Friday, March 09, 2007

Someone Asked Me About Land In Iquitos, Peru

Okay, so someone asked me if they could buy land in Peru. The answer, just five years ago, would have been no, unless you were a Peruvian. Heck, I bought a house, a motorbike, opened a bar, even a bank account and none of them could be in my name in the old days. All were in the name of my wife, a local Iquitos witch/wonderful woman, depending on how I felt loved/unloved on a given day, or my kids, local locals. But we did buy a house, next to the house my wife/ex-wife mostly grew up in, in Iquitos in 1996 or 7 when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and while in Lima for treatment for her my second, Vinicio Marco, came up with failed kidneys. Both survived, fantastically, and to bond the family I bought this little house. Later, I bought land for my kids, in their names, and I don't think anything can be sold on it till my daughter Madeleina, now nine, reaches the age of consent in Peru, which I think is 16 or so.
Given that, here's the answer to the question I was asked about land in the region of Iquitos and what it might cost.

There is a road that runs from Iquitos to a town called Nauta. Nauta, like Iquitos, has no roads running into it, so this road, which took from 1972-2006 to complete (90 kilometers, and with the help of the US Army Corp of Engineers) runs from river-accessable city to river-accessable city.
The government, in the hopes of people populating the area, began giving away land grants 30 years go. People who actually lived on the land were finally given title.
Several years ago a friend of mine/my families (his name is Chicken Head), who was about 40 years old, lost his dad. But his dad had several properties given out by the government on the Iquitos/Nauta road. When he needed money he asked if I wanted to buy some of his dad's land. I did, and purchased about 600 acres of pristine high jungle 15 kilometers off the Iqu/Nauta road at kilometer 34 for $2,000 US. Paperwork was another $2,000. Making signs that you need for the land was another $500. Clearing a three meter strip all around the land was another $1,000, and building a house/kitchen/bathroom on the property was another $1,500. But all that needs doing or the government takes the land away. So the cost is not high, but in the end it's several thousand dollars. And since that property is in the newly created Mishana Reserve, no trees may be taken from it, and only 10 acres may be cleared for study/living.
The new parcel, a second one I bought yesterday, also came from Chicken Head. This time he's in jail--wrongly accused, I believe--and he was offered a deal to buy his way out after a couple of years inside with no conviction yet. So he got in touch with a friend and passed the word that he had about 20 hectares, near 50 acres, on kilometer 14, just one kilometer off the Iquitos/Nauta road--with two lakes, a year round stream, high jungle, great trees--that he needed $2,000 for. So I paid that, sent another $500 for the paperwork, another $500 for who knows what, and will spend another $2000 on a house, demarcation and such. So what it goes for is about $100 bucks an acre after all is said and done. At least at kilometer 14. Cheaper, a lot, at kilometer 34, which is a very long way from Iquitos.
A house on one of the properties should be done by the time I arrive next month with guests, and after we visit Sachamama for a night I'll invite them all to come spend a night at one of the places. And do ceremony there, if people are up for it. It should be great.
ASIDE: Other land, like in the city, is very inexpensive, but only relatively. I bought a house that's 5 by 8 meters (16 feet by 25 feet) built Brazilian style (high quality: the shutters still whoosh after fifty years in that climate when you close them) for $8,200 in 1996. It's now worth about $20,000 and it's five blocks off the main square on the single toughest block (on the oldest port in Iquitos) in the city--in my opinion. A friend of mine recently bought a house with no walls (both side walls belonged to the neighbors), no roof, no back wall and an incomplete front wall, with dirt floors 18 blocks off the square (5 meters by 20 meters), for $6,000.
And there is a house I want that's 25 meters by 25 meters, all Portugese tile on the two floor exterior, French wrought iron work (done by imported French wrought Iron workers during the rubber boom) with mahogany flooring and huge windows not far from the square that would only cost $200,000. I think for cash they'd go for $160,000. Unfortunately, I'm a $2,000 type of buyer so it's out of my league. But I sure would like it.
Now I said the costs were relative. Here's why. It doesn't have so much to do with the buyer having the dollars. Lots of gringos appear in Peru with a couple of hundred thousand in the bank, or available if they sell their home. What it really comes down to is: How are you, a gringo, going to live in Peru? How will you continue to make money? I owned a bar/restaurant. We did well. We made a couple of hundred US bucks a week, and that's hard in Iquitos. But my wife/ex-wife and the extended family numbered 23. Which meant 23 one dollar meals three times a day, plus clothes, medicines, and so forth. Food alone cost $70 daily or $490 weekly. So what was our $200 bar profit in the face of that?
So how will a gringo make money. Off other gringos? Yes, but there are not many gringos in Iquitos. Most come and go on tours and don't spend a lot of time there. Those that do generally are dealing with their own extended families and so don't have a pot to piss in. And if they make any money at all, like a couple of hundred bucks a week, well, that's living Peruvian style. Nice Peruvian style, but not gringo style. Not taking the family out and blowing $50 US bucks on a meal now and then. Not buying a moped or car. Not having a nice house.
So while the figures appear low, unless you have a source of income that does not depend on Peru--either gringos or locals--you quickly find that all your money has disappeared. And that's without an extended family. Unless, of course, you're one of the few gringos who goes completely native, moves into the jungle, and lives on yucca and plantains.
But if you have a family and if you occasionally buy them sneakers or sox or underwear--which is only decent, after all--and feed them three times daily, you'll find that your basic needs in Iquitos are minimally $1,000 weekly. I spent more than that while living there. Heck, we rented two houses, and staffed them, just to take care of the street kids my wife/ex-wife brought in--all of whom were cousins/friends/orphans who basically lived on the street on our block at the port.
So what I'm getting at is that this ain't Cabo. This is the jungle. And while there are no sharks who will take a leg off in one bite, there are a million piranas who can nickel and dime you till the flesh is as gone as if a shark took it.


Leon Jones said...

What a great article, Peter. I first met you over ten years ago when you had the Cold Beer Blues Bar and you cooked me a wonderful meal.I had no idea you were such a talented writer. Anyone who is thinking about investing money in Iquitos should read this article. I hope to see you the next time you're in Iquitos. Though my name is Leon, down here they call me Leo.

Unknown said...

Very interesting article. I own 40 hectares (98 acres) with title right on the road at km 75.6 - 75.8 at a bargain price. I t is an almost finished fish farm/ monkey reproduction center, unfortunately my wife can't get used to the jungle life and by default neither can I. if anyone is interested shoot me an email at

Amanda said...

Interested in getting some land to host retreats to gringos, advice please :) Amanda

Amanda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I´m living for the moment in Panama but like to move to Iquitos with my family. Looking for land in the jungle away from Iquitos towards Brazil on the river.Can you hook me up with some trusted people?

Unknown said...

This land has been sold

Faby said...

Hi everybody! Me and my husband have a land in the jungle in Iquitos. We are trusted people. All the papers are ok! We need to buy this land to buy a house in another city we moved with our daugthers...the land has 14 hectares. Thanks! My email is: