Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Only Way to Get Around

When the intrepid trio landed in Iquitos this past summer, along with our great friend Carlos, we were met with two choices on how to get into the center of town where our hotel was located: take a regular taxi or the three wheeled wonder of the motocarro.

The only way to travel
 The concept is very simple - take a Honda, Suzuki, or off brand named motorcycle usually with a 125 to 200 cc motor (most of what we saw were in the 125 cc range for fuel efficiency) and retrofit a two wheel contraption on the rear with a bench seat for passengers along with room for suitcases, food, ice chests, or anything else of value needing to be moved here to there. A little research reveals the majority of these vehicles are manufactured in Mexico and shipped up the Amazon to sell in Iquitos and other river towns. Of course, other places build these unusual but very fun modes of transportation and a quick Google search will take the inquisitive mind where it needs to go if the desire to impress or confuse your neighbors strikes home.

Many years ago Disneyland in Anaheim California had ticket booklets instead of all day passes for visitors to the Magic Kingdom. The most cherished of these tickets were the 'E' tickets. These hot numbers were for the rides where fear and loss of breath were at the highest premium. No, these were not for the Dumbo Elephant rides for little kids but for the toboggan race down the steep incline of the Matterhorn. Hanging on by your hands (unless you raised them for a better thrill while heading straight down the narrow gauge tracks) onto the safety bar in front of you gave the rider such a pulsating adrenalin rush that only an 'E' ticket could provide.

Paul snapping with his I pad and Carlos ignoring him
 That's the same sensation while touring around Iquitos in a motocarro. Hold on but do remember to keep your arms, hands, legs, and head within the confines of the rear seat while your driver takes you on the Mr. Magoo's wild ride about the village on the Amazon.

"Excuse me," another passenger on a motocarro only millimeters away says.

"Yes," you respond while wondering how truly close the other vehicle is from yours.

"You seem to have something between your two front teeth."

"I brushed this morning before jumping into the rear of this motocarro," you respond.

"Yes, I can smell the fresh mint flavor - but you still have something between your teeth," the other passenger states and then waves as his driver bounds over the sidewalk trying to run over pedestrians as though this were a daily video game of blood lust.

Need a tow?
 Oops, this is Iquitos and not Lima where drivers are actually courteous to one another though they drive quickly, closely, and erratically bounding from passenger to passenger. Lima is the opposite of Iquitos - and that's not just geographically speaking.

It is the only true way to get around this crowded city on the mighty river efficiently. Narrow streets, high gas prices and the lack of auto dealerships makes motocarros the best mode of transportation available for taxis and businesses. Of course, there are cars, trucks, motorcycles and scooters but the predominant method of getting around is the inexpensive three wheeled vehicles that are literally everywhere.

No worries - on her way to work
 The decibels in the city are higher than anywhere else with these contraptions but after a day or two the tourist no longer hears the sounds - it's much like listening to a bothersome co-worker - just tune out the irritating noise.

No accident - just repairs
We were advised, by more than one driver, that there are a lot of accidents with these motocarros and even tourist magazines/books warn of this but after eight days in Iquitos and riding around numerous times daily we never witnessed one accident. Some close calls maybe but no physical contact between these vehicles and others including pedestrians.

 A true 'E' ticket adventurer for the explorer. 

By the way, it was a mosquito caught between J's teeth and thank goodness for malaria pills.

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