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Full Circle

Day 203: Iquitos

Michael Palin - Full CircleIn his office a German game show is playing on television. 'Satellite,' explains the consul, nodding at the screen. 'I speak five languages, you know.'

Lewis can just remember the rubber boom, when eight ocean-going cargo ships left Iquitos for Liverpool every month. 'It was closer than Lima then. A ship could sail from here across the Atlantic to Liverpool in six weeks. It would take them over two months going round the Cape to Lima.'

Everything around him, apart from a framed photograph of his father - 'I cleaned it this morning' - is covered in varying thicknesses of dust. He blows some off a copy of the Peruvian Times for 1955 showing a confident, expanding Iquitos with modern buildings and new hotels, society weddings and unapologetic ads for exporters of alligator, crocodile and peccary skins. Iquitos, he says, is still a city of consequence. Capital of the huge department of Loreto and full of people (350,000 at the last count), though I get the impression that the consul considers them the wrong sort of people.

'Chinese... Chinese all over the place. Every corner. And of course the Sierranos.'

'Sierranos?'

'People from the west, from the Andes. They've taken over. They don't come alone either. They come with their families. Eight people come along with them.'
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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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