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All I see looking out the window of the plane is a carpet of green and the broad snake of a river twisting, turning back on itself. It’s drizzling when we land in Iquitos – its been raining here for five days. Hmmm. Nifty Delphin ll vans pulling luggage trailers are waiting for us and we’re soon on our way into town, eating tiny, super sweet bananas – our first taste of the Amazon.
Iquitos glory days (1880-1914) are long gone, a few expat mansions the only traces left of the booming rubber exports that made some people very rich on the backs of local slave labor. (The oddest of these is the Iron House, built in France by Gustave Eiffel – of the Tower – and moved to Iquitos in pieces.) A Brit smuggled out seeds of the precious rubber plants, introduced them to South East Asia, and that was it for Iquitos.
It’s an odd place – a cut off island of 600,000 souls – surrounded by jungle. Everything coming in or leaving goes by boat or air. The only road – 62km – links it with the village of Nauta, but that road washed out a few weeks ago. The rain and the general down-at-the-heels nature of Iquitos are making me a little apprehensive. We unload and are directed down a narrow passageway to a steep flight of stairs – at the bottom is the river, the opposite bank barely visible in the dusk. Three skiffs wait, and we clamber clumsily on board with ample help from crew members, their uniforms starched, pants creases razor sharp. The engines rev, and we leave Iquitos behind – but the Delfin ll is nowhere in site as we head across the river.
There was no need to be apprehensive. The Delfin ll is more beautiful than its pictures. 125′ long, 70′ wide, it carries 28 passengers in 14 cabins and a crew of 22. Its owners/designers are a Lima couple – he’s a naval architect and she’s an interior designer. The care they’ve taken with every detail has us oohing and aahing as we explore the ship.
We hear the Delfin ll’s powerful engines and our home on the water pulls away from the bank. We can hardly believe we are actually on board. On the Amazon!