PERU
2003


"Amazon Snake Mystery"

Iquitos, Loreto

Location of Iquitos on Rio Marañón, with surrounding rivers.
click to enlarge

Iquitos was established by the Jesuits in 1790 and grew considerably during the rubber boom of the early 20th Century. It is now the capital of Loreto Region. It is located on the Rio Ucayali, which converges with the Rio Napo downstream of Iquitos to become the Rio Amazonas*. Even here, more than 3,000kms (1,864miles) from its mouth, the Amazonas is a large river, navigable for ocean-going vessels, hence the former importance of Iquitos to Peru's economy, a link to the Atlantic for a Pacific coastal country. Today tourism and conservation are major draws for Iquitos, a city that mixed the new with the old, the shiny-town with the shanty-town.

Up stream from Iquitos is the confluence of the Rio Ucayali and its major tributary, the Rio Marañón, and upstreamon the Rio Marañón is the Rio Pastaza which feeds in from Ecuador. Our destination, the Rio Huasaga is a tributary of the Rio Pastaza.

* The Rio Amazonas crosses the Brazilian border and becomes the Rio Solimões, it is not called the Amazonas in Brazil until it converges with the Rio Negro, coming down from the north, at Manaus.

 

 

Amerindians and anacondas are two abiding themes in Iquitos.

Modern Iquitos. Old Iquitos.

 

Anacondas are in people's minds - sign about the Centro Artesanal Turistico Anaconda. And a carving from the Centro showing an Amerindian wrestling an anaconda.

 

Mark relaxing with a newspaper in the sun, in Iquitos city park.
but what is the headline story ?

click on the image to find out.

Iquitos lies in a very lowlying riverine flood-plain. Despite being 3,000kms from the mouth of the Amazon the elevation at Iquitos is only 106m (348ft) and much of the surrounding countryside comprises swamp, flooded grassland, riverine channels and lagoons - typical anaconda habitat.

 

Views of the extensive wetlands around Iquitos - anaconda country.

The Rio Ucayali is a busy waterway with large and small vessels going up and downstream.

 

Views on the Rio Marañón at Iquitos - anaconda country.

One of the popular tourist attractions is the Belén floating market but here we found sad signs that anacondas and other reptiles do not often get the benefit of the doubt. Down on the waterfront, the market is one of the largest in the Amazon and it sells virtually everything but wildlife products are much in evidence from skins, to heads, to bits and pieces in jars and live animals. Small caiman and turtles were offered as pets, all destined to perish in inexperienced hands.

The BelÚn floating amerindian market, Iquitos. Welcome to La Anaconda - medicinal plants and aphrodisiac liquors !!
Two anaconda heads on a pile of onions. Secret filming: live juvenile reptiles for sale: Spectacled caiman, Caiman crocodilus, Black caiman, Melanosuchus niger, Yellow-spotted side-necked turtles, Podocnemis unifilis, Twist-neck turtle, Platemys platycephala.