After years of dreaming of visiting the Amazon, I’m finally here! Sadly, the Amazon attracts the twattiest of travellers – a breed of people that is pretty annoying already. They’re all here solely to try Ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drug that you do with a shaman in the middle of the jungle, which involves drinking a foul liquid, throwing up for a solid hour and having strange visions – sounds pretty much like a Friday night in Kingston to me. But I didn’t discover this until much later in my trip. To begin with I flew into Leticia, a buzzing (literally – the place thrives on the coke business) Amazon town on the border of Brazil and Peru 500 miles from the nearest highway. The plane journey took us over miles and miles of just forest and river, as far as you could see – incredible.
Once I got to Leticia I went to Mahatu Jungle Lodge, where I was greeted by Gustav the owner, who I rapidly grew to dislike. But the hostel was gorgeous, with two lakes a turtle the size of a large table, a pool and jungle surroundings. Plus eight newborn puppies.
The owner Gustav was a stoner, and would get wasted while working. He lied about which rooms were available so you’d have to take a more expensive room and one night while I was asleep he came into the room and stood one my bed to make up the bed above, then when he was done thumped my pillow to kindly let me know.
Other than that my time in Leticia was awesome – on my first day I met a Canadian couple, we popped over to Brazil for half an hour (you can just walk straight in – same with Peru), and got a motorbike taxi back to Colombia – bit scary for me after my last experience on a motorbike landed me in a Thai hospital. But we survived the ride of death and made it back to Parque Santander in time to see millions of green parrots flocking to the treetops to sleep for the night. The racket was so loud you couldn’t hear the person next to you shouting.
That night, eardrums still ringing, the whole hostel headed up the dusty road to a big street barbecue – for $2 you get a chicken kebab, a pile of rice and a potato thing that I’m yet to remember the name of. Delish. Then we went back to our stinky, hot rooms for some attempted sleep.
The next day the Canadians went off to Puerto Narino while I went into town with an English couple to suss out the boats to Iquitos, Peru. I could either do a three-night slow boat (cargo ship where you hang a hammock on the upper deck and do absolutely nothing for two solid days and three nights) or the fast boat which takes 10 hours. As I was alone I decided to do the fast boat. I’d heard the slow boat has so little space you’re sharing butt space with complete strangers on both sides and so much as a fart will set the row of hammocks into a pendulum, plus the toilets are meant to be horrific and theft is guaranteed.
I got the slow boat. I met an English girl that afternoon with the same travel plan as me, and we decided it would be fun to slum it for three nights and be relieved of all our belongings. So we bonded over a $1 rice and pig’s blood sausage (I just googled it to find out the ingredients, sorry Catherine, now ex-vegetarian, it wasn‘t kidney beans as we thought!) – morcilla it was called – and another chicken barbeque (Catherine now a converted carnivore after 10 years of vegetarianism). The next day we went to Brazil to buy cheap Havianas flip flops (£2 to London’s £25) and eat more delicious chicken. We then ran to the boat (we were very late of course and had not bought tickets or got a visa or anything), but we managed to secure a good spot for our new purchases – beautiful new hammocks – and even booked a cabin so we could store our bags. The cabin actually had four beds but it was pretty manky, but only cost us $10 – the boat ticket was $40. We then ran to the passport stampy office, only to find the stamp guy on his way out for a night of drinking. We followed him to the bar, and two minutes later were proud owners of pretty stamps saying we were allowed into Peru.
We ran back onto the boat all excited, sat at the bar with an oversized beer, and waited for the delay to be announced. Then, at 8:19pm we started moving. Nineteen minutes late is so on time it almost made the local paper. We’d heard of delays to this boat of more than 24 hours. We squealed with delight and set about drinking as many oversized beers as we could afford (two). We also met a very drunk Italian, Hannes, who has been travelling with us since.
We then went off to our hammocks, which the men on either side of us had kindly tied up to the pipes for us. Then mine fell down. Yes, I was in it. Fortunately the guy who tied it was asleep so to this day has no idea he almost committed a horrible murder on board the Gran Diego. After my near-death experience we settled into the hammocks (take two) and made some bread and jam for dinner.
Woke up the next morning at 5:30am pulling into a Peruvian port for a break. Then day one of the boat trip commenced. I laid about, read books, learned new Spanish words and napped all day. Breakfast on board was rice in hot milk with a clove, lunch was rice and chicken, dinner much the same. It was a really hot afternoon so I sat out front and watched the jungle go past. Ate dinner while watching the sun set, then laid in the hammock and watched American Dad on my laptop.
An amazing sleep. Think I’m getting used to hammock life. I was woken at 7:30am by a guy with a tray full of rice-porridge, and promptly had a lovely nap straight after. Spent the day learning Spanish, napping, looking at the view and napping. At one point I got a Bon Bon Bum (lolly with bubble gum in the middle) and the baby next to me pointed at it. She wouldn’t stop pointing and there was no way I was going to enjoy my lolly with a bloody baby pointing at it . So I gave up the lolly. Then the baby’s sister gave me the pleading eyes. “Quiere?” – You want? I asked. A big nod. Dragged my butt out of the hammock, and got a handful more lollies so this terrible situation couldn’t repeat itself. I then pretended to be asleep whenever the kids looked at me.
Later on that evening we ran into a similarly awful situation – a bunch of kids who had just got on the boat noticed we had biscuits. Our new best friends followed us everywhere, clinging on to us and even telling us they wouldn’t eat dinner as they just wanted biscuits. We were soon relieved of all our delicious snacks and had to very carefully hide the Gol bars we had – especially tricky when one girl asked me to go through every item in my bag. We eventually lost the kids by hiding in a shadow (seriously).
The second day was much the same, except we saw pink dolphins jumping in the wake of the boat and stopped at a port where a group of us very nearly missed the boat – I hopped on as it was pulling out and three guys had to get a row boat and catch up to it! The day then resumed as normal – nap, read, look at the view, plus shower every hour as it was so flipping hot, then nap some more. It was beautiful though, sailing on the Amazon. We were really close to the banks the whole time, and the trees and flowers smelled like springtime.
One more night of sleeping on the boat and we arrived in Iquitos, Peru – our final destination – at 5:30am. Tune in to the next blog post for our jungle time in Iquitos!