Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Boat from Pucallpa to Iquitos - Part One

From the get go of our trip, Eric and I have been adamant on visiting the Amazon basin. After learning that our last journey into the Bolivian rainforest wasn´t in fact the actual ¨Basin¨ we felt compelled to remedy the fact and journey into the belly of the beast. Being in Peru, that meant we needed to make our way to Iquitos, the remote Amazon jungle town in Peru. The town (pop. 300,000 people) is the diving board for jungle excursions and research studies in Peru´s claim to the great forest. There are only two ways to reach it. Flying by plane or a three to four day ferry ride along a tributary of the Amazon river called the Rio Ucayall.

By this point in our trip, we were scraping the bottom of the barrel for travel funds and the boat journey was our only option. We took a bus ride from Cuzco to the town of Pucallpa where after many mis directions from locals on the street, we found ourselves on the river banks at Puerto Henry. Rumors on the streets were telling us that finding a boat ride to Iquitos would happen for a day or two. Despite finding a room in a hotel, we were running low on time and figured that checking out the port wouldn´t hurt. At the very least it would be good reconnaissance for information. Once at the port, we saw numerous workers loading up a big river boat with goods that were to be delivered to remote villages along the journey to Iquitos and that in fact this particular boat was scheduled to leave in two hours. Just our luck. We found the captain and he informed us that he had some hammock space available on the second deck. We agreed to his price of 285 soles (just over a hundred US dollars), bought two hammocks from him and claimed our spot amongst the chaos of families and locals preparing for the long journey.

For us it meant we had to hurry back to our hostel and convince the owner to give us back our money, and get back before the boat departed. We hailed one of the thoisand mototaxis and after much hassle, we got off the hook with our hostel and were swinging in our hammocks, with books-in-hand, with about a half an hour to spare.

After about twenty pages into Robinson Crusoe, I looked over to see four pairs of eyes staring at us in curiosity belonging to four little girls with smile on their faces. They had discovered Eric with his long blond hair and were quizing him in rapid spanish on all his likes and thoughts, barely controling there excitement to chat with a gringo. As it turned out they were traveling home to Iquitos with their family. We met Anna, a Peruvian woman and her five children who were bunking next to us even before the ferry cast off. She has four daughters ranging in age from 4 to 12 and a seven month old son named Anthony who remained center of attention and show and tell for his sisters for the next four days.

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