My oh my, but hasn’t this been an interesting week?
This past week or so I’ve personally experienced ‘life on the river’ Amazon basin style. As reported in the previous post, I was at the Nauta riverfront tie-up space from 5:30AM to 8AM for 9 days running. Had also taken a van back to Iquitos for info on the large (325 passenger) vessel named the Gilmer. Chose to continue my journey heading upriver on a ‘rapido’… many such boats advertise themselves as departing every morning bound for Yurimaguas.
What I have learned from having visited many places in South America; having been a muchilero (backpacker tourist) on a few occasions and having ridden my motorcycle from NH to Argentina and Paraguay for a nearly two year stint, is that any information you may receive about travel from locals can not be relied upon. I learned that this is especially true when you are dealing with vehicles that float… boats.
I once spent a full month in Panama City waiting for a ferry that was reportedly going to depart Colon and go to Cartagena Colombia. There was advertising in a major local newspaper… and an agency was selling tickets for the departure at two major malls. I bought a ticket. After three separate ‘reschedulings’ the ticketing agency reported that there would now be a longer delay. I had had enough waiting and stories. Had to jump through hoops to get my money back… but finally did. Mind you, this happened in the capital city in the very well developed nation of Panama.
So… that is why I took my time in deliberating about my choice of launches here. I will still stand by my choice of boats. I had seen over a dozen different ‘rapidos’. These are boats that can carry up to 30 or so passengers and gear. The ones I saw were all constructed of heavy guage sheet metal… and welded together. They mimic the shape of their predesesors, the wooden launches. They are all flat bottomed and the length is generally speaking about 10 times the width. They resemble a flat bottomed dory that has been stretched from bow to stern. Most ‘rapidos’ were from 40 to 60 feet in length with a width (beam) of not more than 6 feet.
‘HAVY’ was the boat I rode from Nauta to Yurimaguas
Having been riverside for over a week and having seen what was available, I chose the ‘Havy’ because it looked to me to be of a higher quality construction. Also high on the things to consider were the seats. Most of the other boats I had seen had unattached lawn chairs for seating. Some were the kind with the vinyl clothesline strung between for your back and bottom. Considering that the ride was reportedly going to require my rump being affixed to one of those seats for about 17 or 18 hours total (or so I was repeatedly led to believe) seat comfort was definite point of interest. The ‘Havy’ had what appeared to be modified old school bus seats… upholstered, with foam cushioning. Also had a fitted wooden floor over the metal and the seats were affixed to the wood.
Was riverside at 6AM. Bought my ticket and had all my gear onboard by 6:10. Was told we would be underway at 6:30. Got a very quick bite and bought some water and was in my seat at 6:22. We cast off at 6:50. Then we slowly motored very slightly upriver from where we had been and tied up to another launch that was next to a floating gas station. From the other boat we took on more passengers and more gear. We were motoring upriver at 7:30AM. My guess is that there might be a per passenger head fee charged at the casting off location paid to the town or association. Just a guess.
From the time we were actually moving until nightfall there was an unmistakable sense that you are surrounded by LIFE. I saw an occasional dolphin surface and blow water from the hole on the back of it’s head and then sucking in air and instantly submerging again. You cannot but notice the variety of trees and vegetation along the riverbanks