A Travellerspoint blog

October 2008

Iquitos, 28-31 October 2008

Came on the fast boat from Santa Rosa (Peru) on the border to Iquitos by fast boat. It left at the ungodly hour of 04h00 in the dark (which meant getting up at 03h00, taxi to port in Tabattinga, small boat across river to Santa Rosa, arriving at landing area in pitch black until the generator was eventually put into action, then Peru immigration guy eventually arrived to stamp passports, ...). We started with the driver standing up with one hand on the wheel and the other on a spotlight to see the way! The main concern on the trip was avoiding the debris (varous sized parts of trees) floating down the river. (Lifejackets were provided but I would not fancy needing to use them!)

Iquitos is the end of our journey up the Amazon - over 3500 kilometers from Belem, where we started near the mouth. The principle difference is the number of tourists/travellers. Having seen, what seems like less than 50 non South American tourists in 6 weeks in Brazil, we have probably seen more than that here in Iquitos already. I suppose a jungle trip from Iquitos is an easy "add on" to a holiday at the classic sites of Peru. Of course, this means there is more restaurants specially for tourist, more hassle from sellers of anything from souvenirs to transport to jungle trips - but its generally pretty good natured and they take no for an answer.

We found it a pleasant and interesting place and are probably staying at the best accommodation we have had so far - big double room with A/C, cable TV, PC's with free access to Internet, free transfer to airport, and even very cheap (per kilo) laundry service (welcome as we had practically run out of clean clothes!) (Around 30 Euros a night).

Iquitos has the distinction of being the largest city (450,000) with no access by road - everything has to arrive by river or air. It also has quaint transport: buses with the top half made of wood, and three wheeler taxis (from converted motor bikes).

The main tourist hangout is around the Plaza de Armas and down to the promenade area (with view to the river area and Belen). The area down towards Belen and the Belen market has lots of character. It would have been interesting to walk round Belen itself (with houses built on rafts or stilts down on the area which floods), and the guide books said it was "relatively safe during the daytime", but when we started heading that way in the market the numerous police either made "dodgy" signs or warned us to be vary careful with valuables and started walking with us! So we took the hint and gave up. Still, the Belen market itself and the streets surrounding it were great to walk around (if not always pretty!).

When we found it, the lady at the Tourist Info place was very helpful and spoke English too. She had a few suggestions for outings and we took her up on a couple. In both cases a lot of the fun was getting there and back. The first trip was to the Quistocha lake: there by kombi, walk down to the lake through a squalid zoo (eg a poor jaguar in a cage not as big as our hotel room), stroll on a raised walkway partly round the lake, return on one of those glorious buses. Another trip out to Padre Cocha Village: Three wheel motor taxi out to Nanay boat landing area, "thatched" collectivo boat to the village, walk up to and round the village and greeted by friendly locals, beer by the water (is Lindsey dreaming of being back at work?), and back. Great fun!

We have enjoyed the last few days in the tropical conditions we have had for all the trip so far. Big change tomorrow!

(Incidentally, in all the time we have been in N and NE Brazil and here in Iquitos the only place we had a few mosquitos was Mamiraoa in the rain forest: Must be a good time to visit ...)

Fastboat - Tabatinga/Santa Rosa - Iquitos

Fastboat - Tabatinga/Santa Rosa - Iquitos


Fastboat - Tabatinga/Santa Rosa - Stop en route

Fastboat - Tabatinga/Santa Rosa - Stop en route


Plaza de Armas - Cathedral

Plaza de Armas - Cathedral


Plaza de Armas - Eiffel (of tower fame) house

Plaza de Armas - Eiffel (of tower fame) house


Plaza de Armas - Motor Taxis

Plaza de Armas - Motor Taxis


Hotel Marañon Room

Hotel Marañon Room


Belen 1

Belen 1


Belen 3

Belen 3


Belen 2

Belen 2


Belen market - fruits

Belen market - fruits


Belen market - Fancy a chicken bit?!

Belen market - Fancy a chicken bit?!


