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Amazon Riverboat

The following is an excerpt from our difficult times travelling by riverboat on the Amazon River from Iquitos Peru to a remote village 300km downstream of the Amazon River.

Please see the Amazon River Photo Gallery page for more of this trip.

Floating huts near Pevas, Amazon

It is 7:00 PM and I have butterflies in my stomach. We are leaving Orlando’s plain green office and climbing into a cramped white car that is obviously owned by a friend of his. The tall, thin, tanned man named Orlando climbs into the back of the car, jammed alongside our luggage. If it’s not the blue jeans and white t-shirt that make him approachable, then it must be his gold-toothed grin. He is an ex-Commando who has changed his working life from the danger of the force to the adventure of survival treks deep into the Amazon jungle forest. It is not hard to see the years of hard experience sown into his expressive face and serious manner. We have reluctantly handed over a sum of cash in return for him taking us into the jungle for six days. Unlike the tour groups that typically end 30 km from Iquitos, Orlando will apparently take us 300 km down the river to a very remote tribal village. Earlier that day we had inquired elsewhere about this man, unsure whether we were getting ourselves into a potentially dangerous position, and of course we were lectured that one should never trust an individual “unlicensed” guide. Too late now.

We drive through the streets of Iquitos, littered with seven thousand motocarros: noisy motorbikes converted into dangerous, but exciting, tricycle taxis. Exhaust, oil and moisture hang in the night air, leaving no doubt that we are in a foreign place. Unlike hours earlier, the streets are crowded with locals who are out now that the damp heat has now fallen into cooler night. Not one tourist to be seen anywhere, nor does anyone know English, but by now we are beginning to grow accustomed to this remote, distant feeling.

Orlando, in the back hatch, remains silent, hanging on to the side of the car for support. In a white T-shirt and blue jeans, he grins widely, revealing several gold teeth. Attached to the side of his jeans is what appears to be a large hunting knife. We are heading towards the port, which is where we will find our embargo commercial, a public river boat that will take us 160 km through the night to a small jungle village, Pevas. As we leave the well-adorned colonial houses and buildings of the main city, we head down numerous side roads into poorer, unlit streets. Streets with people standing around, almost aimlessly, as if they were waiting for someone to drop by. Many others sit on the steps of their wooden homes, with the bluish-green light of a single fluorescent light strip dropping a pale cast on the motionless faces. A cacophony of distorted radios floods the street from every other house. Behind the silhouettes of the dark houses, a distant cloud flashes with a deep orange as the nightly thunderstorms begin their eerie display. Another turn and the road gives way into a sandy street packed with roughly built houses on stilts. Months from now, these houses will be floating, a time when the Amazon River will be thirty feet higher.

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