The approach and landing at Leticia’s airport is spectacular. From the air you can see a lush green landscape, with the trees so close together that they look as if they grew one on top of the other. Then, the plane descends below the clouds and you can look at the horizon: hundreds of kilometres likewise. Amazing!! At this moment you suddenly get the feeling of being in the Amazonia. A brown river meanders between the trees. Probably, the whole area is totally uninhabited, or maybe some of the few isolated indigenous communities left inhabit that land. Flights are the only connection between Leticia and the rest of the country, with no roads or trains going through this vast, untamed jungle.
As soon as I got off the plane, I felt the heat and humidity typical of Amazonian climate, which would stay with me for the next 3 weeks. You get used to it, though.
Once I got out of the tiny airport, I wanted to avoid taking a “fixed price” taxi, so I started walking the 1.5 km to the centre of the town. In such heat and humidity, and with my bulky backpack, it promised to be a sweaty hike. After a few metres I heard a voice: «Señor!!, Señor!!» I looked back and there was a woman with her child in a Jeep. She offered to take me to the centre, and to take two Peruvians who were on their way to the frontier with Peru, carrying heavy luggage.
This sort of situation happens to me quite frequently while travelling. In a foreign land, you have more chances to experience how generous many people are, even when you don’t speak a common language. To all those who help foreigners out of kindness, thank you!! Do we behave in the same way with immigrants in our own countries?
When I got to the town I ate something and started looking for a hostel. I finally stayed at Hostel Mahatu. It’s a very nice house next to a small lake with a relaxed hammock area to unwind. But beware of mosquitoes. The owner is quite a character. Price: 20,000 COP/day. Since the place doesn’t have an internet connection, people actually meet and talk. At night, the guests got together for a drink: some Colombian university students from Bogota, two Australians, another Colombian, a German guy and I.
Later, I went for a walk around the village. In one of the bars, Real Madrid-Barca was on. I got in to see the match with 4 enthusiastic locals. Real Madrid lost 1-2, bad luck!! Anyways, Leticia is a nice small town. It is a good base for exploring the jungle. Tourism here isn’t as developed as in the Brazilian part of Manaus, it’s cheaper and largely organized by the indigenous people (a must). I didn’t join an excursion because I wanted to keep going, and later regretted it.
The villages of Leticia (Colombia), Tabatinga (Brazil) and Santa Rosa (Peru) are almost a single town. To get to Santa Rosa you need to take a rowing boat paddled by local children. I flitted between countries without passport, ID or anything. However, by the end of the day I had a quite a mess of little coins in different currencies: pesos, real, soles, and US$ and € that I usually carry as a reserve. Since there are no border controls, if you want to keep travelling through Brazil, as I wanted to do, you need to go to the police station at working hours and request to get your passport stamped.
I had come here mainly to cross to Brazil and keep travelling along the Amazon River, so I headed for Tabatinga to buy a ticket for my first boat trip. I was informed that the next boat would depart next Saturday. I’ll tell you about this amazing journey in the next post.