What a crazy contrast to go from deep in the jungle to the 3rd largest city in Peru. Iquitos is a city of about half a million people. It is the largest city in the world not accessible by road. The city is very hectic and loud! There are almost no cars here. Everyone gets around by “motokar”. A “motokar” is a motorcycle with a buggy attached to it; it has 3 wheels. Imagine a big city with roaring motorcycles everywhere. There are not many traffic lights or stop signs and no one seems interested in a specific lane. This morning, Oliver begged us to walk to the town center rather than take a motokar because they are so scary. The problem is that crossing the street is even more scary that riding in the motokar!
Another interesting aspect of being in the city is that we need to continue to walk around like we are in the jungle. When walking in the jungle, you have to look at your feet and watch every step you take to keep from misstepping. You have to stop walking in order to look around at the wildlife. It the same in this city! There are gaping holes in the sidewalk and other unexpected obstacles that make you focus on your footsteps.
Iquitos grew rapidly with the rubber industry. Then, it sort of flailed and experienced another boom with oil. It is a bizarre city. There are a number of historic sites that they boast about, but they are all in disrepair and used for things such as convenience stores. For example, Gustav Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) built an iron mansion here that now houses a pharmacy.
Even though we are only spending a couple of days here, we are having a very interesting time. Because of the abundance of wildlife in the jungle, Iquitos hosts many wildlife rehab centers. Yesterday, we visited a small animal rescue center. We were able to hold several wooly monkeys, sloths, toucans, a scarlet macaw, and an anaconda. Earlier today, we visited the Iquitos museum, then we went to a manatee rescue center and got to pet and hand feed manatees.