Downtown Iquitos - Egg alley

Downtown Iquitos - Egg alley


Downtown Iquitos 1

Downtown Iquitos 1


Downtown Iquitos 2

Downtown Iquitos 2


Downtown Iquitos 3

Downtown Iquitos 3


Downtown Iquitos 4

Downtown Iquitos 4


Iquitos - Local transport - Bus   Motor taxi

Iquitos - Local transport - Bus + Motor taxi


Local transport - Motor Taxi

Local transport - Motor Taxi


Quistococha Lake Trip 1

Quistococha Lake Trip 1


Quistococha Lake Trip 2

Quistococha Lake Trip 2


Quistococha  Lake Trip - Return on local bus

Quistococha Lake Trip - Return on local bus


Trip Padre Coche - Collectivo departure point

Trip Padre Coche - Collectivo departure point


Trip Padre Coche - On collectivo to village

Trip Padre Coche - On collectivo to village


Trip Padre Coche - Collectivo boat

Trip Padre Coche - Collectivo boat


Trip Padre Coche - Houses

Trip Padre Coche - Houses


Trip Padre Coche - River bar - Dreaming of EHH?

Trip Padre Coche - River bar - Dreaming of EHH?

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Tabatinga, 24-28 October 2008

2 hours on the plane with one quick stop from Tefe to here in Tabatinga and it was comforting to see nothing but forest as far as the eye can see. At least in the upper Amazon there is still forest there!

We would not have stayed so long here but had to wait for a boat to Iquitos (Peru), which does not run every day. However, there is interest here as it is there are three towns next to each other in three different countries (Tabatinga - Brazil, Leticia - Columbia, Santa Rosa - Peru). This offers the possibility (if you stretch your imagination) to do a 3 nations pub crawl - with no cross border immigration formalities!

Half an hour´s walk (or by kombi) from Tabatinga, takes you past the border into Letitia - the best developed of the three. The principle mode of transport is light motor bike - see if you can spot more than 5 on a bike! Check out indigeous souvenir shops, the market, and then stop at the cafe by the port for a tasty Aguila beer (Columbian). Drop down to the channel to pick up one of the small boats going across the Amazon to Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa is rather more primitive and more like a village than its cousins across the water. Quite a few restaurants along the river - all blaring out loud music (as is the habit in this part of the world). The one we checked out had the excellent Cusqueña beer from Cusco (Peru). The blaring local music was interupted by one tune from our previous travelling era: I come from a land down under ... where women go and men chunder ... (Men at Work)!! Go back down to the landing spot and pick up another small boat back to Tabatinga. There´s a pleasant spot there by the port to check out a Brazilian beer (say Skol/Antartica).

Good exercise! Costs practically nothing. Only mistake we made ... went on a Sunday - in Leticia (Colombia), ¨Domingo - No Cervesa¨! So, it was Cafe de Columbia and water for this stop.

3 nations

3 nations


Tabatinga main street

Tabatinga main street


Typical transport - we spotted 5 on a bike once!

Typical transport - we spotted 5 on a bike once!


Aguila Beer - Columbia

Aguila Beer - Columbia


leticia market 1

leticia market 1


leticia market 2

leticia market 2


Leticia - Boat channel 1

Leticia - Boat channel 1


Leticia - Boat channel 2

Leticia - Boat channel 2


Boat to Santa Rosa

Boat to Santa Rosa


Santa Rosa boat landing 1

Santa Rosa boat landing 1


Santa Rosa Main street

Santa Rosa Main street


Cusqueña beer - Peru

Cusqueña beer - Peru


Santa Rosa boat landing 2

Santa Rosa boat landing 2


Tabatinga Port 1

Tabatinga Port 1


Tabatinga Port 2

Tabatinga Port 2


Tabatinga Port 3

Tabatinga Port 3


Antarctica Beer - Brazil

Antarctica Beer - Brazil

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Mamiraua, 20-24 October 2008

Mamiraoa is an area of rainforest in the upper Amazon about the size of England. Water rises and falls by up to 15 meters between the dry and rainy seasons! We booked in advance to stay 4 days an eco-lodge there. The only flights now are with Trip (Rico, who also used to fly the routes regularly, have apparently had a problem with their plane ... ... and no longer fly there). Trip was difficult to reserve from outside Brazil - CC payments not accepted online. Fortunately a Portuguese friend helped with the comms and they said we could pay in Brazil ... and it all worked! It is quite a way from civilisation: 2 hours flight from Manaus to Tefe, then an hour and a half on fast boat up rivers up to the lodge which is beautifully located on a bend in a small river. Uacari lodge has decent accom and food, without being luxurious. Uacari lodge has decent accom and food, without being luxurious.

The sounds really make an impression: the loud splashes of the enormous Picarucu fish (largest freshwater fish in world - up to 3 meters) which regularly have to leap out of the water to get oxygen in the dry season, the haunting cries of the howler monkeys (which sound like a combination of a howling gale and noises of dynosaurs fighting in a horror movie), the incredible variety of bird calls, the scratches, squeeks and russles of the wildlife living in the thatched roofs of our floating bungalows! - mainly bats, we discovered. The one thing which did not mke a lot of noise was the caimans (crocodiles) - lots of them around us!

