Well, wait a sec…let me rewind a bit. Our day started in the Colombian town of Leticia with an easy stroll down the road to the floating immigration office on the Amazon River. With Colombian exit stamps on our passports, we hopped on a tuk-tuk to Tabatinga to get our entry stamps into Brazil. And then we bought the boat tickets to Manaus (Brazil) before returning to our hostel in Leticia. As it was just about lunchtime, we decided to take a boat to the Peruvian island of Santa Rosa. A short ride of 5 minutes later, we were in the sleepy Peruvian village on the mighty Amazon River.
On our ‘3 Countries in 1/2 Day’ mission, the mobile service provider didn’t fail to send us welcome messages in each country, including a “Welcome to Peru” text message. But two minutes later another one arrived: Welcome to Vietnam!
Tres Fronteras is the tri-border area where Colombia, Peru, and Brazil meet in the Amazon basin. The towns are so close to each other, and the borders are only virtual in this region. There is no passport control within a radius of 80 km, thus the “3 meals in 3 countries in a single day” challenge is a highly popular activity. But since we are no foodies, we altered the challenge slightly. It’s pretty confusing, yet by the time our mobile got disoriented I believe we were physically (perhaps illegally) staying in Colombia but having lunch in Peru, though we were officially in Brazil. In any case, I have no idea what Vietnam and Amazonas have in common!
Leticia is the jumping-off point for adventure tours into the Amazon jungle, as well as for onward journeys into the bordering countries Brazil and Peru. There are no roads through the jungle connecting the region with the rest of the world. You can get into Tres Fronteras either by airplane or by boat. The flights into the airport in Leticia connect to Bogotá, while across the border in Tabatinga, you can take flights to Manaus. The alternative is by boat, with routes connecting the tri-border towns with the cities of Iquitos in Peru, and Manaus in Brazil. However, the only way you can get to Leticia from Colombia is by landing at the airport. “La Ciudad más Limpia de Colombia”, the cleanest city in Colombia is what reads when you first set foot at the airport in Leticia, although it’s usually dirty, as is the case in the entire region. Nevertheless, Leticia is the most developed of the three in terms of tourist infrastructure, as such it’s a great base to explore the area home to pink river dolphins along with many species of monkeys, birds, and more.
Toucan, a native of South America. They are hard to spot in nature. We met this guy in an animal rescue center along with super cute monkeys, parrots, and even a boa constrictor.
Virtually every accommodation in Leticia would be able to organize one or multi-day trips deep into the jungle. After much consideration, we opted for a day trip to Zacambu, in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. It was an insightful day spent in that part of our planet’s lungs, the majority of which was flooded that we had to shortcut through newly born “rivers”.
As an important area of trade and commerce, Tres Fronteras is home to all the dark and dirty things one might associate with the depths of the Amazon jungle. While illegal drug trafficking is undoubtedly what comes to mind first, the rainforest is the most important resource for many other commodities, owing to the fact that almost every plant, every leaf, and every root is valuable in the Amazon. The majority of the world’s food varieties come from the Amazon rainforest, including coffee, and more than 25% of pharmaceutical medicines contain Amazonian ingredients.
Indeed the rainforest is full of weird flora and fauna. The red fruits in the picture above are apparently effective against mosquito bites, or when prepared as a tea for ladies’ menstruation problems. During the tour, we also pay a visit to a very old, like 400-500 years old tree with a giant trunk, which is considered a sacred place in this region.
We reach the tree after a short hike through the mud and appreciate its mightiness as if visiting an important temple. And while admiring the ever-busy ants we get bitten by mosquitos, which brings us back to the red fruits above. What a quick circle of life…
After some intimate time with the rainforest, we continue our journey by gliding on a lush carpet. The vegetation is dense the entire time, but at times the water surface is impenetrably covered by plants.
Amazonia, the world’s largest rainforest stretches over an area of 5.5 million square kilometers. The estimated number of trees it contains is 390 billion. The human brain is not capable of processing such astronomical numbers, hence let me try to put things in perspective. Colombia is home to 10% of the Amazonia. 13% of the Amazon rainforest lies in Peru, 60% in Brazil, and the rest are spread out in six other South American countries. My brain is still not able to grasp the true meaning of 390 billion trees, but in the light of the percentages given, one thing becomes clear: what we’ve seen is just a tiny sliver of the vast Amazon rainforest. And the only logical consequence of this enlightenment is to cruise down the Amazon River in Brazil in order to get an idea about the immense area the 390 billion individual trees cover.
But before we bid farewell to Leticia, we make sure to visit Santander Park at dusk to watch the thousands of parakeets return home to spend the night and listen to their sunset symphony.
The day trip involved a quick visit to the local market in Benjamin Constant (Brazil), as well as a Peruvian village, built completely on stilts