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  Peru : Articles: Amazons

Peruvian Amazon:
A CRUISE THROUGH THE JUNGLE

The Amatista

"It is hard to believe that what I have lived is real. I feel peaceful and with the sensation of having treasured something very valuable. While writing this article, I still conserve the sensation of floating on the river.."

One day in the month of June, I received a telephone call from Lima for an invitation on a cruise to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. Located in the Loreto district among the Ucayali and Marañón rivers, from Iquitos, upstream through the Amazonas river..

As the conversation advanced, romantic- Tarzan type images in my mind started taking control, to the point where I accepted the invitation before hanging up the telephone. I was totally seduced by the idea, nevertheless, in a short while a previous bad experience came to my mind in the Central American jungle. Tarzan succumbed before the sinister idea of a week of sailing with humid heat in a cabin without air, Taliban mosquitoes and a retired gringo in search of "the Animal Planet experience of his life". I did not have doubts of having embarked on a "Chinese panorama".

Lodge

Paranoid with what was coming and without more remedies than arming myself with patience, I organized the heterogeneous equipment that I imagined necessary to bring upon myself to face these ups and downs: repellant and vitamin B (both in order to try and survive the mosquitoes) sun block, cotton clothing, waterproof windbreaker (preferably white in order to not to attract the mosquitoes), binoculars, film for the camera, all types of medicine -to at least- confront a tropical sickness, adequate shoes anti-snake and other reptiles to walk in during excursions on land; and to keep myself from boredom during idle times, good books, crossword puzzles, the never-failing social magazines, Condorito, walk-man, CD's, etc.

One week later, landing in Iquitos. We're received by our host of Junglex -company owners of four boats that navigate- by transferring us to the wharf and advise us if needed.  To send mail or make you last telephone call at that moment, because during navigation you loose all contact with the exterior world.

The Amatista

The Amatista, is the boat that will be our home and refuge for the next seven days, it looks charming and romantic. It manner is that of a riverboat of late century principals entirely constructed in wood and painted in yellow, green and maroon colors. It has ten impeccable dark varnished wooden cabins, with air conditioning, a generous amount of windows, and a good sized bathroom. The boat crew received us with a sincere smile and made us feel right at home. A few minutes after boarding, the Amatista began navigating upstream through the Amazonas river. Soon after and together with a pisco sour, the boredom that I had imagined before leaving Santiago (Chile) disappeared: the temperature and humidity were perfectly supportable,  there were no mosquitoes,  the gringos that had embarked didn't seem so ferocious. I decided to take a trial run, have lunch in the middle of the river and had the sensation of what was coming "was promising".

The food aboard was uncomplicated and without major pretensions, but -like all Peruvian cuisine- it was very flavorful and varied. Daily, few but delicious plates were prepared. The inexistence of those ostentatious common cruise line buffets - that on the second day leaves passengers on the verge of bursting because of the excess of food and the lack of movement- made it so that you felt light and with lots of energy throughout the entire journey.

The Amatista Bar

The life on the boat flowed calmly. The period during the journey are well organized and include recuperating siestas. The atmosphere is relaxed. There are no formalities, neither bijouterie nor high class eveningwear. There are excursions during the mornings and in the afternoon there are excursions on motorboats to see animals. Through binoculars you'll see all types of birds ( macaws, storks, herons, kingfishers, etc); crocodiles, serpents, pink dolphins,  sloth's, monkeys, etc.  The guides are masters at sighting the animals and directing the travelers eyes. As the launch boats go into the reserve the landscape begins to unfold as if it were designed by brilliant and restless landscapers. Gigantic thousand year old trees, aquatic plants, flowers and vines, they coexist in perfect and beautiful balance with the diverse local fauna. The perception of that balance produced a constant and intense emotion.

During the prolonged times of navigation the guides instructed us on their experiences in the forest, of the human and animal life in the river, botany, ecology, education on the protection of the environment, etc. Each night, close to 10:00 pm and thanks to its draft, the boat would berth along side the shores of the river and suspend navigation until 6:00 am.  As a result of this you would sleep peacefully, rhythmical by the intense noises of the jungle, and with a pleasant sensation of protection and security in the cabin.

Guided journeys

The night had a special attractiveness, since it produced a total change of actors that fought for there subsistence until the next morning. Once we left on an excursion to observe crocodiles. Moving in silence in the darkness in the middle of the river, under the deafening concert of noises and lit by powerful lanterns you could observe hundreds of little pink lights on the border levels of the water shining from the crocodile's eyes. It is a surprising and frightful spectacle.  Fireflies, nocturnal birds and some mosquitoes, complete a moving atmosphere that made me become conscientious of our own vulnerability among so much wild life. 

During navigation, The Amatista would frequently greet ferries oversold up to the ceiling with passengers; with rafts made with large trunks united to each other, and other fish weir crafts filled with live fish moving around under the water. Among them, merchants that raised tents and installed hammocks waiting patiently- without care for inclemency's of time and some times up to seven days- that the current would transport them to the Iquitos port, where they would sell there valued merchandise. 

Birds

until the end, we visited "Vista Alegre", one of the villages at the shores of the river.  Its habitants received us with a smile and invited us to visit there palafitte-homes and at the same time offer there artisan crafts (imported from Iquitos and soon after with there corresponding price). Surprisingly no one asked for money or charged to pose for a photograph.  An English lady descended with various and small packages with gifts handing them out to children.  Colored pencils, figurines and bottles to blow bubbles. Blowing bubbles generated total clamor in Vista Alegre. Don Juan Torres the interesting Chamán of the village would tell us his healing methods and invited us back the next time we visit on a "trip" with ayahusca, a herb where he sees the state of the body and the sole of the patient. I made a compromise with myself -this time with out doubts- to take part in this hallucinating trip.

This way, without realizing it and overwhelmed with new sensations the moment arrived when I had to disembark in Iquitos. The days passed by flying. It was hard to believe that what I had lived was real. I feel peaceful and with the sensation of having treasured something vary valuable. While writing this article, I still conserve the sensation of floating on the river. 

Bird watching

Collaboration from Eugenio Cox
ecox@expan.cl

 

 

 

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