COCA (Ecuador) - NUEVO ROCAFUERTE (Ecuador)
NUEVO ROCAFUERTE (Ecuador) - PANTOJA (Perú)
PANTOJA (Perú) - IQUITOS (Perú)
A las 7 de la mañana ya estábamos todos montados en el bote. Otro día de barco comenzaba. Al rato, alguien gritó: ¡DELFINES! Qué pena que sean tan difíciles de ver. Saltó cerca nuestro y después desapareció en la distancia. Bueno… por lo menos habíamos tenido a uno cerca. Según nos explicaron, los delfines del Amazonas no son como los azules grisáceos que todos conocemos, son rosas y por lo que parece bastante feos. Tienen el morro torcido, imaginamos que lo necesitarán para comer en esas aguas…
Seguíamos mirando las orillas deseando poder ver algún animal salvaje. Anacondas… cocodrilos… estábamos seguros de que ahí estaban, tenía que haber cientos a nuestro alrededor. De pronto el bote paró. Algo asomaba la cabeza en el agua. Parecía… ¿una serpiente? Buffff… de la familia de los reptiles, pero no. Se trataba de una especia de lagartija bastante grande que nadaba y nadaba intentando alcanzar la orilla. Bueno, no era una anaconda, pero algo es algo.
Y seguimos y seguimos hasta llegar hasta Santa Clotilde. Fue un alivio bajar del bote y estirar las piernas. Tres días de barco se notan. Santa Clotilde es una pequeña población algo más grande que Pantoja y Nuevo Rocafuerte (tampoco vayáis a pensar que era muy grande). Buscamos un hostal y cenamos algo. Ese día los niños celebraban el aniversario de su escuela. Cada uno había hecho un farolillo. Casas, coches, astronautas de papel… se preparaban para deslizarse río abajo.
Agotados nos retiramos a dormir. Al día siguiente tocaba madrugar. El barco de Santa Clotilde a Iquitos salía temprano por la mañana. Lo habíamos conseguido, ¡en unas cuantas horas llegaríamos hasta la ciudad más apartada de Perú!
It had been a terrible night. We had slept 5 hours but in intervals of 40 minute of sleep and 20 minutes of moving and turning. This was caused by the fact that our hammocks were too close, and with every movement we made, we woke each other up. Luckily the sun rose at 5:30 am and with the light starting peep into our shelter, we knew it was time to get up and move on. Our "hosts" were awake too and getting down to their daily business. The female figure prepared the breakfast consisting in boiled corn flour while the rest of the family gathered around the kitchen floor to eat. In the meanwhile their smallest child would play with a machete holding the object by the blade hacking at small bits of wood on the ground (we thought he was going to cut himself sooner or later, but amazingly the family didn't even budge).
We proceeded to eat our breakfast too, biscuits, peanuts and instant coffee, a hearty breakfast when you are in the middle of nowhere if I do say so myself. We took down our hammocks and packed the boat again and started to go down river again. It would be a good 12 hours until arriving to Santa Clotilde (half way to Iquitos). So there we were, all packed into the canoe with our stomachs half full and still half asleep after the rough night. Once again the jungle was in its lush, virgin state. Practically no boats, no houses and what's even better, no tourists. The feeling again of floating down river in the middle of nowhere was there. Time passed slowly on the boat, most of us dozed off every now and then trying to recover lost sleep. Some of us passed the time taking photographs of the thick dense primary forest and the sporadic locals floating up or down river on their small canoe (chiqui chiqui as the peruvians call them).
At one point we all jumped after hearing Guillermo's voice. DOLPHINS! We stopped the motor and looked everywhere. There was a river dolphin somewhere on the river and all we knew is that we all wanted to see it. After a brief moment we saw a hump with a breathing hole pop out of the water. There it was, brief but for all of us, amazing. We later stopped again to check out what we thought at first to be an anaconda, but resulted in medium sized lizard who was trying to swim across the river. It looked like it was about to drown, but it seems that animals tend to do things of this nature. If you think of it, it´s the only way they have to cross the river as bridges are non existent. After watching and looking for more wild life we all started to get a bit restless. God knows how many hours had passed and hunger was starting to be an issue. Luckily to calm our rumbling stomachs, Pavan would throw us every now and then a clementine of his without letting Guillermo realize.
When the hunger got to it´s climax, Guillermo stopped by the side of the river, near another random house that just popped out of nowhere. It was Pavan´s lunch time. For us it was time to open some more crackers, tuna/sardine cans, dry bread, dry rice noodles and what ever else we could scavenge from Pavan´s kindness, (he alway offered us something to eat, even if it was half his breakfast or some rice and vegetables. In our eyes, he was some sort of Teresa of Kolkata, feeding the starving "gringos" in the middle of the jungle. Bless him for that!).
After a few minutes of eating and being eaten (every time we got close to the shore, sand flies or Gegenes would devour our legs and any part of our exposed bodies), we gladly got back into the boat. Honestly the sand flies where more annoying than the actual hunger itself, we only hoped that they didn't carry any disease as all of us had been devoured by them. Fingers crossed we thought.
Back on the boat and down river again. This time we´ld take small short cuts through smaller parts of the river where the jungle was very close and the river very narrow. The great thing about this was that the chance of seeing tropical birds and animals were a lot higher. We relaxed, talked, slept, prayed for the rain not come again and looked out for wildlife. Time went by slowly and every turn and short cut we took only amazed us even more. What was more amazing was to see Guillermo taking the boat down a river that he knew like the back of his hand. He was a local and we could tell that he had done this trip many a time, thank god for that! As time passed but the jungle started to open up a bit more, and every now and then more canoes and more houses would appear. Suddenly at a distance a large radio antenna peered above the jungle canopy. Guillermo screamed to us, "that´s Santa Clotilde´s radio antenna, we're nearly there!" We all smiled at each other, we had made it!
We were half way to Iquitos and about to reach a small town with some sort of accommodation with a "proper" bed, warm food and a nice cold beer. In the amazon simple comforts are the definition of happiness. Something that doesn't take too long to learn on the Napo river. We reached the docks just before dusk, and feeling a bit "land sick" we walked our way through the only street the town had to find a room in one of the 2 or 3 hostels in town. We were in luck as we found a cleanish room with mosquito nets and close to the eateries and small shops, all at a decent price.
We installed ourselves and bought the tickets for the next days boat ride down river and took a cold shower using the water buckets the hostel had installed for it´s guests. We ate our first "warm" meal in days, consisting of chicken & rice (we never thought we´ld be so happy to eat chicken & rice again). At one point a storm of school children paraded down the street right by us. We admired the magical walk while they carried their own handmade candle lit lanterns. There must have been hundreds of them. Where did all these kids live we thought? The locals informed us that It was the school´s anniversary, they were all going to gather round the school premises to celebrate. We met up with the boat team again and went to see the small event to take a few pictures. After that it was beer and talk time. We chatted about the difficulty of our journey and talked in depth about life, death, happiness, the mayan end of the world, the system… You can imagine, if traveling brings people together, an experience like this can turn random strangers into family. We can surely say that this doesn't occur to much in an office environment. Thank god we left Spain and managed to pull this adventure off.