbling incoherently about screens. (We got nets to wear on our heads just to be sure this doesn't happen.)

However, according to Sean, the trip is totally worth the onslaught of bugs. Every day we will go bird watching at dawn. Then the afternoon will be filled with hikes to various regions to see monkeys, butterflies and hopefully bears or something. Those live in the jungle, right? According to Mowgli? We will also go fishing for piranha, and at night, do hikes to look for nocturnal animals like tarantulas and caimans. I'm excited - it sounds at once exhilarating and a bit nightmarish. I'm sure the reality will be something else entirely.

Today I had to go shopping for a long-sleeved shirt, because apparently those are somewhat handy in the jungle. It would've been good to have thought of that before actually being IN a city in the jungle. The fashion here, understandably, is to wear as little as possible. Store after store, people looked at me like I was nuts when I asked for shirts with long sleeves. When they did have one, all they had was one size, "standard," which may be standard if you're a petite, beautiful Peruvian jungle woman but was comically undersized on me. I felt like a big, pasty Godzilla, lumbering around their stores with pit stains bigger than some of their small children, scaring away all but the bravest of salesgirls. Fortunately everyone came out unscathed (except for my ego), and I managed to acquire 2 long-sleeved shirts. Huzzah!

Anyway, if we're not back by Friday, send help!

More pictures of Iquitos:


  1. Don't forget the bisected turtles with their little feet pointing up in the air! Mmmmm.

    Also, sloths would make ideal pets for the elderly.

  2. mowgli was in INdia, and he saw bears and orangutans, which don't exist in India. :) have fun in the jungle!
    Ps: marina, you are no giant. those damn peruvian jungle women will make the best of us feel disgusting.
    pps: i should have told you that your pit stains were obnoxiously large and sweaty.
    ppps: have tons of fun and I hope pics will soon be up so I can see these beautiful peruvians.

  3. bhahaha, pit stain jokes always make me LOL.

    Bird watching at dawn?? Are you trying to kill me here??!! :)

  4. Yeah, pit stains are probably the most awkward thing ever. Delightfully, when we were in the jungle, not only did I have pit stains that nearly reached my elbows, but also a permanent chest stain from all the cleavage sweat. I was one sexy mofo, let me tell you.

    I thought of you a lot while we were bird-watching. Wish you could've been there wish us - you would absolutely love the jungle. My favorite was the wattled jacana - they're soooo cute! With its wings closed it looks all plain, but then it spreads its wings, and suddenly, BAM! Bright green flash of awesomeness right in your face.

    Wings closed:

    Wings open: