Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Butterflies Iquitos, Loreto, Peru, Saturday, 02 April 2005 9:06pm

It's odd to be in a deeply Catholic country with the Pope dead. The Plaza de Armas is full of people this evening. The streets around it are all closed, and a platform is set up in front of the main church. There are constant hymns and solemn dignitaries.

At the same time it's almost like a street fair. There are many vendors selling food, drinks, and ice cream. The baloon vendors are out in force with animals and clown heads. There are even a few of the "living statues" — street performers in stone-like body paint — standing around.

Earlier in the day, we visited the Pilpintuwasi butterfly farm. Getting there was interesting in itslef. We took a motokar (motorcycle-rickshaw) to a particular port area where we were immediately mobbed by boatmen trying to convince us to go via their motorboat. We chose one pretty much at random and were speeding off in a fast little boat in minutes.

The guidebook describes a 15min walk to the farm, but it seems that that's currently under water. We were dropped off right at the entrance to the farm, and, before we were even docked, a monkey was tapping Yuri on the shoulder.

The goal of the farm is to try to release many healthy butterflies into the area. The butterflies are threatened by deforestation and parasites, and also by hunters trying to sell them.

There were a wide variety of butterflies in the mesh enclosure, including a transparent kind unlike any I'd ever seen and a spectacular blue morpho that refused to stay still long enough for a photograph.

We got to see butterflies in all stages of life (the morpho has a bright red, 3in long caterpillar, and a green chrysalis) and were given an in-depth explanation. Sadly, it was in Spanish, so we understood only snippets.

In addition to the butterflies, the farm has taken in a number of jungle animals that were intercepted on their way to the black market. The monkey that greeted Yuri on the boat was one of three very tames ones there that tried to steal our cameras and started eating Jenny's hair. They have an anteater (the ants would otherwise eat the butterfly eggs), a jaguar (!), a tapir, some agoutis, tortoises, macaws, and parrots. They all seemed very well-treated.

Yuri has gone off to Buenos Aires now, and I'm flying to Chiclayo tomorrow (via Lima, to nobody's surprise), so this was our last day of group travel.