Stepping into childhood memories in the Amazon
From Lima and the coastal desert area over partly snowcapped Andean mountains, we were now heading to the high- and lowland rainforests of the Amazon basin.
Following the journey in the high Andes, the second part of our inland journey would lead us into a completely different geographical area in Peru.
After decades, I finally returned to the place where my grandparents used to live, a place I have a plentitude of memories of as I visited and spent periods of time there over the years in my childhood and adolescence.
It is a city in the jungle called Yurimaguas, located in the department of Loreto, Peru’s largest state and located in the area of the vast Amazon Rainforest region.
You can only get to Yurimaguas by car or boat. From Lima, a one-hour flight took us over the Andes to Tarapoto, known as the “City of Palm Trees” that sits on the edge of the vast jungle towards the eastern Amazon jungle of Peru.
From there it was a 3-hour drive along the only roadway leading over a winding road past the Cordillera Escalera.
It led through tropical mountain cloud forests with waterfalls into the low jungle to Yurimaguas also known as the “Pearl of Huallaga”.
We were met by my cousin I hadn’t seen for decades. I was happy to see her after such a long time and she introduced us to her family.
In tropical jungle manner, they showed us around on motorbikes and moto-taxis which are the main means of transportation, and we did some sightseeing to explore the place and surroundings.
The view over the Huallaga River is beautiful.
It appeared like not much had changed in Yurimaguas.
The plaza and the church were exactly as I had it in my memories when I was a young ring bearer for my uncle’s wedding in this same church.
During our strolls around the plaza day and night, it was very apparent is how many young mothers were there with their little children.
We visited various lively markets that had all sorts of food offerings from vegetables, fruits to chicken, dried fish, merchandising and more.
It is very common to find buckets with little living worms called Suri.
These juice grilled worms are one of the typical foods, representative of this area and the Peruvian jungle. It is eaten raw, fried, roasted, or grilled. The worms are extracted from the aguaje palm tree and from other similar palm trees.
As I was able to meet the past in the present, and being in gratitude for the beautiful times and memories, I could now let go of my held ‘imaginations’ of the past, simply be thankful and I had a sense of peace.
Heading further to Peru’s northern Amazon
After returning to Tarapoto back over the same mountain range, we embarked on a flight to Iquitos, capital of the department Loreto. Loreto is home to one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth.
On the flight to Iquitos, I was in wonder about the endless vast green tapestry of the rainforest that brought memories of these same images in my childhood years as I flew over the Amazon.
To give some perspective, the Amazon is one of the most sparsely populated regions.
Iquitos is like an island in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest and can only be reached by air or river, there is no road.
Iquitos, a city full opposite sides, has a rich local culture, is lively, colorful and a little crazy. It has a rich history, and shadow sides.
Due to natives being civilised by missionaries, enslaved, westernised over the many years, the city is a fusion of different cultures of mixed ancestry of indigenous, colonial, European descent and thus with some unique customs and traditions.
During my stay in Iquitos I quickly learned about the many diverse, interesting, and also problematic faces of Iquitos.
Iquitos experienced wealth during the late 19th century rubber boom, which also attracted businesspeople and landowners from all over the world who wanted to make money by utilizing rubber in the forest. The price was great since thousands of native people died and were displaced.
All of these developments resulted in an own urban and cultural identity of the city. Today, illegal logging and struggles with environmental issues are serious problems. Also, tourism plays a significant role today in Iquitos which is known as the gateway to the jungle and as a millennial shamanistic culture. However, this brings another series of challenges. At the same time it brings opportunities for more responsible and sustainable tourism.
A felt and experienced sense of disorder, chaotic city, garbage thrown on the streets throughout Iquitos, and in particular the noise pollution made by the noisiest type of vehicle in the city, the moto-taxi, is a cause for trouble besides that is a serious environmental problem.
Visiting my sponsor child
During our stay in Iquitos, I took the opportunity to visit my sponsor child Jesús that I am supporting through Plan International Germany and learn about his family, the community and the work of Plan International Peru‘s Loreto Program Unit.
As I mention in my travel report of my recent sponsor child visit in Loreto, I have been sponsoring a child for over a decade with Plan International, a development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. It outlines more about Plan International’s work in in Peru about early child development, education, empowerment of children, young people, women and communities.
I have cherished memories of two earlier visits to my first sponsored child in the human settlements of Lima and the insight of one of these visits and how Plan works with the members of the community and local authorities can be accessed here.
As of my visit in Iquitos and to see first hand, I pointed out in my travel report: “It is an invaluable way of expanding our own horizons. It reminds us that there is a whole other world where and how our fellow human brothers and sisters live and relate. It deepens our understanding on the realities and concerns beyond our own in the western world.”
You can read more about the encouraging gathering with my sponsor child and community visit here.
In the next blog episode, you will hear about the amazing deep immersion into the Amazon Rainforest.
Continue reading the Series: Embarking on a Journey of Inner and Outer Exploration
Next post blog #4: ‘A deep nature immersion into the Earth’s largest rainforest’ (4 of 5)
Review the last post blog #2: ‘Following the call to adventure and coming into right relationship with Mother Earth‘ (2 of 5)
Written by Claudia van’t Hullenaar, Founder Sustained Impact
Photo Credit: All photos by Claudia van’t Hullenaar if not separately mentioned
Acknowledgement and Gratitude
Sincere thanks and appreciation for Karen Aud and Scott Wurtzbacher for your support and valuable feedback on this article. And thank you dear reader for taking the time to read this blog.