Amazonas - Here We Come

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June 30th 2010
Published: July 19th 2010
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Hi all,

We are nearly entering July, meaning last month of our journey, though we still need to traverse a huge mileage before we reach our final destination - the city of Sao Paulo, some 4500 km away from our current location. As you remember, we recently visited the Chachpoyas region in Peru, and today we are starting to move to the far eastern part of Peru, toward the Amazonas on which we intend to travel and cross into Brazil.

We first have to get to a city called Yurimaguas - practically this is where the roads end in the region. From here onward transport is only fluvial. We spend a whole day on the roads, managing to reach only to Tarapoto, and loosing on the way our beloved Nintendo console, while hurrying and changing bus terminals, as the bus we were waiting for was late (only 4 hours, but who counts..). Don't worry, a very helpful manager lady in Tarapoto, managed to divert one of the night buses to make a stop-over at that terminal were it was left and pick it for us - so the next morning we were happy to discover that the Peruvian Services
Amazing sunset over the amazon basin Amazing sunset over the amazon basin Amazing sunset over the amazon basin

Crusing from Yurimaguas to Lagunas
though might seem strange and un-organized at times, can actually be efficient!... We did not only get back our Nintendo, but we did not even had to pay for this delivery!

There is nothing special to tell about Tarapoto, only the fact that cars are REALLY scarce here so the city is bustling with millions of rikshaw-motorcycles (Tuk-Tuk in Thailand if anyone recalls), and so both of us had a strange dejavu of India and Thailand when arriving to town, then taking one of these fast vehicles to the nearest 'Pollo a la Brasa' (Grilled Chicken) restaurant, after a day of starvation in the buses...

Next morning we are again on a collectivo (a minivan), making another 3 hour ride to the city of Yurimaguas. Upon arrival, we learn that as it is Sunday, there are no boats leaving toward our next destination, Lagunas. Disappointed at first, but then we realize it is probably better to have the day for arrangements - we take our time, we check into a hostel the mototaxi guy recommends, rest a little bit in our hostel, eat lunch and then we are out in town. Our first mission is to go to the port and look for the boats that will leave the next morning. We learn that there are 2 ports and we decide to first go and pay a visit to the port with the smaller boats - the boats are small cargo boats, and the port is nothing but a muddy ugly beach with some temporary wooden boards placed between the boats and the beach... but the place is bustling with people and goods are already being loaded on the boats, we get a "tour" in the boat and see where people are hanging their hammocks - some, are already placing it to catch a good spot and save the cost of a hostel for tonight. The boats are scheduled to leave around 9am the next morning, and the journey to Lagunas is expected to take only 10 hours with these small faster boats.
We then go to the other port (not much different than the first) - here we see a bigger boat, slightly in better shape, BUT there is a herd of cows waiting to be loaded on this boat + the boat would leave the next day only at mid day, which would bring us to Lagunas only around midnight, half an hour after the lights and electricity in that small remote place will be turned off...

After considering the advantages and disadvantages of the two options we decide to go for the smaller & less fancy boat, as we prefer to get to Lagunas yet in an hour that would enable us to book a tour into the jungle - the Paquaya - Samiria National Park, the reason for our stop in Lagunas.

So, armed with this decision we go to the market - the mission: finding ourselves some descent hammocks, and plastic plates for the boats we'd sail in the next week or so. (yes, we already know that from Lagunas the only way to further continue would be also on boats sleeping in hammocks). An hour later, we are happily armed with 4 new hammocks - 2 large ones for Tal and myslef and 2 smaller ones for Nitzan and Omer. Shachar we decided will either sleep with me in the hammock or will use our camping mattress and sleep on the floor (which is what actually happened at the end).

The rest of the afternoon we spend in the pool of the hostel - the kids are thrilled! it is soo hot & humid and there is nothing better than playing in the cool water.

The next morning, we are boarding the boat early enough to still find a descent spot for all our hammocks, we settle inside them reading books, while the kids are busy running around the boat curiously looking at all the cargo loading still going on and waiting impatiantly for the boat to leave and start the journey. For breakfast, we buy some warm rice in milk from a lady that comes on the boat to sell. Eventually at around 10 am the boat actually leaves the port ... (so what if the scheduled departure time was 8:30 and to make sure we get a good spot, we were on the boat already at 7:30)...

