Having the plan going to Iquitos, my father told me, his friend Bernardo is living there and wants to host us. Once I have met Bernardo when I was very young. Bernardo is the brother of Nora, the first wife of my father. He got to know her while he was traveling in South America when he was young. They traveled together and in the end she followed my dad to Germany. Today she is living in Vienna, Austria. So Bernardo is one out of 9 siblings and I also was directly taken in the family. He explained to me that my dad is like a brother to him, so that made him my tio (uncle) and he always called me sobrino (nephew).
Bernardo lives with his wife Carmen near the city center of Iquitos and owns a shop for cultured fishes and supplies. At the same time the shop is their home. A kind of concrete building with a very long hallway to the back where some little apartments and rooms were strung together. We lived on the opposite side of the street and there it was the same. A never ending tight hallway with lots of apartments, which mostly just consist out of 1-2 rooms. Like ours: it was one room with a bed and a little shelf. Then there was the toilet with a sink and a big bucket, which was our shower. We had to fill it up in the morning or the evening, because there was no water during the day. The room was totally fine for us, except that it got extremely hot in there without having any window, just a fan.
So after arriving with the boat in Iquitos and having a really good vegetarian meal and a beer in a nice restaurant, the karma cafe, which became our favorite during the stay, we walked to the address of Bernardo. There, we were welcomed very warmly. It was like a big reunion! During the whole stay they cared about us a lot. Especially Carmen, she was showing us around every day, cooked for us and wanted to pay always everything. Sure we didn't let her! Bernardo couldn't come always. One reason was that somebody had to watch the shop and the other reason was that he wasn't completly cured from his stay in the hospital.
Showing us around always started with a Mototaxi ride. Iquitos is full of them! It's very rare that you see cars, busses, trucks or even bicycles. Transportation in Iquitos means Mototaxi. But we also used another transportation quite often: the boat. Carmen brought us to many little villages around Iquitos or was showing us the neighborhood Belen by boat. Besides that there was often not another way to get there, it was also once safer seeing Belen by boat.
The transportation by boat or canoe gets even more important during the rain season. During that time some parts of the city are floated by the water from the Amazon and the other rivers around. But the people and their houses are well prepared. Many houses and buildings near to the river are built on piles or are already floating houses, so they rise up with the tide. So when water is coming the houses are surrounded by it and the only possibility to get around is by boat or canoe.
By the way, Iquitos is the biggest city which just can be reached by boat or by plane. There are no roads existing because of the Amazonian jungle.
But the city is also known for its Ayahuasca. It is a brew out of amazonian plants, a psychedelic drug, which is traditionally used by the indigenous tribes of the Amazonian region. In the Quechua language "Aya" means "spirit, soul, corpse, dead body" and "waska" "rope, woody vine, liana". You take it in a ceremony made my shamans. A special diet is necessary before taking it to clean the body. It's very common to vomit after drinking the brew. The vomit stands for all the bad experiences and spirits you collected during your life. People are reporting spiritual effects where they feel very near to nature. They learn about theirselfs and process their bad experiences which they made especially during their childhood. Some experience and learn how to be the best person they possibly can. We met people who just came for a weekly ceremony. We met a lot of people who experienced wonderful things and even if they weren't wonderful but really bad things, they felt better about it afterwards.
So this drug is all over town. You hear from it everywhere. Dealers and tour guides are asking you all the time if you want to make a ceremony, you can buy neckless, bracelets and other jewelry with the root of the plant. Even almost all the restaurants are offering special ayahuasca diet menus. It became highly touristic doing ayahuasca. So also very expensive. It's hard to find a one day ceremony under 100$.
In the end we stayed for 12 days in this beautiful, but very hot city. We are very thankful for the warm reception we received by Bernardo and Carmen. Bernardo still writes weekly emails to me, asking where I am and how I am doing. I really would like to return to them, but sadly my itinerary is not made for that, I guess. But you never know when you are traveling. Everything can happen...