The city you can´t drive to.
January 15, 2013 8:34 AM   Subscribe

Iquitos is the largest city with no roads connecting to the outside world. Wiki says it is a city of just under half a million.
Here is a photo set of what is often referred to as the known as the Venice of the Amazon.
If want to know more about some of the indigenous peoples of the area the Iquitos Times has that for you.
In fact the Iquitos Times has much you wanted to know - creatures of the Amazon maybe, and perhaps a bit you didn´t want to know about Peruvian Amazonia.
posted by adamvasco (31 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Come for the grilled grubs, stay for the Boa attacks.

(Kidding - very cool find!)
posted by digitalprimate at 8:40 AM on January 15, 2013

Obligatory aerial imagery from Google Maps.

Took a moment, cause there is a road to the south, but it just doesn't go anywhere besides another city.

posted by ish__ at 8:47 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

What about Hong Kong?
posted by sammyo at 8:49 AM on January 15, 2013

Hong Kong has airports and boats.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:57 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is fascinating. I'd love to go there!
posted by Kitteh at 8:59 AM on January 15, 2013

> Hong Kong has airports and boats.

And trains and roads.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:00 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Iquitos is awesome. We spent a week there, or thereabouts, and were lucky enough to get connected with the best local guide, Juan Maldonado. A complete rogue, but very knowledgeable and experienced, and full of great stories. And he also organised an ayahuasca ceremony for us.

Great place, thoroughly recommended.
posted by daveje at 9:06 AM on January 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

The Wikipedia article also states it is connected by a road to Nauta. Is that an undrivable road? A Wikipedia lie? Is Nauta not connected by road to anywhere else?
posted by IvoShandor at 9:19 AM on January 15, 2013

and ish__ has answered that question with a link to the map imagery. apologies.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:21 AM on January 15, 2013

> Hong Kong has airports and boats.

> And trains and roads.

And tunnels to the mainland.
posted by dabug at 9:30 AM on January 15, 2013

They are better off not being connected.
posted by Renoroc at 9:40 AM on January 15, 2013

A six meter (20 foot) boa constrictor attacked Graciela Murayari Pacaya (36), a modest resident of the village Santo Tomas, in whose vicinity are found extensive swamp lands from which it is believed that the snake emerged.

Can you be modest and have a snake in your vicinity?
posted by maxwelton at 9:41 AM on January 15, 2013 do you get there? Via riverboat?
posted by Balok at 10:02 AM on January 15, 2013

Yeah, that's the thing... in that part of the world, the rivers serve very well as the roads.
posted by gilrain at 10:18 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite] do you get there? Via riverboat?

That and by plane.

Is Nauta not connected by road to anywhere else?

No, not really. The two cities are connected to each other - that's about it. The problem with paving roads in the Amazon is that the rivers are always rising and falling, changing shape and direction. A road project would be incredibly difficult to execute.

As for Iquitos, it is incredibly cool. But to be honest, I liked Yurimaguas even more. It's smaller but more charming. In fact, if anyone travels to Peru, I would highly recommend getting to Iquitos by road + boat. I went Chachapoyas to Moyobamba to Taratopo to Yurimaguas by road, then got on a boat and headed to Iquitos. It was a really great way to see a bit of the wilder side of Peru - most people tackle the Andes and/or Lima but few seem to travel from the mountains into the jungle.

I wasn't brave enough to do ayahuasca in Iquitos, mostly because I was alone. Maybe next time...

One other piece of trivia: the central story in Herzog's Fitzcarraldo centered around bringing an opera house to Iquitos.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:19 AM on January 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

dabug: "> Hong Kong has airports and boats.

> And trains and roads.

And tunnels to the mainland.


One cannot can just drive into Mordor Hong Kong
posted by zarq at 10:24 AM on January 15, 2013 do you get there? Via riverboat?

You've got two options: fly or riverboat. Thing is, there are no distinctly passenger riverboats from the south (I believe there are a few from the north.) Most people travelling from within Peru take cargo boats. It's definitely an experience. I spent a few nights in "hammock class" on one of these cargo boats, and it was both a highlight of my time there and the most uncomfortable I've ever been (aside from the time I spent 24 hours in the Atacama desert without food or water.) The absolutely astounding part is watching them load the cargo and realizing that everything comes in via boat. Food, durable goods, motorcycles (no cars to speak of), livestock, everything. It's one thing to read that, it's another to watch them load a boat for 18 hours a day, 3 days in a row and try and comprehend just how much stuff it takes for even a small city to function.
posted by piedmont at 10:26 AM on January 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I made it a point to go there when I went to Peru, and it was right in the thick of the rainy season. It was pretty incredible. At this point of my trip (it was the last week of three months of travel), I was totally broke and so I ended up spending a lot of time in the Iquitos slum. I will never forget the old mamacitas who fed me chicken foot soup and the surprisingly beautiful handwriting of the street kids.

Oh, and rain like I have never experienced; rain like a warm wet angry god.

If I was to go again, I would take a boat. I had a plane ticket from Lima that was part of my itinerary. The plane was (like much south american transport) sketchy. The boat would likely be sketchy also, but there would be more opportunity for adventure.

