Pacullpa > Iquitos

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
1
58
71
Trip End Apr 03, 2011


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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pucallpa > Iquitos
After arriving in Pucallpa, looking for a boat and being bitten by a dog, I started the next day hoping for better luck. It was another blistering hot day which we spent down at the docks looking for our boat to Iquitos.
The first cargo boat was not do leave until the next day, cost 120 soles for a hammock space sharing a room with any other passengers – the rest of the ship being used for cargo.The room was fairly spacious with only about 30-40 people on board (most of these people mother & children).
 The second cargo boat was much larger with about 3-4 decks for people leaving the hull and deck for cargo. As we were about to board the boat we saw dockers loading the boat by walking across a plank of wood, and as the boat moved, cries came from other dockers warning them of the imminently falling plank of wood. Amongst other things that they were carrying on board I saw washing machines and stacks of bricks (these were tied and balanced on their backs, they were lifted by a rope attached to their forehead). We took this route to board and saw a huge wall of bricks that had already been carried on. Climbing to the upper decks we saw appalling conditions where I I've ever seen so many people in one space before – let alone expected to live in it for 4 days as the boat traveled down river. As we went up to the higher floors to seek the captain we had to duck and weave past the hundreds of people resting in the way with nothing else to do and nowhere else to go but sit.. I remember the shocked expression of the people on board as they smirked at the thought of 2 gringos boarding the boat, probably wondering why we chose to be in such conditions.
After seeing the 2 boats we obviously opted for the first boat. We then gathered enough food and water for the 4 day voyage and bought a hammock to sleep in. We then returned to the first boat early to ensure our space for our 5am departure.

 When we returned to the boat, 2 couples of french hippie travelers had also joined the list of people on-board, making us not the only gringo's on the boat. We set up our hammocks and secured our bags together whilst checking out the facilities on the boat. The toilets had no seats with water being used from the river, with the sink also using brown water from the river, here women were using this to wash their clothes. Fortunately I had alcohol hand-wash to use after the toilet and could use bottled water whilst brushing my teeth. In the evening the children were playing loudly whilst the mothers looked worn out. The room had a TV which was changed constantly to the channel of the latest soap opera (n.b. I have never seen such bad acting, directing, everything than on a Latin American soap opera. Even though i can't understand a word of it watching the appalling quality is entertainment itself, never knowing what atrocious decision will be next). Insects attracted by the offering of light and open windows had made and entrance to the boat, with cockroaches providing themselves as hours of entertainment for the children. These kids were fascinated and in hysterics as they picked up, threw, pretended they were cars, stamped near and on the unlucky cockroaches.  Once done with they would simply move onto the next.

I took a small walk outside onto the platform overlooking the main deck – with lights bouncing off the river and sounds of the river and small riverboats passing by – it would have had a nice feel to it  however the floor was filled with cockroaches and the air of large insects that were attracted to the lights – I returned to my hammock.As the night drew on I realized that not everyone was lucky enough to sleep in hammocks, with one woman and her 4 children sleeping on a throw placed on the floor. I offered her my inflatable roll-mat which she chose to give to her child rather than use herself. 
 
Waking at 5am to the boat still docked and everyone still asleep, I went to the bug free deck and took some pictures of the river at sunrise. I had only spent 1 day and night on the boat and felt extremely dirty. By 10am we discovered that the departure time had been moved back 24hrs and that it was quite common for the captain of the boat to do this until his boat was full. As time went on, both more passengers and sellers came on the boat, where i saw children no older than 10 selling drinks and food – I felt sorry for them with their expressions that were far beyond their years. Space was now becoming extremely sparse with more hammocks going up and conditions were now reflecting the other boat that we saw. 

 As conditions worsened, and we realized that we did not know when the boat would really set sail we decided to leave the boat and take the more expensive flight to  Iquitos. With this done and gaining an extra day in Pucallpa before our flight we decide to visit a nearby island full of jungle wildlife and plants.Just before we left I found out that my grandfather had passed away. He had been fighting different battles for some time and had finally been beaten. I spent the rest of the day remembering the time I spent with him as a child – with him performing magic tricks, playing connect 4 and telling funny stories. He was always immensely good at story telling – I will miss him very much!

The following day we flew over the vast rainforest to Iquitos.
 
Iquitos seems a really beautiful jungle town, however as soon as we arrived we were savaged by tourist touts, all offering their own tours to the Amazon rainforest, all with promises of the best deals. We even went into a cafe to escape them however they stood outside and waved, and when we still ignored them, they came in and hassled us there.Going for 1 company we were offered 4 days in a jungle lodge fro 120 soles inc 3 meals a day, guides etc. We left at 6am the next day, with the offering including food, equipment, guide, transport, events such as day hikes, night hikes, alligator hunting, piranha fishing, bird watching, swimming in the Amazon and visiting local tribes. Also we could pay separately to have a ceremony with a shaman.
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