There is a wide variety of activities arranged - all accompanied by experienced, excellent and helpful guides. The main ones are walks of 3-4 hours in the jungle and rather pleasant canoe trips (rowed by the guide) and actually quite good for spotting wildlife. Wildlife is illusive and tends to move away quite quickly. The guides are brilliant at spotting whatever is there. Binoculars were a necessity to get a decent view.

Happily, with a 06h30 breakfast start for 07h00 activity, and with the oppressive heat of the middle of the day, there was 3-4 hours off around lunchtime - to lie in the hammock contemplating the lovely scene (or to fall asleep).

Overall, this leg of the trip was the first we arranged, took the most arranging and was the most expensive by some way. However, definitely worth it. The forest was definitely something to experience once, the location and nature around the lodge itself was superb, we saw a good range of the wildlife (if sometimes rather fleetingly - particularly for the striking rare White Uacari Monkeys we saw on two occasions, which have bright red faces - but they don´t hang around for you to admire them).

Trip Airlines - Success - Arrival in Téfé!

Trip Airlines - Success - Arrival in Téfé!


Uacari Lodge 1

Uacari Lodge 1


Uacari Lodge 2

Uacari Lodge 2


Uacari Lodge 3

Uacari Lodge 3


Uacari Lodge - Room

Uacari Lodge - Room


Uacari Lodge - Hammock Space

Uacari Lodge - Hammock Space


Uacari Lodge - Kingfisher

Uacari Lodge - Kingfisher


Just when you thought it was safe in the water!

Just when you thought it was safe in the water!


Uacari Lodge - A resident!

Uacari Lodge - A resident!


Uacari Lodge - A resident 2

Uacari Lodge - A resident 2


Mamiraua - Walk 1

Mamiraua - Walk 1


Mamiraua - Walk 2

Mamiraua - Walk 2


Mamiraua - Walk 3

Mamiraua - Walk 3


Mamiraua - Walk 4

Mamiraua - Walk 4


Mamiraua - By canoe 1

Mamiraua - By canoe 1


Mamiraua - By canoe 2

Mamiraua - By canoe 2


Mamiraua - By canoe

Mamiraua - By canoe


Mamiraua Wildlife - Hyperactive sloth!

Mamiraua Wildlife - Hyperactive sloth!


Mamiraua Wildlife - Hyperactive sloth 2

Mamiraua Wildlife - Hyperactive sloth 2


Mamiraua Wildlife - Toucan

Mamiraua Wildlife - Toucan


Mamiraua Wildlife - Howler Monkeys up tower!

Mamiraua Wildlife - Howler Monkeys up tower!


Mamiraua Early morning

Mamiraua Early morning

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Amazon Boat + Manaus, 15-20 October

48 hours mainly in a hammock on a boat from Santarem to Manaus, then 2 and a half days in Manaus. The main pleasure was in the getting there - Manaus itself is pretty grotty!

Santarem to Manaus on the good ship Sao Bartolemeu We decided to go hammock class instead of cabin class at the last moment after discussing with the Anglo/Canadian couple (who had travelled to Santarem by boat). Good decision as the cabins are very cramped and have no windows - must be impossibly hot during the daytime - and anyway, hammocks are more romantic!

Experences vary but ... we had a newish boat which was kept very clean (eg toilet paper in toilets/showers throughout the trip), we got on the boat at 10h00 for a 14h00 departure to ensure we got a good place (upper deck as far as possible forward is the best), the boat was pleasantly filled without being overcrowded, the locals and crew were friendly, the meals provided were good (particularly in view of the ridiculously cheap price charged), and 48 hours was about right. The couple turned up to catch the same boat, plus another English lady travelling by herself - so we had company. Really a great experience and one which will certainly last in the memory.

Incidentally, costs are: Hammock -10 euros, 48 hours on boat (hammock class) - 28 euros, 3 meals and 2 breakfasts - 8 euros, plus water and a few beers!

Manaus Arriving in Manaus by boat, the city did not look very pretty, and walking round (while Lindsey looked after the bags in a cafe) for what seemed like a couple of hours trying to get a decent room for the time we were here did not make the place more appealing. In the end we had a choice between an unappetising cheap room in a hostel and an expensive room in a hotel. Took the better option - you could at least see a bit of the river from the 8th floor room - and there was A/C plus some decent TV channels.

Manaus does not have much to offer, although the opera house and the area around it were quite pleasant both day and night, and they turn one of the main streets into a handicraft market on Sunday morning.