When the boat is on its way, except for the tremendous noise from the motor, it is actually very nice - there is breeze while we are moving, so it is not too hot, the hammocks are surprisingly comfortable, we also find another Israeli couple on the boat making their way just like us to Lagunas and
Jungle CampingJungle CampingJungle Camping

Pacaya Samira National Park, Peru
we have long talks with them - we learn that they are about to relocate to Barcelona! so they are happy to ask us lots of questions... The kids managed to entartain themselves very very nicely drawing and painting, reading and also just by being curious and looking around, exploring the different sections of the boat. Lunch served on the boat consists of a small piece of chicken, lots of rice and a fried banana. Not a gourmet food, but fulfilling and sufficient - we compliment it with cookies we have brought with us. At around 9pm we eventually make it to Lagunas. With the help of a local travel agent that was with us on the boat, we all (us 5, the Israeli couple and the travel agent + our who knows how many bags) take a local 'cargo mototaxi' to a hostel in town. It is late hour in terms of this town, and so we have hard time finding food for dinner - and so we end up having a pic-nic in our hostel garden with crackers and canned tuna - who said life is hard when you are a backpacker???

The next morning, we find Klever - the guide we had a recommendation for, and we close with him a deal for a tour into the National Park for the next 3 days. while we pack our things, he starts the preparations. And eventually at around 9:30 we are on a cargo motortaxi again going to the park entrance. It was heavily raining the previous day, and so the whole way to the park is muddy, and our mototaxi driver and his assitant end up pushing the moto in certain parts of the way. When we finally get to the park entrance we meet our second guide - David and get to see the two dug-out canoes that we will be using the next 3 days. It does not take long for Klever and David to load the canoes and off we go starting our journey in the park. In order to maintain the eco system of the park, it is not allowed to use motors in the rivers inside the park and so our guides are rowing the canoes. Today, we are down stream, so it is not too hard. It is so beautiful and relaxing, we are seating in the canoes, going down a fairly narrow river, the thick vegetation on both sides creates almost a roof over our heads, shading the river from the sun above us. After an hour or so, we get to see a family of mini-monkeys (called by the locals: Musmuki..), hiding in one of the trees - these are nocturnal monkeys, so during day time they are in their "house" and not running around, so it is easy for the guides to find them and show them to us.

We make a stop for a light lunch right on time, as 5 minutes later it starts to heavily rain, but we are safely seating in a kind of a thatched jungle hut built by the guides and the National park, and so we stay dry. In the next hours, while seated comfortably in our canoes, we see many species of birds, some more species of monkeys and huge variety of trees and shrubs growing on the sides of the river. We keep going into night time, putting on the flashlights and enjoying the night life of the park - we see some caymans (crocodiles), king fishers sleeping on the branches and some other night birds. There
Jungle lodge - what a luxury, beds!Jungle lodge - what a luxury, beds!Jungle lodge - what a luxury, beds!

Pacaya Samira National Park, Peru
is a whole concert of frogs and toads around the river - and the sky - they are amazing! Bright and full with stars. Omer and Shachar are with me in the canoe, but they are so tired they manage to fall asleep. Nitzan and Tal are on the canoe with David, and he is showing them how he fishes with a spear, then when they get close to the hut were we would spend the night, he catches for them, with his bare hands a small cayman and brings it for the kids to see and hold - Omer and Shachar immediately wake up from the excitment around this little cayman.

After fixing quickly a pasta dinner cooked over fire, we set the mattresses on the floor, we tie the mosquito nets above it - and our "room" is ready - we all go to sleep, just like in the good old days of camping! I am happy we brought with us our own personal silk sleeping bags, I feel better knowing we are all inside clean sheets and we have something to cover with, as though it is a jungle, it does get somewhat cold at night,
Sleeping in HammocksSleeping in HammocksSleeping in Hammocks

Cruise From Yurimaguas to Lagunas
es0pecially when we discover that our guide did not bring enough blankets to cover with, the ones he brough were hardly enough to set as mattresses... Organization & Logistics were not his best qualities... Anyway, listening to the frog concert around us, we fell asleep in minutes..

