We spent a couple days here and there in Iquitos before and after our time in the jungle. After getting back from the jungle we simply relaxed for a day and explored the city. It was surprising the amount of hippies that could be found walking around and selling things. Something about this area just draws them in. We found the Casa de Fierro (The Iron House) which was designed by Gustave Eiffel and decided it was not anything special. We actually walked by it multiple times without realizing what it was. We also visited Mercado de San Juan. I read that anything that was once alive was for sale in the market but we only saw the common meats like chicken, beef, fish, and lamb. I will say that seeing piles of chicken guts and bull heads for sale was a shock… people actually buy them. John’s favorite thing was the food carts found around the city. These carts sold delicious meals of rice, chicken, and an olive all wrapped in a green leaf. You could simply sit at the cart and eat your meal doused in homemade hot sauce and drink chicka morada (purple corn juice) for 2 soles which is approximately 60 cents.
The second day we decided to go to Isla de los Monos which means island of monkeys… I mean who wouldn’t go! The island is actually a rescue and rehabilitation center for monkeys that were victims of trafficking and poaching. The team would take the monkeys in and nurse them back to health before being released on the island and sometimes off the island. We took the required boat rides and showed up to eager and friendly monkeys! We managed to buy some grapes before we left Iquitos and so all the monkeys were our best friends. There were 8 different species on the island and we got to see and hold 7 of them. My favorites were the wooly monkeys which are endagered due to poaching for their furs. They were so soft and sweet I just wanted to put on in my bag and take it with me! The cutest one was name Pepino… he was the youngest of the group we were playing with. He clung on to the back of my neck and wouldn’t let go and actually fell asleep for a period of time. I will say that I did lose some hair to the death grip he had when we tried to pry him off me… he was very vocal about his discontent! The wooly monkeys and a spider monkey used us as a human jungle gym for 3 glorious hours! There were a few very large cages that held fairly aggressive males but otherwise the monkeys are free to come and go as they please. The guide walked us around for about 15 minutes to talk about the island and show us the different species and a talking parrot that constantly whistled and said “hola.” After that we were free to walk around and play with any monkey that would have us. The freedom was amazing! We would have been able to hold a sloth but unfortunately he disappeared somewhere on the island a few days before… again they are able to come and go as they see fit. I was disappointed but I appreciated the freedom of the animals.
Knowing that we had a flight to catch we reluctantly had to say our goodbyes where I got a couple light nibbles from the tarmin that didn’t want to leave my should and John lost some hair from Pepino’s death grip. It was sad to say goodbye! Had I known that we could have volunteered and lived on the island for 5 days I would have been all over it… next time!
One last thing I have to mention are the strange Peruvian hairless dogs that I thought were diseased. This breed originates in Peruvian pre-inca cultures and were kept during the Inca Empire. The dogs we saw were prodominatly black with tuffs of hair on the top of their head. I will admit that they were the ugliest dogs I had ever seen!!!