Pucallpa is an inland town on the banks of the Ucayali River, 310 mi/500 km northeast of Lima. The Ucayali and Maranon rivers together form the headwaters of the Amazon River. In some ways, Pucallpa may remind you of a county seat in the U.S. Midwest—a place where people go to shop. But around this town, the terrain is jungle, not prairie.

In other ways, Pucallpa is a typical booming frontier town: Large oil, gas and gold discoveries have brought about an explosion of the population, which—as in the frontier days in the U.S.—has brought about a rise in violent crime and thievery.

The zoo, called Parque Natural de Pucallpa, has a variety of animals from the surrounding rain forest. The nearby Yarinacocha Lake region, only 15 minutes from town by taxi, has boatmen who will take you on trips to see river dolphins and local Shipibo Indian villages. There's also a good indigenous market in the area called Moroti Shobo.

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