You’ve WON! A trip to Iquitos.
So, I traveled to South America in 2002, and in preparation for that journey, I had joined an organization called South American Explorers. They were quite helpful, and I like reading their magazine and emails, so this past fall I bought some raffle tickets to support their clubhouse in Lima, Peru. I never expected that I would actually win the darn thing, but I did, and now I’m off to the Muyuna jungle lodge in Iquitos sometime in 2006. It’s going to take a lot of planning and preparation, as I have to make sure my vaccinations are up-to-date, get travel money, find some permetherin to spray on my clothes to block out the nasty mosquitos, figure out the “right” time to go, and lots of other small details.

I figure if I’m doing all this research for my own trip, I might as well compile it and share it with others.

So, in days to come, there will be more and more information here about what one needs to do to travel from the good ol’ US of A to the Amazon rainforest in Peru.

So, I’m starting my information-gathering venture with the following:

  • South American Explorers — These guys are most helpful via email. They’ll point you to the most up-to-date information or mail you a packet with the latest info. But the website has plenty of info as well. Iquitos FAQ.
  • The CIA World Factbook — Yes, it’s biased, but it’s like having a free atlas. All the critical stats at your fingertips. Peru page.
  • The U.S. Department of State — For travel warnings, advisories, and general tips. Don’t cancel your trip just because there is a travel advisory – use your judgement and good sense. Take warnings more seriously, but again, use your own judgement. General Tips for Travelers — This is common-sense stuff, but always worth reviewing. Consular sheet for Peru — This has travel warnings, entry/exit requirements, safety and security info, commentary on medical care, specific health risks when traveling to that country, traffic and airline safety concerns, and legal issues. Background note on Peru — Another atlas-like entry.

The plan was to visit VirtualTourist, and the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree, which were quite helpful to me in the past. But I happened to answer a work e-mail the other day from a guy that is moving to the US for grad school and happens to be from Iquitos. So I’m starting with him for recommendations. I’ve also put an e-mail into the folks at the Muyuna Jungle Lodge to figure out the itinerary.

After months of pestering and many back-and-forth emails I have secured airfare and acommodations for the whole trip. We’re flying out on American Airlines out of Dulles to Lima. It was the most direct flight I could find WITHOUT a stop in South America. I preferred not to change planes in Ecuador. South American transit has this bad habit of going on strike, and I really don’t want to get caught in the wrong country before my vacation has begun. It cost about $800 per round trip ticket.

South American Explorers helped with the flight from Lima to Iquitos. We’re flying on Lan Peru at the crack of dawn from Lima to Iquitos. The flight leaves at 5 am. FIVE IN THE MORNING. I am guaranteed to be nearly unconscious. At least that leaves all day for jungle-tromping. On the way back we leave around 5 in the evening.

Hotels – South American Explorers took care of the hotel in Lima. We’ll be staying in the De Ville Inn in Miraflores. After we arrive in Iquitos, we’ll be greeted by a representative from the Muyuna Jungle Lodge where we will spend 4 days and 3 nights. I’m most excited about this part.

Ok, normally I leave this for last, but when traveling to remote areas, it helps to get all your ducks in a row early. You won’t be able to pop over to Walmart and get what you forgot.

Gear – what does one need for a week in the jungle?
Muyuna provided a good list of suggestions:
“Swimming suit, tennis shoes, sandals, a long sleeved shirt, shorts, long pants, a hat, mosquito repellent, sun screen, a torch, a good book, binoculars, lots of socks, camera and several rolls of films (400 ASA recommended. If you have a digital camera, we have a generator you can use. Rubber boots are recommendable to wear when the people are walking through dense jungle. They are available in Iquitos (not included in the price). As a recommendation, they should wear light-colored-clothing to avoid mosquitoes. As the space in the boat is limited, please, try to take only the necessary things to the lodge. You can store your extra things in Muyuna’s Iquitos or Lima offices.”

Since this trip is fairly cheap, I sprung for a couple of moisture-wicking shirts and special socks made from silver-coated fibers that are supposed to dry quickly and resist bacteria and smells. A couple of key items will get dosed with permetherin to keep the creepy crawlies off. They now sell clothes pre-treated with permetherin under the label “Buzz Off” — seems silly to me, since the stuff eventually washes out and needs to be reapplied.

Will my health insurance cover me when I’m traveling abroad?
Yes, my Blue Cross and Blue Shield tells me I’ll be fine.

Had our appointment with Passport Health. I’ve been vaccinated previously against jungle-diseases, but need a booster on tetnus. Herb is getting the full load – yellow fever, typhoid, tetnus, hepatitis-A. We’ve also got a prescription for malaria pills, which the nurse swears will NOT give us bad dreams.

What medicine do I bring. Immodium for sure . . .
Where do I get traveler’s checks? Do I even need/want those things?

I like to know about the history and culture of a place before I go there. Makes you appreciate what guides tell you more.

Topics to come:
What to do in Iquitos
Flora/fauna of the Iquitos area
Lima siteseeing highlights
Peruvian history