Author: Ed Young
We woke up to rain again for the third night in a row. I packed my clothes then went up on deck to start water changes and bag my fish to take to the exporter. It was a 4-hour ride to Iquitos, and we pulled into port at 12 noon. There were a lot of large ships docked in the port that were stuck there until the rainy season. We arrived and walked up about 30 large concrete steps. One of the crew took my cooler from me and carried it on his shoulders up the steps. I could have handled it, but it was great to have someone else carry it in 90-degree heat. We were all loaded into a Volkswagen type van along with all our coolers and bags of fish to travel to the exporter. Upon arrival we were greeted by the owner and two of his workers. They unloaded all the fish themselves and carried them into the warehouse. There were hundreds of tanks and vats inside! I had 7 bags of fish that were placed in their own tanks. The owner broke pieces of Styrofoam off and wrote my initials on them so my fish would not get mixed up with other people’s fish.
Next door to the exporter was a wholesaler named Peruno. He was a great guy who did not speak much English, but his beautiful daughter did. I purchased several different types of plecos and cories and paid his daughter. There were great prices on fish, about a 10th of what they cost back home! Next, we drove to one of the nicest hotels in Iquitos called the Eldorado. We checked in at 4pm and I went to my room and unpacked. There was an internet café where I logged on for $1.75 for an hour. I went back to my room, relaxed and showered.
At 7pm we all went to dinner at a nice restaurant. John Luckshire was not feeling well when the waiter brought out soup that had a 9” plecos sitting on top. Well I thought John was going to vomit as he told the waiter to please remove the soup as quickly as possible! I proceeded to break open the tail and try it. The pleco meat was quite good and no fishy taste either. Then they brought out the fried alligator and Pacu. All were very delicious! A band came in and played during dinner. It was very cozy. After dinner we walked around a small market and purchased souvenirs. I went back to the hotel and called home. It was great to hear my fiancé’s voice.
I awoke at 5:45 a.m. and went down to breakfast at 6:30 a.m. I hung out in the lobby until 8:00 a.m. when 8 of us including Sezar headed out by taxis to the Mele market. This was an open market where people from all over come to barter for clothes and food. There were plecos, turtles, Oscars, Pacus, piranhas, tigrinnis catfish, alligators, pigs, and other creatures for sale for food. We walked down towards the river and Sezar pointed to the dried mud/water levels on the walls of buildings and houses. During the rainy season this whole part of town gets flooded out if they are not on stilts or floats.
We then followed a sidewalk passing a lot of houses on stilts. We came to a blue shack on stilts that Sezar thought the owner had fish for sale. He spoke in Spanish to two women on the steps and they invited us up. We walked into his house and saw about 60 tanks in 3 rows and 2 tanks high. They were loaded with fancy plecos, sting rays and knife fish. A few of the tanks had a species of whiptail pleco that I had never seen before and neither did anyone else, including Dr. Dave Schleser. The males were a grayish white color with a black stripe that went from head to caudal fin. The females were jet black with white on their sides and bellies. The owner of the house called them Loricaria chameleon. I purchased 6, Luis 8, & Dave 4 all for $3.00 each.
From there we went by taxi to the exporter and placed them in our tanks. The taxis then took us to the local zoo which was a half hour ride. When we arrived, we noticed a stand set up and decided to get something to drink. Sezar noticed a box with live grub worms in it. He showed us a lady cooking them over a barbeque on a stick. There were 5 or 6 of them together like a shish kabob. Sezar bought one stick and asked if we wanted to try one. Luis went first and ate one then it was my turn. It tasted pretty good, like the skin of a chicken. I was expecting it to be mushy inside, but it wasn’t.
We went into the local zoo. I took some great shots of the animals. At the end of the zoo there was a beach on a lake where people could cool off. We returned to the hotel at 3:00 p.m. and I went across the street to a hamburger joint that looked like a throwback to the fifties. The food was good. In fact, the food on the whole trip was great! I went back to the hotel and showered and packed for the ride to the airport. I left the hotel with Jaap and Willem and arrived at the Iquitos Airport at 8:30 p.m. for a 9:45 p.m. flight. We were early and first in line to check in, but the flight was 30 minutes late. We flew to Lima, Peru and stayed at the Manhattan Hotel. It was not a great hotel, but it was ok for one night.
I woke up at 6:15 a.m., showered, and ate breakfast at 7:30 a.m. We left for a 10-minute ride back to Lima airport at 8:00 a.m. for a 10:15 a.m. flight. I paid a $5.00 tax to enter Lima and now had to pay $28.00 to leave. We arrived at Miami airport at 5:45pm. My flight to Philadelphia was not until 9:30 p.m. Jaap & Willem said their goodbyes because they were from Florida, not far from Miami. I waited for my luggage and found only one of two pieces. After 30 minutes of waiting I decided to walk around to find the other piece. I found it at the other end of the belt on the floor. Someone must have thought it was theirs and instead of placing it back on the turnstile just left it on the ground. Next, I went through the long line at customs with no problems.