The next morning, we take our time, while we prepare breakfast (Yogurt and ceareals). After breakfast, the kids are fishing! They love it, and the only complaints start when they argue on sharing the only 2 lines we have..., but they manage it fairly well. Shachar and Nitzan are actually even managing to catch some small fish from time to time, Omer is unsuccessful and is a bit frustrated - but he is happy with his trials.
Then, we go with David for a walk inside the jungle, Shachar stays in camp with Klever - David is full of knowledge about the different trees and their medicinal usage or which of the animals eat what, and makes out trail very interesting. Yet, it is hard to walk in the jungle - the mosquitoes are eating us, biting ruthlessly and completly ignoring the fact we are armed with repelant and with long sleeves
Our boat from Lagunas to IquitosOur boat from Lagunas to IquitosOur boat from Lagunas to Iquitos

Looking from the p0assenger level to the cargo level - yes, there are cows over there and a truck!
and long trousers. Humidity is maybe at 90%! (MISSING)When we are back in camp, lunch is almost ready for us to enjoy, and while table is being set and final cooking is done, Tal refreshes himself in the river (yes - there are caymans and piranhas in the river, but the guides assured him that they harm no man.... He makes sure THEY know it and only then runs into the waters... well they were right...). For lunch we have fishes that were caught by David earlier that morning, while we were still asleep. Next to the fish, there is some rice, some salad and cooked vegetables, not too bad relatively to the conditions existed for cooking as well as the location.

After lunch, we ply again with the canoes down-stream. Short paddle and we get to a location where the river is deeper and thus there are river dolphins! we make a few rounds in the area watching the dolphins - these, unlike their relatives in the sea, are not coming close to the canoes and keep a distance, but we manage to see them well enough when they pop out to take air, though it is
Playing cardsPlaying cardsPlaying cards

Well, not much else to do on board the river boat, on the way from Lagunas to Iquitos
always too quick and non known location, so we do not manage to catch them on the camera.

Then we turn around and start making our way back up-stream. Now our guides ar really working hard struggling to move the heavy loaded canoes against the stream. Not much after it becomes realy dark, we manage to get to the only organized lodge that is in the park, where we spend our second night. Nothing fancy, but there are real beds with mattresses and there is toilets and even a pipe running water - a shower!. Shower to the light of candles, Lots of caution not to fall over from the construction, as it is all built on stilts, 3 m above the ground level!! Then another Pasta dinner and we are going to sleep 0pretty early - since next day, our last day in the park, we need to be up early as there is still a long way to cover up-stream. In the morning, as we are getting ready to board our canoes, even before breakfast, we see a bunch of 20 monkeys coming to have their breakfast off a tree right by and above the lodge - what an amazing scene!.

Rowing up river was really hard on our guides, so Nitzan and I have ended up helping Klever, especially in some spots were the river became narrow and the current strong. We stopped for lunch the same place we had lunch on our first day, and had again great fish (this time fried) that we caught early morning.Side dish - as always ... rice.

At around 3pm, we have arrived back at the park entrance and were surprised to see that our cargo mototaxi was indeed already waiting for us. We drove back to town, on the same owful muddy way we used before, only this time it was drier as it was not raining the last 2 days, and so the moto-taxi had to be pushed forward... only once. We went back to the hostel we stayed earlier that week in Lagunas just to rest a while and have a shower, before we catch the night boat to Iquitos - that is expected to pass in Lagunas sometime around 11pm.

At around 10 pm, we arrived at the town's port and were lucky that not too long afterwards, the boat - Eduardo II arrived surprising even their own office secretary by its early arrival. We boarded the boat, found a fairly good space for our hammocks and went to sleep - our first night in a hammock, with many more to come.. We are on our way (together with some cows that are on the boat...)to Iquitos, a journey that will end in two days.

Until the next entry,

Miss you all,

Lilach & Tal (who wrote the first half of this entry, I am sure you felt the change in style...)

** To view our Amazonas Galleries, Just click on the following links:

Lagunas Photos

Boat to Iquitos


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