The Venice of Peru

The day after our arrival in Iquitos brought us to the neighborhood/”suburb” of Belen. This entire area consists of houses on stilts, mere inches above the water that laps at their front doors. Although some of the houses are connected by rickety plank walkways, there are no roads or sidewalks. Instead, locals paddle the waterways in order to get to church, or school, or the store. Nearly every family has at least one canoe.

The rickety plank walkways go a few blocks into Belen, but after that it’s all up to the canoes.

Welcome to the neighborhood: this is Belen at its best.

While most of the houses in Belen are made out of very plain wood planks, this one is quite colorfully decorated.

Here’s another of my favorites.

The high water level is obviously not permanent, however. Some of the houses have first floors almost entirely submerged. The occasional top crossbar of a soccer goal rises above the water. Mike comments that the area “looks like New Orleans after Katrina, except these people aren’t complaining.” In fact, we’re told that the rainy season is preferable. Apparently, when the waters recede for a few months out of the year Belen turns into a swampy, mosquito-infested garbage dump.

I’ll bet these houses are flooded at least 8 months out of the year.

That’s gotta be a bitch to clean up when the waters recede.

Gooooooal! (Soccer posts above the water…)

So anyway, Mike and I made our way to the edge of Belen where we found a couple of local girls willing to paddle us around in their canoe for a while. They guided us through the watery “streets,” pointing out a few “landmarks.” After a while we encountered a local man who wanted to show us some giant lily pads, so we caravaned over to check them out as well. He then brought us by to see his house and meet his wife and children. Finally, the two girls brought us back to our starting point. Belen is a very interesting community and we liked our impromptu tour very much.

Our charming guide was very smiley and quite amused with the amount of photos Mike took.

This 11 year-old girl was our other guide. She was in charge of the steering.

We found some rather large lily pads with the help of another guide who saw us with the girls.

Supposedly the spikes on the bottom are poisonous.

Several of the canoes were full of goods for sale. Belen is known for its floating market.

That’s right, she’s squatting down on her front porch to pee into the water. I’m afraid Belen isn’t much for sanitation standards.

He’s peeing too. Did I mention that everyone washes their clothes and takes their baths in this water? We’ve even seen people drink from it.

Ack! I’m out of time. Catch you later!

3 Responses to “The Venice of Peru”
  1. Deb says:

    What do you mean? — it’s cool to wash your clothes in urine and drink pee-filled water…I mean most of the world does it. Granted they die of dysentary at age 30…but so what!Love the photos of the floating city!

  2. Dr_Omega says:

    We’re so excited that we are coming to Peru! Hope you can keep up with us.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Such awesome photos!I’m glad I don’t live there & have to wash my clothes & bathe in that water!M

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