Since my flight wasn’t for another 3 hours, I decided to get something to eat at a fast food pizza place. As I was paying, the guy behind me reached for the 3 slices he ordered. One piece started to fall out of the box. He then started cursing and yelling at the girl behind the counter and threw all three pizza slices at her. The cook ran out and yelled at him. I intervened and told him he better just walk away before he gets hurt. He mumbled something under his breath. I got right in his face and told him that if he can push women around then why not try to push me. Of course, he walked away again mumbling under his breath. This was my welcome back to the good ole USA! This never went on during my stay in Peru. The people there were very courteous and friendly, no matter where we went.
My flight was again delayed! I was getting used to it. This time there was a 45-minute delay, but we took off and landed in 2.5 hours in Philadelphia. My fiancé was waiting for me when I walked out of the security part of the airport. It was great to see her! If it wasn’t for delays the flights would have been bearable.
Arrival of Fish
About a week later we received an email from Devon stating that there was a delay with shipping the fish. There was a problem with getting space on the airline. Later in that day he emailed us that he got in touch with Guillermo. He went to the exporter’s building and to check that all the fish were still doing well in their tanks. Devon emailed everyone the next day with an update. The problem was that the fish would not depart until 10:10 a.m. that day, meaning that they wouldn’t arrive in Miami until after 4:00 p.m. This was too late in the day for Customs, Fish and Wildlife, etc. to check them in. This would also mean the fish would sit overnight in boxes at the airport.
The exporter did get them on a flight that would arrive in Miami at 6:00 a.m. Tuesday 9/6/05. Typically, the fish never made the 1:00 a.m. flight. There wasn’t enough room due to an overbooked abundance of asparagus! The fish finally arrived in Miami around 12:30 p.m. I received an email from the Miami airport that the fish would be on an American Airlines flight with an air bill number stating they would arrive at 11:18 p.m.! I was able to track it online but had a strange feeling about it so I called the airlines before I left. They told me that due to customs not releasing the fish 2 hours before the flight they did not accept them aboard! I was told they would be on a flight leaving Miami at 9am and arriving in Philly at 12:00 p.m.! I was really getting worried how many would survive. Other people were having the same issues with their fish arrivals. Some weren’t getting boxes until after 9:00 p.m. later that night.
Finally, after paying the airlines $65.42 I was handed 2 boxes of fish. As I drove out of the building and into the parking lot, I opened one box and I could see there was only one dead fish. I hurried home to acclimate them. I was surprised that out of the 200 fish I collected, 31 were DOA and 20 of them were missing. They must have died during the 2 weeks at the exporter’s place. So I started acclimating 100 fish. Over the next two weeks I lost 12 fish before they finally settled in. I think if I would have medicated sooner, I would not have had as many losses. Live and learn.
So out of all the flight delays and fish losses it was by far the best vacation of my life! It was everything I thought it would be and then some. The food on the boat was excellent and the heat and mosquitoes were not a factor. I made a lot of friends on the trip and renewed past acquaintances. Margarita Tours (Devon) were gracious hosts along with his crew, especially Segoundo & Sezar.
Here is a list of what I brought back and a list of where we collected every fish:
Fish Scientific Name Common Name # of individuals
Apistogramma pevas Pevas dwarf cichlid 8
Apistogramma sp. Dwarf cichlid sp. 48
Brochis multiradiatus Giant Corydoras 4
Dianema longibarbis Porthole catfish 4
Corydoras leucomelas Leucomelas Corydoras catfish 15
Bunacephelus kneeri Banjo catfish 1
Amblydoras hancocki Hancock’s catfish 2
Loricaria sp. Whiptail catfish 11
Farlowella sp. Twig catfish 7
Ancistrus sp. White-spot ancistrus catfish 1
Pterophyllum scalare Angelfish 10
Biotodoma cupido Cupid cichlid 1
Hero appendiculatus Green Severum cichlid 4
Cichlasoma Amazonarum Amazon keyhole cichlid 4
Hoplosternum thorocatum Bubble-nest catfish 3
Loricaria ‘chameleon’ Chameleon whiptail catfish 6
Loricaria ‘high dorsal’ Whiptail catfish sp. 9
Plecostomus guimaraes Ranger suckermouth catfish 28
Acanthicus Adonis Adonis suckermouth catfish 13
Corydoras algodon Algodon Cory catfish 9
Corydoras aeneus ‘orange’ Orange Cory catfish 11
Plecostomus vittata L204 L204 suckermouth catfish 9
Total of 208