Puerto Maldonado is a small city along the banks of the Tambopata and Madre De Dios, rivers that eventually make their way to the Amazon after tripping through the Beni, the Mamore and the Madeira. Here in southeast Peru the rainforest is thick and remote, and there are a few surprises in this provincial capital, including a 13-story obelisk called El Mirador De La Biodiversidad, the Biodiversity Tower.
The mirador, or lookout tower, does have the eco-friendly official name, but everyone knows it as the Obelisco. For a few soles (a dollar or two), after checking out the sculptures and small museum, a climb to the top will reward you with the best view of the city, the confluence of the rivers, the sweep of the surrounding jungle, and an almost guaranteed moody sunset.
The Obelisco was the vision of Santos Kaway Komori, a former mayor who had the strangely futuristic spire built to represent the abundant castaña, a tree that produces both rock-hard lumber and valuable Peruvian Brazil nuts. He also wanted to highlight the major industries of the region: mining, rubber cultivation, logging, and nut harvesting. The tower opened in 2003, complete with both 3D and bas relief impressions by local artists of these four industries, and their connections to the indigenous culture.
The tower might look more like a place for air traffic controllers than it does a castaña tree, but there’s no denying it’s had a positive impact on local tourism, giving visitors a rare rainforest panorama.