A CRUISE THROUGH THE JUNGLE
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.."
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..
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".
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.