A Little Jungle Love: Following in the Footsteps of Francisco de Orellana

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February 14th 2012
Published: February 15th 2012
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So here I am in Quito, Ecuador. In less then 3 hours I will be on a night bus to Coca, Ecuador, officially known as Francisco de Orellana. It is a small oil town named after the Spanish explorer who first conquered the Amazon River.

Francisco de Orellana started his journey in Quito and then traveled east overland to the Coca River then to the Napo River before reaching the Amazon River, which he rode all the way through Brazil to the Atlantic Ocean. I will be taking pretty much the same path except for the fact when I reach the Atlantic Ocean I will be making a right turn, or I mean I will be heading south while Orellana headed north.

Coca is off the "Gringo trail." Travelers do go there but usually fly in to start a jungle tour,where they are picked up and everything is catered for them.It isn't cheap which is one reason I won't be doing a jungle tour with a tour company. Very few backpackers go to Coca to ride the river all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

The guide books briefly mention that it can be done but it isn't easy. The whole Amazon River trip isn't that common but it has been done by thousands of backpackers before me. The thing is most people start in Iquitos, Peru and head to the tri-border region of Peru, Colombia, and Brazil and then on to Manus, Brazil. I actually still haven't personally met anyone who has done the Amazon River which is unusual for a group of backpackers, there is one person who has done a trip no one else has, and I guess I'll be that person.

The guidebooks are not good sources of info on the trip, fortunately there is the internet. There isn't a lot of info on the trip on the internet, you see forum postings of people asking about about it but people usually reply that it is too difficult and there doesn't seem to be current information. I did find an awesome report and map on the trip but it was from 2006 over 5 years ago, but it had invaluable info and made me realize that I can do it, The map was a great help (I hope). I also found another report from 2007 that was also very helpful.

Coca to Iquitos is a hard trip because of the time involved. Once you arrive in Coca you have to get to the border of Ecuador and Peru a small place called Nuevo Rocafuerte on the Ecuadorian side, about a 10-12 hour canoe ride. The boat is scheduled early morning on Mondays and Thursdays. You have to get your passport stamped in Coca and hope it is registered if you want to return to Ecuador sometime. From Nuevo Rocafuerte you travel another 2 1/2 hours down the river to Pantoja the first village on the Peruvian side. After that it is a waiting game. You are waiting for a cargo boat to come by and load/unload on the dock. There isn't really a schedule to go by. You hear reports of some people who just missed the last boat and have had to wait for 2 weeks or even 3 weeks for another boat.

Both Nuevo Rocafuerte and Pantoja only have electricity from 6-10 at night and I hear reports of there only being running water for about an hour a day. No worries though, you wash up in the river.

After you finally get on the boat you string up your hammock and ride along for 5 days or more. All the while the boat gets more and more crowded. And more crowded. Finally you reach Iquitos Peru, a slice of civilization. From there it looks like it may be about 2 weeks to get to the coast of Brazil and that is nonstop. I may have to stop in a couple of places to break it up.

Anywho I am up for the trip. I know you can't really prepare fully for it. Right now I am in Quito and the temperature is about 47oF (8oC) so the warmth of the jungle sounds good... until you get there. 95oF (35oC) and 90%!h(MISSING)umidity. Ugh, I'm gonna die. Hopefully there will be a breeze.

I should be able to check in once I get to Iquitos, Peru. If you don't hear from me in a month, then maybe you worry. Of course if I do happen to be caught by some indigenous tribe along the way I have a lighter with me to impress them with fire. And then there is my iPhone 4. A built in flash light , a compass, Angry Birds app, that will surely impress them. If not then I just have to show them the movie Purple Rain, the scene of Prince and the Revolution performing Computer Blue and Darling Nikki. Once they see that along with my beautiful dreadlocks and they will probably want to make me king or some sort of god. So maybe if I don't return it could be a good thing.

I have to finish packing now, later.


16th February 2012

Good luck!!
Stay at the Flying Dog in Iquitos, Marcel the manager is a cool guy who can give you all the info u are looking for!

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