Puerto Alegría (Peru)
On the fourth and final day, there was another included tour. This time, we crossed the river to the small village of Puerto Alegría in Peru (no passport was necessary). It’s a farming community populated by speakers of the Cocama language.
We visited the Irapay Lodge and were able to see the Victoria Regia, a huge waterlily that has a leaf up to 3m in diameter and a flower that can grow up to 40cm in diameter. They weren’t blooming but the leaves alone were impressive.
At the lodge, we were also able to sample the tropical camo camo fruit. It’s rich in vitamin C and has a number of health benefits. The taste is quite sour but it makes a delicious juice.
Next, we saw a young rescued manatee which was kept in a small swimming pool. The conditions were appalling to me and many others.
Walking Through Puerto Alegría
We then walked through the town and it was pretty much like the other indigenous communities. We were greeted with a dance and were given the opportunity to buy crafts and hold animals, including sloths, monkeys, toucans, caimans, and anacondas.
After the tour, we returned to the resort to pack our bags and drop them off for transport back to Leticia. We had lunch and then boarded another boat at 2pm for another optional tour, this time for a shopping trip to Tabatinga in next door Brazil. It cost COP$20,000 per person. Those who didn’t want to take the tour had to stay at the resort without a room until 5pm when they boarded another boat back to Leticia.
We took a quick walk through Leticia and changed money for Brazil. We didn’t get to see any of Leticia, really. I know there’s a museum, galleries, and plenty of shops. At Parque Santander the parrots come and sit in the trees every night at 5pm.
Anyway, we boarded a bus and were taken over the border. There are no passport checks between Leticia and Tabatinga – they have an open border policy. We stopped at the Mansão de Chocolate to purchase Brazilian chocolates and other goods, then went to a street lined with stores selling Brazilian flip-flops such as Havaianas and Ipanemas. They didn’t have my size!!! The tour was kind of a disappointment because the shopping wasn’t that great and Tabatinga is not exactly a beautiful place.
Back to Leticia
When we finished the shopping trip, we returned to the Hotel Fernando Real. Earlier in the day, we were promised a room to rest until we had to be picked up at 10:30pm to go to the airport. The joke was on us because once we got to the hotel, the owner was quite rude and said there were no rooms available. Many people tried to sleep on the floor of the hotel lobby and others had to pay COP$60,000 (a night’s stay) to get a room and rest. The lobby bathroom was in an abysmal condition, full of cockroaches and mosquitos. Everyone was fairly angry at the situation.
We were picked up at 10:30pm, taken to the airport, and told to wait. Again, we had no idea what time our flight would be until we were finally allowed to check in nearly two hours later! The flight wouldn’t be until 2:30am. Another four hours wasted in the airport on zero sleep. We landed in Cali around 4:30am and the trip was finally over. It began and ended terribly but the rest of it was very well done. The situations at the beginning and end made me understand why the price was so low.
For travelers wishing to avoid the all-inclusive resort, there are several very good hotels in Leticia for every budget and many restaurants to choose from. Tour operators can offer the same tours we took and more. It’s even possible to go deep into the jungle to stay at a lodge in Peru or Brazil along one of the tributaries of the Amazon, visit Amacayacu National Park in Colombia. You can also head down the river to the port city of Benjamin Constant in Brazil (passport and possibly a visa necessary). You can find transportation to Puerto Nariño for an extended stay there. For the more adventurous, guides can be hired to spend as much time as your heart desires in the deep jungle camping out. Just watch out for cannibals!