Patricio, a large man with long curly hair and a nose bent severely to his right, grabs my hand and introduces himself. After a few seconds, I fear that I might not get my hand back. He tells me he’s drunk. “Bacán,” I say and laugh nervously. He lets my hand go.
Syd and I have lunch at a little menú place. She has doncella, I have pollo asado. “What would you like for a starter?” the waitress asks. The menu only lists: sopa de pata de res. Is there another option, Syd asks. No, the waitress says. Two soups, it is.
Syd and I talk about 2666. And a trip to the Costa Brava that we have to make some day. But today, we have another pilgrimage.
“Can we reach the virgin by walking?” Yes, just cross over the bridge, the waitress tells us.
We walk to see the Virgen. Along the way, we find houses painted with governmental propaganda. “Techno digno. Promesa cumplida.”
Halfway along, we find one of the large ecotour boats has anchored on the bank of the Marañón River. Through the large glass windows, we see two men running on a treadmill.
We walk some more. Lizards scatter into the grass. The sun beats down.
We find a little waterfall and cool off. A dead coral snake appears underfoot. Its head is missing.
We finally arrive at the site of the virgin. Two large bamboo stands arc over the statue and form an arch. Three women pray and then sing before it. We sit in the distance watching candles melt by the little lagoon. Some caimitos fall from a tree behind us.
A woman congratulates Syd on her pregnancy. “Varón o mujercita?” “Varón,” we tell her.
On the ride home in the colectivo, our tire goes flat. Right across the road, two small white crosses stand. The driver is dripping in sweat when he finally takes command of the wheel again. The sun begins to set. The sky turns the color of a ripe papaya. The city lights of Iquitos appear on the horizon.