Amazonas Part 1
Immediatly after we arrived in Pucallpa we cycled to the center, looking for a boat connection to Iquitos. First we bought two hammocks from a little shop nearby and then went to the harbor. The spot was easy to find and there was a boat leaving the same day in our direction. A few hours late, nothing we did not expect, but we were safely hanging in our hammocks on board. 4 days it will be to Iquitos
Chaos ruled over the whole boat. The lower deck consisted of storage space and a little kitchen, that made the breakfast, lunch and dinner included in the ticket. One floor above was only for passangers, one big room filled to the brim with hammocks. A last floor above us was roofless and contained only the captians hut and steering, but a free view over the river. A view you can only enjoy for a few minutes before being grilled alive, but still nice. Well, I did manage to get grilled and had real good sunburn to show for it. The food we got was, of course, chicken, rice, noodles, bananas or „quarke“ (Milkricesoupsomething) Not a lot of choice for so many days, but lucky for us, whenever the boat stopped a lot of vendors jumped on and sold food, for example: chicken, rice, noodles... ;)
One of the best experiences on the boattour was the sighting of river dolphins. Two different kinds, the gray one, which look like smaller cousins of the salt water dolphins, and the pink ones, which are really really ugly.
After three nights on the boat we arrived in Iquitos, late in the evening. We decided to sleep another night on the boat to save some money and avoid running headless at night through the town.The next morning we started early towards the center, at 06 o'clock in the morning to be exact. We always get up that early because the sun starts to rise and everyone else gets up. Not being very silent or respectful persons, the locals wake us up anyway.
We were looking for several hostels mentioned in the guidebook, but one was empty, another had no running water because of raod constructions and in the end we just headed for a cheap local place. The room was even big enough for our two bikes and we had a fan, all in all just 5€ per night. Since we spend the last days on the boat the shower was really welcome. And just a few houses down the road a little restaurant was waiting for us, cheap and tasty fruitshakes, sandwiches and ice cold drinks. The shake was made from milk, sugar, eggwhite and some unidentified fruits – delicious!
After the customary siesta at the noon heat we explored Iquitos a bit more, went to the floating market of Belen, with houses build on rafts or wooden stakes. We also went to a upper class restaurant and spend our hard earned money on a meal containing alligator and wild boar. The alligator tasted a bit like chicken (white meat), while the boar had a richer taste (red meat) The waiter was a sly one. He presented us with a salad, of which we thought that it is included in our meal. He just came by and placed it on the table. Well, in the end he tried to charge us extra or the salad we had, but we just talked him down and just increased the tip a bit, instead of paying for what we did not order.
Another tasty snack you can get here is called Aguaje. A small fruit that looks like a pine cone with an orange inside. It tasted a bit wooden and not good at all alone, but as juice in icewater or as icecream it is delicious.
Near Iquitos is a place called Pilpintuasi, an animal orphanage and butterfly house. We took a tuktuk (threewheeler taxi) to the port first to make shure we have a boat to Santa Rosa for later that day, and after that we went to the little port of Annay. A small collectivo boat, a wooden longboat took us to Padre Cocha, a little village near the orphranage. A short walk to the forest and we were greeted by small, redfaced monkeys. Not at all afraid of us. They took our hands or sat on our laps, more like pets then wild animals. Since we missed the start of a tour in the orphranage we just entered one that had already started. Another German couple was ahead of us. The first thing we saw was the very reason we made this tour: A jaguar. It even had a name, Pedro. He came really close to the fence, rubbing it's back on it and we could see the feeding as well. He needs 4kg of meat a day, so plenty to see ;)
Besides the monkeys and the jaguar the place was full of animals. A anaconda, a sloth, ocelot, more monkeys and birds, capybaras and quantis, aras... some of them in a fenced of area, others just freeroaming. Add to this a butterfly house and a seperate house for the caterpillars, coocoons and eggs. They even hatched while we were there, and then live in the butterfly house. Countless different species were on display, all sizes and colors. The most beautiful, at least from our point of view, are the big blue ones we have already seen in Rio and Foz o Iguazu.
That afternoon we went back and boarded the boat to the border. Unfortunatly we were not allowed to take the bikes up with us into the passanger area, but did so anyway, since the speedometer plus cable on Martins bike got ripped of on the last boat. Well, the boat got fuller and fuller and Martin was back on land, trying to buy us some food for the journey, while I was guarding our bags. The Peruvians were not the most friendly of people, just taking of Martins hammock and even after I explained to them that that place is already taken, they just put up their hammocks above and below his one. After Martin's return I decided to change our place, going up a deck, which was a very bad decicion...
I went up and placed the hammocks first, and then got up all the bags, while Martin took the bikes apart and carried them up the stairs. Afterwards I noticed that my handlebarbag had been moved aside, and Martins was missing completely. It was clear: We have been stolen from, again. Not just the handlebarbag, which we can not replace here, but also the whole content, passport, ipod, camera, all the pictures since Lima, batteries and recharger... all gone. And all our peruvian money. I (Diana) do not make as many pictures, since I do not want to see the world through a camera lense. (Also, you do not have a 26x zoom for the animal pictures... well, me neither now)
But being well prepared we could continue. Martin had a second passport hidden in his backpack and brasilian money to pay the boat with. So we could go on, without the need for a embassy, which would have been a 4 week detour. The guys on the boat had little pity on us, they even wanted us to pay them an outrages amount of reais, one reai for one soles (Actual exchange rate is 1 reais for 1,6 soles) Since we did not want to pay 50% extra, we just claimed not to have more money and gave them what we thought of as fair. We even got to keep our coins, so we could buy water or food on the boat.
After two more days of chicken, rice and beans we arrived in Santa Rosa. The heat and humidity was unbearable and my sunburn still hurt. The lady at the immagration office was really helpfull and even gave Martin a entry stamp from three weeks ago, so he could leave the country officially. All just for the price of some soothing words and 10 euros extra. We spend the last of our money on icecream and took a little ferry over the river to Leticia, Colombia.
You have to imagine the area we are in like this: A river with three borders and a seperate town for every country. Leticia (Colombia), Santa Rosa (Peru) and Tabatinga (Brasil)
Santa Rosa is on a small island, while Leticia and Tabatinga are right next to each other and only seperated by an imaginary border. You just go down the road, and everything you paid in pesos and spoke spanish, is now paid in reais and everyone speaks portuges. We explored a bit by bike, spend some time in an climate internet cafe and ate, bafore we found out when our boat will leave. It turned out that the boat to Manaus will depart in two days, so we started looking for a hostel. In the end we found a nice hotel, right next to the official border, bearing the fitting name of: Hotel la Frontera.
And that's it for the first part of our amazon tour. We will cover the brasilian part till the ocean in the next entry. :)