After Máncora the next stop was Iquitos. Iquitos or the "capital of the Peruvian Amazon" is the larges city in the world that can not be reached by land. The only way to get to this jungle city is by air or river. The city is located in the Great Plains of the Amazon Basin, surrounded by the Amazon, Nanay and Itaya rivers.
Once extremely wealthy city due to a huge Amazon rubber boom. In the late 19th century, Iquitos became the center of export of rubber production from the Amazon Basin and was the headquarters of the Peruvian Amazon Company. The rubber boom attracted thousands of European traders and workers who came here to get and process rubber. Even Henry Ford, the United States automobile pioneer, undertook the cultivation of rubber trees in the Amazon region in the 30th.
One cool thing to do in Iquitos, apart of strolling around the old city center, is to visit one of the animal rescue centers along the Amazon. You have direct access to sloths, monkeys, anacondas, panthers and other rare animals that are hard to spot in the wild.
The Mariposario street market early in the morning has no shortage of variety, especially the crops and fresh fish that comes from the Amazon. Turtles are used here to cook Sopa de Motelo. Apparently there are lots of crocodiles in the Amazon, but you never see them during the day. We were told that people ruthlessly hunt them for delicacy meat, that crocodiles stay low during the day and only appear at night.
The rest of Iquitos feels a little abandoned.
Here's a weird story. Right in the center square of Iquitos, there's a large iron residence built during the rubber boom at the end of the 19th century. Apparently it was designed by Eiffel as a prefabricated house and then brought to Iquitos by river and assembled right there. You have to understand that Iquitos is extremely humid and hot jungle city. So basically nobody really managed to live in an iron house that gets hot inside like an oven.
Right from here we started our 4 day journey up the Amazon river. About that in the next post.