I would definitely choose both Belem and Santarem to visit before Manaus. They both had more to offer, and had good areas on the waterfront (to get a feel of being on tghe Amazon). However, to get to many of the jungle lodges, one is obliged to pass through.

Santarem - Boat ticket sales and who´s calling?

Santarem - Boat ticket sales and who´s calling?


The good ship Sao Bartolemeu 1

The good ship Sao Bartolemeu 1


The good ship Sao Bartolemeu 2

The good ship Sao Bartolemeu 2


Hammocks up - before the masses arrive

Hammocks up - before the masses arrive


Amazon Boat - hammocks 1

Amazon Boat - hammocks 1


Amazon Boat - hammocks 2

Amazon Boat - hammocks 2


Amazon Boat - Bar (  loud music)

Amazon Boat - Bar (+ loud music)


Amazon Boat - up the river

Amazon Boat - up the river


Amazon Boat - along the banks

Amazon Boat - along the banks


Amazon Boat - breakfast

Amazon Boat - breakfast


Amazon Boat - view

Amazon Boat - view


Amazon Boat - Anyone for fish? 1

Amazon Boat - Anyone for fish? 1


Amazon Boat - Anyone for fish? 2

Amazon Boat - Anyone for fish? 2


Amazon Boat sunset

Amazon Boat sunset


Amazon Boat - Sunset 2

Amazon Boat - Sunset 2


Amazon Boat - visiting butterfly

Amazon Boat - visiting butterfly


Manaus arrival

Manaus arrival


Manaus - Opera house

Manaus - Opera house


Manaus cathedral area

Manaus cathedral area


Manaus cathedral

Manaus cathedral


Manaus - view fron 8th floor hotel room

Manaus - view fron 8th floor hotel room

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Santarem, 12-15 October

Short flight from Belem, arriving at the very small Santarem airport at after 01h00. Not the best time to be arriving ... but found the airport panarama viewing area (!), which atayed open all night, and sat it out until the morning. Bus into town at 07h00. Found decent hotel.

Santarem is the third largest city on the Brazilian Amazon (around 200k), but gives the impression of a pleasant small towm. The waterfront is just opposite where the muddy coloured Amazon flows into the deep coloured Tipajos. This provided a wide and beautiful panorama - made all the more lovely by the presence of a number of river dolphins.

On day 2 we decided that we would like to take a boat trip on the river - but needed another couple to make up the minimum number. Just at that time the (practically) only other travellers we have come across - an Anglo/Canadian couple at our hotel in Belem - turned up wanting to do the same thing. Excellent trip right across the river: to lagoon with lots of birds and some typical habitation, then trying to get the boat close to dolphins and finally to the actual spot where the waters meet (impressive and quite rough - life jackets supplied!).

Santarem is very pleasant down by the water front in the evenings. Different (good) singer + guitar in the local resto (outside) each night, good food, and finally to the pontoon over the river for a glass of caipirinha in the night breeze.

Around 30k´s from Santarem is Alter do Chao. Check the photos! Is it the Caribbean? No, its a beach spot half way up the Amazon! Fabulous location for the day (in our case) or longer. Swimming not quite as pleasant as the Caribbean (water a bit green!), but still had a swim or two. Beautiful spot.

Definitely recommend Santarem + Alter do Chao for a stop between Belem and Manaus.

Santarem - River 1

Santarem - River 1


Santarem - Spot the dolphin!

Santarem - Spot the dolphin!


Santorem - Panorama - Amazon meets Top

Santorem - Panorama - Amazon meets Top


Santarem - Boats

Santarem - Boats


Santarem River 2

Santarem River 2


Santarem River 3

Santarem River 3


Santarem - Santorem Palace hotel room

Santarem - Santorem Palace hotel room


Santarem - Trip on the river 1

Santarem - Trip on the river 1


Santarem Trip on the river 2

Santarem Trip on the river 2


SantoremTrip on the river 3

SantoremTrip on the river 3


SantoremTrip on the river 4

SantoremTrip on the river 4


Santarem - Boat trip - Amazon meets Topajos

Santarem - Boat trip - Amazon meets Topajos


Alter de Chao 1

Alter de Chao 1


Alter de Chao 2

Alter de Chao 2


Alter de Chao 3

Alter de Chao 3


Alter de Chao 4

Alter de Chao 4


Alter de Chao 5

Alter de Chao 5


Alter de Chao 6

Alter de Chao 6


Alter de Chao 7

Alter de Chao 7

Posted by Lindseyalan73 17:00 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)