When going to Iquitos, the largest city in the world not accessible by road, you have two options, by air or by river. We thought what better way to approach this one time rubber boom city then by boat. We were currently in Chiclayo, a city on the coast and made our way towards the jungle, we got a 16 hour bus to Tarpoto, which a a border jungle town, and a worthwhile city to visit in its own right, surrounded by waterfalls and treks, famous lake sauce, a crazy nightclub anaconda, which is massive, it seems that Peruvians come from all over to go there, plus we were able to witness, and after a little bit too much cheap rum and inka cola, became rowdy participants, in Miss Gay, a touring transgender pageant. After a couple of days in Tarapoto we made the three hour bus trip to Yurimaguas, where we were to catch our boat to Iquitos. The next day we woke up early, went to the market and picked up our required items for the journey, a hammock, plastic dish and cup and cutlery.
We then made our way to the port, as soon as our motor taxi pulled up a man came running towards us and climbed onto the back, it gave us a fright, because of our previous mugging experience, when a man runs at you yelling your first reaction is the clutch at your bag, turns out he was wanting to help set us up on the boat in hopes of a tip in return. After setting up our hammocks on the upper deck, which was less crowded, and paying the captain we waited another 4 or 5 hours for our journey to begin.
Breakfast began at 7 am, a sort of sweet porridge, that was actually quite nice, in a comfort food sort of way, as well as a couple buns with butter, and maybe a sliver thin slice of ham, the other meals consisted mainly of rice with an itsy bit of meat, maybe some vegetables, and some crusty bread, in all tolerable and sustainable grub. I had annoyingly lost my ticket at the beginning of the journey, which was needed for meals, so I was required to put on a naive, I’m a foreigner face each time I lined up, which the entirely gay kitchen staff seemed to abide.
Hygiene wise, the toilets were bearable, there were also showers, but all the water was brought up from the river, brown mud sludge, but this did not seem to deter the locals, they bathed in it, washed their dishes in it, brushed there teeth with it, after all the river is the provider.
The weather was jungle weather, varying and unpredictable, from rainstorms where we’d be locked into our cocoon of tarp, to golden sun, watching the storks perching on the mangroves passing us by. At night you could see an amazing star filled sky, no light pollution for miles.
Every so often we would see a river village coming up, shacks on stilts and people milling about on their boats. They would come up to our boat and a slew of villagers would swarm through the hammocks, selling jungle fruit and snacks, then disembark and wait for the next boat to come along. Sometimes they would bring boatloads of goods alongside ours and unload produce to be sent on the Iquitos, this appeared to be mostly bananas.
On our trip we befriended a group of children, who were probably looking for any form of entertainment within the confines of the boat. One especially forward one attempted to communicate with us and teach us a few Spanish words, and then coerced us into allowing him to play games on our phones and take some pictures with my camera. One of the families, which had a puppy, that the children pampered non-stop, also picked up a parrot on the trip from some villagers who came on board with animals for sale.
The journey, which we were informed would take a couple days, only ended up taking a day and a half, something to do with the currents and water levels, but after spending the last day or so lounging in my hammocks, eating my slop, making friends with the locals, which for Peruvians, only takes a couple hours in a confined space before friendships start forming, plus having managed to make it halfway through Anna Karenina, I was sad for the trip to be over, I could have spent another few days on my poor man’s cruise, but with maybe a stop over for a shower.