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Full Circle

Day 203: Iquitos

Iquitos, Peru 
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With Lewis Power, Honorary British Consul, at the Consulate, Iquitos.
Michael Palin - Full CircleLewis Power and his sister Edith, with whom he lives, are selling their flat and planning to move out.

'Why?'

'Why? Because I'm sick and tired of the Amazon.'

The Malecon is a new esplanade built beside the river. It is all curved balustrading and painted plasterwork and I approach it with ill-concealed excitement. One of my most tenacious childhood ambitions was to see the Amazon. (I was only partly put off by the disappearance of my hero Colonel Fawcett, missing, believed eaten somewhere on the Bolivian border). I had many dreams of the awesome size and power of the world's greatest river. Now, at last, they can become reality.

The reality is that this is the dry season and the promenades of Iquitos do not overlook a mile-wide swirling torrent, but low sandspits and grassy meadows across which arms of water stretch and peter out. I've not reached the Amazon yet. But there are compensations. A number of friendly bars and restaurants are strung out along the Malecon and there is plenty of human activity to watch, especially as the sun goes down. From behind a bottle of beer at Jaime's excellent restaurant (maps and books of the area line the walls inside), I watch a man with no legs and only one arm spin and twist himself around to music like a dervish, while a group of huge Americans, each one like Gulliver in Lilliput, pass through the crowd trailing a grubby retinue of street children - shoeblacks, candy sellers and sharp-witted opportunists on the cadge for a sol or two. A snake-skin seller comes by and stops at our table offering us the pick of his wares for fifty sols. We defer, but he returns as we're eating, carrying a black, plastic bag from which he extricates a white skull. 'Jaguar,' he says, in the hushed tones of a car salesman. Seeing our immediate lack of interest, he proceeds to move the jaw up and down like a puppet. 'Fifty sols.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 203
  • Country/sea: Peru
  • Place: Iquitos
  • Book page no: 272

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