|My wife and I all touristy in a motokar death-trap!|
But I survived! Barely.
Day one of our journey to Peru actually took a day-and-a-half, all of it travel. Three flights, three airports, three rounds of security and customs and trauma. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a sucktacular traveler: "Are we there yet?" "I'm bored." "Can't we just be there?" "He's looking at me funny!" (My poor suffering wife.)
At 6', 2", weighing in at 225 pounds, flight engineers clearly didn't have me in mind when they created their flying cracker-boxes. Our overnight flight to Lima was a contortionist's nightmare. At midnight, the flight attendants fed us dinner, then hurriedly shut out the lights, their intention to have us sleep for eight hours so they wouldn't have to deal with us. Sure, uh-huh, right. It's like trying to sleep in a bookcase.
When we finally landed at the Lima, Peru airport, I desperately found myself wishing I'd paid attention to my two years of high school and two years of college Spanish. Honestly, the local people in the airport put me to shame, most of them able to speak passable English. And here I am--ugly American--stomping around, adding "O's" onto the end of English words. ("Luggage-o?")
But once we hit the Iquitos airport, I was a whale-out-of-water, a (not so) Great White. The departure area was pretty much the size of a living room, hotter than asphalt on a Summer day, a crowded, sweaty hub of humanity.
Okay, about Iquitos... Hardly the touristy, exotic getaway locale I expected (man, I really should've done some research), Iquitos is over-populated, full of political corruption (citizens are forced to vote by law and bribed to swing a vote for the equivalence of twenty bucks), trash-strewn, crime-ridden, humid, terrifying, and absolutely exhilarating and thrilling in a roller-coaster, pants-wetting kinda way. Like an island, Iquitos is only reachable by boat or airplane.
History lesson! Years ago, Iquitos's citizens came out of the jungle and adapted civilization as they knew it (learned from TV) in their new city. Literally hundreds of tin shanties can be seen right next door to the few wealthy residents. Up to four families share the small, ramshackle dwellings.
Yet even the worst tin shacks--holes and all--have direct TV dishes mounted on the roofs. Things exploded about six years ago when the former jungle dwellers discovered the internet and smart phones. Welcome to civilization.
|The amazing Armando, motokar driver extraordinaire!|
Unless you're a motokar driver.
We've all been in white-knuckled cab rides before. Now imagine that multiplied by 200,000 unleashed motokars.
What's a motokar, I hear you asking? Why, it's a three-wheeled motorcycle of sorts. Unprotected, the driver sits in front while the terrified passengers are sardined into a tiny cabin behind him. Different designs adorn the tarp (Spiderman, Scooby-Doo, appropriate flames of Hell), the driver's number posted on back.
It's the primary vehicle of choice (cars are a rarity) and a new source of income, drivers eking out enough soles for a day's worth of beans and rice.
And driving laws? Heh, don't be silly. Someone told us, "In Iquitos, there are no rules, no lanes, no lines, and no laws." (Check out the video below--supplied by fellow adventurer and friend Liz--if you don't believe me.)
Miraculously, we arrived at the hotel unscathed. There we met the gracious organizer of our trip, our "Jungle Momma" and her husband.
Then we slept.
The next morning, cocky and sure of myself, I proclaimed, "Hey, nothing to it! I survived my first day. Got this by the cajones! What could possibly go wrong?"
As it turns out, kismet's got it out for me badly.
For a different kinda trip, come on down to Missouri and visit the Dandy Drop Inn, a bed and breakfast with an absolutely killer reputation. Be sure to pick up the "Dread and Breakfast" brochure by clicking here!