Puerto Maldonado: The following is a blog update from Dr. Bob Gehringer, HBI Medical Director. This is an ongoing series of posts about his wanderings of Perú in search of the best El Capitán.
I just spent 4 nights in Puerto Maldonado, a small city that’s doubled in population to 80K+ in ten years, the capital of the Amazon basin state of Madre de Dios in the southeast corner of Perú near the Bolivian and Brazilian borders. Puerto is the kind of place where a cold beer never tasted so good, as midday highs are consistently in the 90’s with high humidity. Within a couple years concrete walls blacken and metal roofs rust. I don’t know how anyone gets things done in that climate. One of my mototaxi drivers had a unique strategy. He would anticipate a red light then well short of the intersection he would pull over into whatever small spot of shade he could find. Good planning.
Puerto Maldonado is essentially a border city with plusses and minuses that go with that. Though all the previously red dirt main streets have now been surfaced, when I was last here ten years ago, the whole place felt very “wild west,” an anything goes transportation hub in the middle of the rainforest at the confluence of the Tambopata and the enormous Rio Madre de Dios as it flows north to become a major Amazon tributary.
The biodiversity in the area is possibly the greatest in the world with several nearby ecological reserves. Out in the forest there are scattered tourist lodges, illegal logging, and artisanal (illegal and mercury polluting) gold mining in the rivers. Since my previous visit when crossing the Madre de Dios meant sharing sketchy ferries with semis or crowded longboats, there’s now a half mile long bridge, part of the Interoceanic Highway from major ports on the lower Amazon in Brazil to Perú, through Puerto, Cusco, and Arequipa and finally to the Pacific port of Matarani.
I was in town as a guest of the regional College of Midwives, again training newborn resuscitation trainers and helping to launch their program. They reserved a rather nice hotel for me, tropical greenery all around, efficient air conditioning (only two short power outages), and an extensive breakfast buffet with classical music in the background rather than the usual blaring TV reporting yesterday’s local crime and political snafus, repeated over and over. Breakfast juice choices included cocona, copaosu, maracuyá, huito, marañon, and camu camu, among others.
The state of Madre de Dios is experiencing an epidemic of the mosquito borne viral disease dengue with well over 3000 cases since January and 16 deaths, most in the last 6 weeks with the three hospitals trying to keep up. No effective vaccine yet for this one. The incubation period is 4-10 days, so if I can make it through Thanksgiving………
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.