a long while ago…Nauta-Iquitos, 5 days.

amazon rowing

did not take any photos between Nauta and Iquitos but river pics will find their way on here eventually. i have to be more ‘on it’ and find power outlets to charge the camera

Went out in brand new boat. Got spun round and wedged into the bank too far downstream. Hildo and Arno stood over the river and watched grimly. ‘You’re nowhere near ready,’ Hildo shouted down ‘too dangerous by yourself.’ They hauled the boat back with the motor and I hung my head.

Nauta – Iquitos

The next day float down with a log to Puerto Prado, Cocama community, where Fernando, tour guide, gave me a used fishing net and his Dad asked me for drugs and tried to feel me up under the mosquito net. Same old. Washed clothes with the women squatting by trickling quebrada that pooled under, baby fishes darting in quivers under the water surface.

A couple nights later and I’m back on the river, a veering floating thing. There are clusters of woven-leaf roofed houses on the bank, smoke pluming up from kitchen fires, people life amongst other life.

Traffic on the river- chugging pekky pekkies, big cargo boats with railings lined with dark faces, hammocks strung up between beams and platino piled high on deck. The monsters of the river are the petroleum boats which are enormous water-borne ramps adorned with machinary and tanks. They are from another world.

I dock that evening snagging the roof on a tree branch and boat is swung round against the bank. Lomo disembarks and trots off into the brambles. Boat with pekky pekky (chinese motor) revs up to me and they row me to the house upstream. Meanwhile Lomo knaws into himself and alternately mangles his flesh and laps tenderly at the wound. Puppy has mange again.

At the house little boys troop and bring all the gear out of the boat to the house. Children dance around fruit tree and pull fruit down and munch it. House is a simple wooden structure on stilts the floor made of dried tree bark and mother and child lay out wrapped in a sheet and the lamp, cloth soaked in gasoline, makes a swaying shrinking flame. We swing in the hammock a vigorous swing to scatter the mosquitoes.

It could seem a paradise but close downstream, impossible to ignore, there is a big smoking city with many things to buy and the smog casts further than the city limits, and the spectre of discontent spreads out to hang over simple lives, and who can blame the angry brooding young man who wants a piece of this other world and its promised glamour.

Next afternoon I’m the lone boat under wide sky and river is a big gaudy mirror and enormous, and the wildgrowth is caricatured on the bank and dinosaurs roam there probably.

A little fishing boat pulls alongside. The boys hold on and float with me a while and we swap foods and one peers into the boat and sees Lomo lain out on his side, a panting slab, and the boy coos ‘He’s going to die.’ I reply that he is not.

There’s a beautiful bay with colored stilt houses and I dock and get off and sink knee deep into sludgy sand, and even Lomo who seems eager for land pads around then returns yelping to the boat. The water laps around the mud football field. The community is abandoned because of high water, a husk of a town. We don’t stay long.

I can’t tell if I’m moving. Its a scale I can’t understand. I am a speck. Billowing black mushroom storm cloud crosses the river, wind picks up, waves start squirming. I row heaving to the bank. It would snuff me out, that’s all. I balance on a root of a tree and try to tie the boat. The foothold is horrible. Lomo whimpers at the prow. I do the splits and fall into the water, scramble back onto the boat, tie it, wind calms. That night sleep in the boat the air palpitates with mosquitos yay for net.

The pueblo of Tamukashu. It stops raining as I pull in and Lomo crawls out from under plastic. I buy two mapachos (jungle tabacco) and a river-side house feeds me rice and chicken and I sit there all afternoon. That night sleep on a petroleum boat that’s catering to the Cacow company in Tamukashu. I get hit on by a woman the first time in Peru. She is brazen, she’s getting dressed after her shower and hollas out to me ‘Do you want to see my jewel’

Sunrise and I’m on my way to Iquitos. Turn off onto the Itaya river that hasn’t got much current, and row three hours to the Bolevard, main tourist strip of the city. I dock underneath by the floating shanty houses. Very different worlds are within meters of one another. Upstairs there are North-American style restaurants and clean shirted tourists strolling and discussing their spiritual realization over milkshakes. Tucked underneath are houses made of planks coming loose on stagnant river water. The bank is mucky and smelly and the mosquitoes crowd in.

Sleep in the boat that night neighbor lady tells me how on first arrival to the city she and her family’d lived in a tent. It was a time of suffering. They’d all get wet and she’d have to send the kids to school in the morning.

I’d arrived with two soles (75 cents) in my pocket which I spent on cigarettes and internet, and had to stay a while in Iquitos. The Nauta-Iquitos phase concludes, the scramble-for-food in the city phase begins.


Posted on August 10, 2014, in On the river. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Ask a bank how I can send you some $ from the States…

  2. how’d you get from Iquitos to Columbia? That must be another story of it’s own.

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