So after arguing the toss about exchange rates, and before heading south to Bolivia, we decided to blow the budget by heading to the Amazon. We’d read about this place called Inkaterra in the Indie travel section, so, Malaria pills in hand, we decided to hop over to Puerto Maldonado, on the Madre de Dios river in the Amazon basin, for a few days of luxury.
No prizes for guessing which one we chose.
Buying the tickets was another interesting exercise in internet travel planning, though. When Lan.com refused to accept a UK credit card, we had to choose one of the “alternative payment options”, and these turned out to be the supermarket. Which is apparently a perfectly normal way to pick up a couple of plane tickets round here. You just take your code from the website, pop over to your selected supermarket chain, and join the queue at the checkout. Everyone else might be picking up a loaf and some milk, but they were more than happy to sell us two ida y vueltas to Puerto Maldonado. I think I’ll keep the supermarket till receipt that was ultimately our ticket as a souvenir.
We weren’t totally sure if it had worked, but a few weeks later they let us on the plane at Cusco airport, and after a short flight in the company of some moderately annoying and/or clichéd Americans (sample dialogue between the guy next to us–complete with thick noo yawk accent and waving a hat around in the general direction of the overhead compartment–and the steward: “hey Luis! Luis! You got room for this sombrero up there?”), we arrived in the ramshackle dusty town of Puerto Maldonado. It’s a town on the edge of the jungle, where the roads are mostly only wide enough for the motorbikes and tuk-tuks that are everywhere, and it instantly made me feel like I was back in Asia somewhere. And when we got to the “port” (a small wooden platform on the edge of the river) and boarded a long tailed boat for the 45 minute trip along the river to the lodge, it felt like we’d stepped onto the set of Apocalypse Now (this illusion was completed later that evening when the area around the lodge was illuminated with lines of candles and a raging bonfire). Still, we had hypo-allergenic pillows and complimentary bathrobes in our suite, and free Pisco Sours, so the choice not to go native wasn’t that tricky after all.