12 January 2014

Leticia....A Taste of the Jungle Indeed

Leticia is not a town you plan to hang out in long, but circumstances might force you to.

I had two nights in Leticia, and that was plenty – one before my trip into the jungle, one after. I booked a room at Mahatu Hostel, which is really a great place to stay. The owner is pretty friendly and helpful and the grounds are great – you can swim in the pool, row in the lake, walk around by the plants. I had a private room my first night and stayed in a “treehouse” the second time. Both were fine.

When I got into Leticia, I paid for my tour (though I wish I didn’t – that’s a later story!), and then got to my hostel. I chatted a bunch with Gustavo, and then a Kiwi guy, Jeff, mentioned he was hungry. So was I – so we went out to pizza together. We split a pizza at a place close to the border, and chatted and laughed. Then we decided to walk across the border to Brazil.

Normally, United States citizens need a visa to Brazil. Mine expired a year ago, but luckily, the borders are fluid in these border towns and you don’t need passports or visas to enter.

Jeff and I walked and talked. I immediately noticed differences – Portuguese instead of Spanish, acai for sale (and randomly also, showing how close we were to Peru, Inca Cola!), different music, slightly different styles. It was really neat to see.

We walked for a long time, losing ourselves in conversation. Finally, Jeff pointed out that we should probably turn around. After walking for a few minutes, a downpour began. A torrential downpour.  Jeff and I hid underneath an overhang with some others doing the same, in front of some sort of Brazilian security building. They watched the rain with us.

It didn’t let up. No cabs passed. The Brazilian security dudes tried to call me a cab, but they didn’t answer. Finally, I ran across the street in the rain, where I persuaded some random kid studying to be a flight attendant to give us a ride back across the border for 10,000 pesos.

I went to my room in the hostel, and organized everything for my trek. Then, the next morning, when I woke up, it was STILL pouring. I really wanted to go running – I knew I wouldn’t be able to on my trek, so I pulled on flipflops – because the streets were like rivers, and set out for a pouring rain run. It was actually not too bad.

Then I went on my trek for a few days with Amazon Jungle Tours (I’ll write a separate post about them, but I don’t recommend taking them), and came back. I came into the port at Tabatinga, where I was supposed to be picked up by my tour group. When they never showed, I climbed on the back of some guy’s motorcycle, strapped on a helmet, and went to the Tour Center. I got my bag, got another motorcycle ride to my hostel , and checked in. I talked with Gustavo about my tour, changed into running clothes, gave them my laundry, and went out for a run. On my run, I ended up buying a machete as a present for Wayne, and ran my run feeling a little safer. Unfortunately, the motorcycles were insane and it was too scary and dangerous to run long.

When I got back to my hostel , a big group of people were going out to dinner, so I jumped in the shower, and tagged along. We got the “comida corriente” for 7,000 pesos, which wasn’t too bad. The other people were traveling for a year or so around South America, and I was very jealous. I wish I could do that. Then I went back to the hostel, organized my stuff, used the crappy internet, and went to sleep. In the morning, I ran for 10 miles, visited Museo Etnografica Amazonico, stressed about my delayed laundry, and ran to the airport.

Leticia, you’re just okay, but it was nice knowing you.

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