|Sunset in the Amazon|
As we crested the top of the last hill, all of a sudden the earth dropped away before us and turned from rolling foothills and wide river valleys to a vast ocean of trees, stretching as far as the eye could see towards the east. The land became utterly flat without a hint of the rolling hills we had just left. Sad was the view from the highway as we entered this sea of green for it appeared not as it had from above. Comprised not of continuous rainforest, but rather of small tracts of trees interspersed with vast open pastures, farm fields, savannah and lowland marsh. Only those few protected areas we visited displayed any resemblance to the stunning, untouched rainforest that is so often advertised. The town of Puerto Maldonado, while quite a large town, appeared nothing like the city of Lima that we had left the day before. Just as North American cities appear all the same, each Peruvian city was different. Puerto Maldonado was characterized by long, cobblestone or dirt streets lined with cinderblock or often mud brick buildings; power lines on the poles above all clumped together like a string of dense vines through the jungle; few of the buildings were more than one story high, and yet, this town, because of its location along the edge of the Rio Madre de Dios, is one of the most important cities in southern Peru due to the wide use of rivers in the Amazon as rainforest superhighways. Unlike the US where you can drive anywhere you want, much of the Amazon basin is not stable enough to support a vast highway or rail system. The result is the continuing use of riverboats as a primary means of transportation. So much so, in fact, that the city of Iquitos in Northern Peru, the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest, is accessible only by water.
But what, might you ask, is the primary mode of transportation on land? Well, it's not a car.
Auto Rickshaws, also known as Mototaxis or Pedicabs, like these below, are little more than a dirt bike with a metal or plastic cab attached:
|Sorry for the blurred photo. Taken from a moving car|
So how many people can you fit in one of these Pedicabs? Ten I think is the most I saw. Four in the back, four in the front (including the driver) and two riding on the back of the cab just like you'd ride on the back of your friend's bicycle.
Tune in again soon for Part 2 of Rainforest Reminisces when I actually start talking about birds again. :D