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Full Circle

Day 203: Iquitos

Michael Palin - Full CircleIquitos has the past that Pucallpa lacked. Whether or not it has a future is debatable. Its success was built on rubber and the river. The rubber trade is long gone, the trees being found to be susceptible to a virus not present in the plantations of Malaysia and the Far East. The pre-eminent Amazon trade route has been superseded by air cargo and the construction of a trans-Andine highway which has missed out Iquitos altogether.

But there is still an honorary British Consul here. To find out more about the place, I seek him out at an address on Arica Street. It's a low, embattled frontage of two grey wooden doors squeezed tight by the smart new Telefonica Peru offices next door. A noisy tide of moto-carros - three-wheel taxis - ebbs and flows busily past. Press the bell beside a brass plaque which reads 'Consulado Britanico'. A small, neat, elderly man in blue sleeveless shirt with greying hair brushed carefully back from a pale, almost pasty face, answers the door. He introduces himself as Lewis Power, born seventy odd years ago to a French mother and Irish father. The consular office is in what was once the thriving warehouse of his father's import-export business and is now a dark and dusty shed more like the set of Steptoe and Son. There is a clutter of old wooden filing cabinets, weights, lifting chains, cables, engine cylinders, ledgers and trade directories nibbled by rats and mice - the rotting remains of half a century of commerce.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 203
  • Country/sea: Peru
  • Place: Iquitos
  • Book page no: 271

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