Leaving Iquitos

Sunday 18Apr10

Jim said that we would start packing the boat at 6am so I got up at 5:30 to shower and pack.  Rosa, the proprietor, showed up at 6am to make coffee and sent a runner out for bread rolls.  Because it was Sunday, there was no one to make breakfast, and “our” restaurant, La Noche, is not open for desayuno on Sunday.  At 6:20 my friends came in and joined me for coffee and a roll. 

At 6:30 a couple of the guys showed up and sat down for coffee and a meeting.  At 7am Tito and Jim went to the market, where there’s a room with a radio phone, to contact the village, which has one radio phone, so that our boat would be greeted in the evening with people to schlep all of the stuff, and the others started to move the mountain of supplies from my friends’ room to the boat, docked at the end of the street.

At 8:30 they returned to the hostel but then went back to the market to buy groceries for Tito’s daughter.  Mary chafed at the bit to leave but I chilled.  It reminded me of my two year in Jamaica and the “soon come” time frame.  We got into the boat (see photos) at nine.

The River

The Amazon is very wide and placid with occasional islands.  We passed one banana plantation,  (Note: the banana plants, which are cut down when the rope of bananas is harvested, for another plant to grow from the roots, are twice as large here as in Jamaica, probably producing a few ropes)  a few fishing boats, and a tourist boat which roared past us.

There were small cumulus clouds along the horizon in the shadow of large ones, gray-blue, the larger one a bit white in the center, like a mother chicken hovering over her chicks.  We cruised through flotsam, large trees and branches, then past a collectivo (see photo), one of the boats that transport the Peruvians up and down the Amazon, as there are no roads on one side of the River.

We passed a boat-building community, and two yellow butterflies dancing above the water.  I was told that Jim wanted an aluminum boat rather than a wood one because of the weight difference.  Jim had left a 2 hp motor in the village but one of the men put it on too heavy a boat and burned it out. 

The vegetation is in a constant battle with the river.  In the dry season the plants creep down the banks.  Then, as the river floods, hunks of land fall into it along with large trees.  The gramalote grass and small trees and bushes seem not to mind standing in water.


We stopped for lunch in Tomshiyacu.   Most of the restaurants in the town were closed because it was Sunday.  Dogs slept in a wide concrete street with no vehicles.  Vultures fought over the refuse pile, and one lone motocarro took someone from one end of the town to the other.  Under Fujimore’s reign a park was built along the river, and the lovely median down the main street.

The restaurant we found had no fans and we dripped sweat.  The Peruvians had a good-looking chicken noodle soup to start, but we decided it was too hot and each had a plate of peeled sliced cucumber and sliced tomato.  Jim claimed that beer would kill off any bad thing on the tomatoes skin, so we ordered cerveza.  Second course was rice and chick and cooked plantain for the guys, rice and beans and fried onions for us.  Way too much food!

The Tahuayo

The Amazon split and we took the Tahuayo tributary, known as the Black River because the tannin in the leaves dyes it dark.  The breeze the boat created was pleasant as well as the spray of water from the wake.  The clouds were ganged up ahead, their bottoms dark and wispy with the desire to rain; they may attempt to ambush us later.  A pink dolphin!  Another dolphin jumped in glee.  An egret fished in the shallows.

Another banana plantation, and jungle, jungle, jungle.  Vines attempted to smoother all other vegetation, making fanciful sculptures, reminding me of the kudzu of our South (see photo).

The further we went the more the river looked like it had taken over the land, flowing between everything visible, but the trees were marked two meters higher at a high water line.  It’s almost hard to tell when the plants stop and the reflections begin.    If it weren’t for our wake, I’d think that we were flying.  Mary called this an Avatar world because the reflections made the jungle spherical, with the sky above and below, like Ra’vi vegetated rocks in the sky. 

A dugout parked on a raft.  A dozen tiny shore birds skimmed over the water. 

We stopped in Nuevo Esperanza so that Jim and one of the guys could look for a chainsaw operator to help with construction.  Mary and I watched two tiny children swish water out of a small dugout which refilled again when they got in.  They were enjoying this muddy river.  The men found four chainsaw operators to come to the village later.

Next we stopped in Buena Vista to turn in copies of our passports to the government official.  (Photo of our boat parked.)  Then we passed the Amazon Expeditions lodge.  Dozens of tiny birds exploded from one tree as we passed.  Another stop, this one in Chino so that Tito could drop off groceries for his daughter, who is 13 and staying with her godfather to go to school here.

This is not Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise

We took a shortcut through a narrow channel, up close and personal to the jungle; Tito had been sitting in front with the driver, pointing to the turns and I wondered if the boatman, who has never been here before, can find his way back to Iquitos.  (I couldn’t.)

We passed the Jacamar Amazon Jungle Lodge.  It’s beautiful.

I watched the reflections for hours – I was blown away by the Rorschach symmetry.   A dead leaf reflected became a gorgeous butterfly.

Smack!  We hit an underwater log.  The boatman went to the rear to inspect; no damage but we slowed down.  Butterflies flitted through our boat.  A large kingfisher flew past us.  Beyond the hum of the motor jungle birds could be heard. 

There were fallen trees around every bend.  At one point the outboard motor caught on a log and the boatman had to crawl over all of our stuff to the back to dislodge it.  In the meantime we drifted sideways and got the front caught in a tree.  Tito moved to stand on the bow to watch for the logs, warning the driver when to slow down, and yelling back to the boatman when the motor needed to be lifted out of the water.  This is not Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise.

I looked for anacondas and caimans all day – none.  The Austrian in Iquitos said he knows someone who raises caimans for food.  Jim wondered if he could buy some to repopulate the river.  (All of the ones that had been here have been eaten.)

La Casa de Ramon

We arrived as the sun was going down and a cloud of mosquitoes hung over the ground like a fog.  The guys quickly unloaded the boat, stopping occasionally to slap their arms and calves.  We, of course, were wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and insect repellant.  A pet green parrot, whose wing had been damaged, hobbled back and forth, overseeing the commotion, squawking so that no one would step on her.

This is the chief’s abode, Ramon’s, half an hour downriver from the village.  It is a large house, raised on piers because the river floods yearly, and thatched.  Wood floored, with “guardrails” (not to code), no walls.  Ramon has a screened-in bedroom at one end. 

My friends’ tents were at the other end, their sleeping tent with a large double bed, the WC tent (without water), the dining tent with table and four very straight and uncomfortable chairs.  We set up my little dome tent (just long enough for the cot and a little over a meter high), between them, in the dark, without directions.  Not intuitive.  The two young guys, Jhonatan and Sergio Jr, and I finally got it.

This house is connected by thatched walkway to the kitchen, of the same construction.  The cook (Nati) and her two sons and two daughters (one of whom is 8 months old) and nephew Sergio Jr slept in Ramon’s sleeping enclosure.  Her two oldest children were in the village.  Nati and Sergio Sr are Ramon’s children, and he loved having his grandchildren in residence.

We crashed.

One Response to “Leaving Iquitos”

  1. Krista Says:

    Lynne, what a wonderful adventure you are having. The blog is a real gift. Thanks for taking us all along for the ride!

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