Long gap between posts due to the fact that there is no internet service in Nuevo Rocafuerte, Santa Clotilde, nor Mazan as of this writing. The speeds at the ten or so internet cafes in Iquitos are maddeningly slow. Am now in Nauta… internet speeds are slow but adequate for email.
River journey from Coca to Nuevo Rocafuerte (on the Rio Napo) took a full 8 hours. The boat I took was managed by the municipality of Francisco de Orellana (Coca). Set fare is 15 dollars. You will get a written reciept. It is a minimum of an 8 hour journey.
The boat was about 60 feet long with a 10ft. beam… needle like. Powered by two 100hp Yamaha outboards. Boat has a plastic tarp roof covering all the passenger area, and sides that roll down in case of blowing rain. There were about 30 passengers on board at the start. Boat stopped to drop off passengers at various locations on both sides of the river.
Lucky me, I struck up a conversation with a man (travelling with his wife) who is a full blooded Huarani. The man works for Petroamazonas now. He showed me pictures of some of his family members who live about 70km or so into the interior jungle environment, near Rio Curarray. He invited me to stay with his family sometime. We exchanged emails. His wife took a pic of me sitting next to him. I explained that this trip I want to get as far as Leticia down the Amazon, but maybe I could visit next year.
Boat stopped only 2 times other than to discharge passengers, once for a toilet break and once for lunch. Boat stopped at Panacocha for lunch. Just so happens that during that 20 minute lunch break, the president of Ecuador was there speaking to a small crowd of locals and generating support for the new government initiative to begin expoiting oil resources in the Yasuni National Park. Some folks are happy because of all the jobs and new business created. Some folks are not happy because of the deforestation and the possibility of future oil spills or other potential damage.
Arrived in Nuevo Rocafuerte about 5:30PM the day of departure from Coca.
Only two hostels available in Nuevo Rocafuerte, the river border town of Ecuador/Peru. No internet service available. No bank/ATM service available. Stayed 4 nights in Nuevo Rocafuerte. Hired a local guide, name of Ronnie Cox. Being a guide into the Yasuni National Park is his only occupation. His canoe is made of wood and he takes a spare outboard motor in the canoe… so a back up is available if need be.
On the day of my tour I sighted both species of river dolphin. (pink and grey). Ronnie knows the habits of the Yasuni critters pretty well. We drifted near the banks in a certain area of the river that leads into the Hatuncocha lagoon. It took no longer than 5 minutes before we saw swirls on the surface. These animal are in their wild habitat and they were hunting for small fish. They surface and submerge again very quickly. Just long enough to get a glimpse of thier head, small dorsal fin and tail. Breathtaking! Freshwater river dolphins in their native habitat!
Before the end of the day I had seen several wild monkeys, spiders and capuchins. Spotted a few wild red and green macaws flying. Saw many new and different (to me) aquatic plants. We saw an older man and his wife in a very small canoe fishing and stopped to say hello and ask how the fishing was going. No luck, they reported. We arrived safely back in Nuevo Rocafuerte well before dusk.
As of this writing, there is no regularly scheduled boat service to Peru from Nuevo Rocafuerte. There are any number of folks with canoes who will gladly take you to Pantoja, the river border town in Peru. There is a set fee below which, no one in Nuevo Rocafuerte will go. A minimum fee of 50 dollars will get you to Pantoja in a canoe. It is a downriver trip of less than an hour and a half. Things change quickly these days. There is talk of a new boat service from Coca to Mazan sometime before 2015.
Ronnie, the Yasuni guide, called around and found that there was a boat leaving on Monday at 4PM from Nuevo Rocafuerte (originating from Coca) and going all the way to Mazan. I had all my gear ready and was waiting on the dock when it arrived. Spoke with the captian. The captain of the Juan Andres had been an Ecuadorian park ranger for many years, now retired, and had recently bought and outfitted this boat and had hired a man who knew the river (Napo) to ‘drive’ the boat. I booked passage for 120 dollars from Nuevo Rocafuerte to Mazan. Passage only. Passengers are responsible for food and overnight expenses. Boat stops overnight in Pantoja and in Santa Clotilde.
Only a short hour and half from Nuevo Rocafuerte to Pantoja. First stop is at a military checkpoint for the Peruvian folks to check out the boat and its contents. This being the first time for this boat, captain, and crew member… they informed him of things of which he was aapparently unaware. Fortunately for us, the passengers, it was only time consuming. Later, the boat ran aground on a sand bar and captain and crew member had to get out to get us going again. We arrived in Pantoja riverside dock just befor dusk.
The following is a condensed version of Pantoja to Nauta, Peru, where I am now:
There were only two passengers on the boat when I boarded in Nuevo Rocafuerte, Ecuador. A 22 year old German woman and a retired Ecuadorian/American who had lived in New York for 30 years, who has children who live in L.A. and Paris. We got to know one another on the journey and even went on a junge tour out of Iquitos together.
Pantoja to Santa Clotilde takes about 8 and a half hours. Picked up many new passengers in Pantoja who were enroute to Iquitos. Three of them were Peruvian soldiers in civilian garb. Many mothers with children. People were dropped riverside as on the municipal boat.
Arrived Santa Clotilde late in the day, nearly dusk. Checked into one of the three hostels there. At least had running water… no running water in room in Pantoja. Had athsma for many nights. Sleepless, restless. No internet services nor bank ATM services in Santa Clotilde.
Next AM on river at 6AM. Enroute to Mazan. After nearly a week of ‘lazing’ downriver arrival at Mazan was a shock. Everything was hustle, hustle, hustle.
Arrived in Iquitos less than an hour after arrival at Mazan dockside.
Spent a week in Iquitos. Internet is so painfully slow that I did not bother attempting to update the blog. Have many photos and vids from Coca onward but will not upload them till I get to internet with much faster speeds.
Iquitos has ten or so internet cafes, but the speeds are unbearably slow. It is also very hot and humid. Often took 3 or 4 showers per day. Decided to traverse the only ‘road’ that exists in the Western Amazon region. Iquitos to Nauta. Not much info on the web about Nauta.
Took a van from Iquitos to Nauta this noon. Cost: 10 soles. Approximately 100km journey. Takes less than 2 hours. Many folks disembark from Yurimaguas, Peru (upriver on the Rio Maranon) in Nauta and take a van to Iquitos…. cuts 6 to 8 hours off the boat ride.
Internet speed in Nauta is still very slow, but faster than in Iquitos. Probably because fewer people in Nauta being online. Iquitos population is nearing a half million, according to some reports. Nauta is obviously much smaller.
Am toying with the idea of going upriver to Yurmaguas aboard a cargo boat (minimum two days on the Rio Maranon). Possibly visit the Pongo de Manseriche… a very steep/deep canyon on the Maronon. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pongo_de_Manseriche
Then, possibly spend some time in Yurimaguas and Tarapoto…. then maybe go to Pucalpa. If I do this, I will have experienced the main river routes (The Napo, the Ucayali and the Maranon) leading to the Amazon river from the West.
Adventures are like this… not 100% cast in stone. Things change, like the currents of rivers… or the changes of the seasons. All is uncertain except one´s conscious connection with the context of BEING alive.