There were restaurants in Iquitos that sold paiche (an endangered freshwater fish whose diet consists exclusively of fruit). You aren't supposed to buy it, since that drives the fish even further towards extinction. I didn't have the money for it, so it didn't matter. I would like to say that given the cash I would have ignored those restaurants like a good moral traveler, but I don't know. I sure like to eat interesting things.
posted by pol at 10:45 AM on January 15, 2013

Also, your links to Amazonian animals are great but incomplete, for you have forgotten to explicitly mention the Amazon pink river dolphin. Though an interesting animal on its own, locals know that the boto is an important animal for reasons beyond pure biology: these dolphins are known shapeshifters called encantados that become handsome men from sunset to sunrise, emerge from the river, make love to and impregnate young women, then return to the river before dawn.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:47 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like very much that much of the second and all of the third paragraph are devoted to driving tips for the moto-kar. It lends it a jaunty 1920s feel.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:57 AM on January 15, 2013

Google Street View seems to show Harrison Ford with some kind of ice machine.
posted by crapmatic at 11:00 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

It´s not all small river boats. Iquitas is the last deepwater port on the Amazon some 2000 miles from the ocean; Cruise ships and Heavy Lift cargo vessels get there.
posted by adamvasco at 11:01 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

As the centre of "Rubber Fever" Iquitos was a very wealthy place in the early 20th Century and its main square features the Iron House designed by Gustave Eiffel.

We caught a fast boat to Iquitos from Santa Rosa (on the border with Brazil and Colombia) which took about 10 hours. Then from Iquitos we caught a slow boat to Pucallpa, a four-day trip away which is on the road system and from there you can catch a bus to head back to Lima.

The slow boat was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had, although not one I would necessarily want to repeat. We didn't sleep in hammocks and splashed out on a cabin, for both comfort and ease of keeping belongings safe, but as the walls and roof were metal it was basically an oven but was marginally better than a hammock.

The main feature of the trip was that there was literally nothing to do. Nowhere to sit that wasn't a metal floor, nothing to see that wasn't river and trees. So I just sat there and stared at the water and trees for four days. Every so often the boat would stop and the cargo lads would scurry around unloading supplies. At one place we stopped for two hours loading palm branches which are used for roofing. 3 hours later we stopped again for another 2 hours whilst the same branches were unloaded.

The exception was as night fell. The sunsets were the most incredibly beautiful sights I have ever seen, complemented by thousands of squawking parakeets flying overhead, clouds of them were visible on the horizon. Once the sun disappeared the bats would appear, hundreds of them skimming the water past the boat. When we stopped for unloading at night the captain would turn on huge floodlights which illuminated a enormous ball of hundreds and thousands of insects. At first I didn't like being reminded of all the creepy crawlies and flying things out there but I soon came to enjoy it as on the edges of the ball bats would swoop in to pick off the insects.

It took nearly 5 days to complete the journey, 1 day longer than planned and the kitchen ran out of food about 18 hours before we finally arrived. I feel very privileged to have experienced the journey, which for many people is the only mode of transport, but would seriously think twice before doing it again.
posted by jontyjago at 11:37 AM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

The pink dolphins have unfused neck vertebrae, enabling them to turn their heads 180 degrees. Their flexibility is important in navigating through the flooded forests.

180 degrees? That's sorta freaky.

Regardless of that Inquitos sounds a bit like heaven in a non-stop party sort of way...I can't imagine it's a good place for introspection or self-reflection...
posted by Skygazer at 11:54 AM on January 15, 2013

The main feature of the trip was that there was literally nothing to do.

So very true. Fortunately our boat had picnic tables down in hammock class. We'd brought a lot of rum, some playing cards, and I had some of my EFL teaching materials. During the day I had a small group of people that gathered around for English class. At night, we got drunk on cheap rum and moonshine and played cards.

The other thing that came to mind was the lovely older woman that kind of adopted us. She was the only other person on the boat when we got on and strung up our hammocks. When she saw us string them up incorrectly, she helped us do it properly. From then on she was amazingly sweet in showing us the ropes of life on the river. How to shower, where trash goes, how to deal with sea-sickness, which fruits to buy when we stopped to unload cargo... She completely made the journey a bit less intense for us.
posted by piedmont at 12:29 PM on January 15, 2013

Because i can't belive no one has made this joke yet...

"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads."
posted by usagizero at 12:29 PM on January 15, 2013

Ha, I leave for Iquitos in four days. This post is awfully timely.

I am crazy about everything there except the weather: 90 degrees at 95% humidity. This is also the number one reason I decided against the riverboat option others have mentioned. You guys are crazy.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 2:17 PM on January 15, 2013

Well, we didn't go in the middle of the summer. :)
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:26 PM on January 15, 2013

Isn't it the same temperature in the winter?
posted by empath at 8:09 PM on January 15, 2013

Average weather conditions. Temperature stays roughly the same all year. I think it is probably the humidity and the daily duration of higher temperatures which makes the difference between hot and almost uncomfortably hot.
posted by adamvasco at 4:03 AM on January 16, 2013

Trivia: - Andre Breton´s first wife Simone Kahn (self link) was born in Iquitos.
posted by adamvasco at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2013

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