Bolognesi – Pucallpa: River trip part 3

As soon as I leave Bolognesi, I’m in Shipibo territory.

It’s a beautiful day. I’m happy I’m out of town. It’s the day i finally appreciate the type of boat/ raft i have. It’s so stable, that i can literally stand wherever i want.

From time to time, I turn of the engine and float down the river. While standing on the top of the boat, watching the jungle slide by, I find myself having a surreal and somewhat magical travel experience. (picture later taken by Jefferson)

Traveling by boat is so much fun!

To top it all up, i get to see my first dolphin. Yes that’s right! DOLPHINS! I didn’t knew i would see them here! Every day I was going to see some from there onwards.

I tried to follow them, but it’s difficult to go upstream with my boat (the logs on its side hit a lot of water). Just when leaving the site, two huge animals came from under my boat and grasp air some 6m away. What was that!?!!!

I hang out for an hour, admiring these super impressive (harmless) beasts of the river. There’s a bent where the river doesn’t run. It’s seems to be their home? Dolphins and beasts keep popping up around the boat.


I hope I’ll never forget to be grateful for being able to live moments like these!

I end up staying in Nazareth de Shahuaya. As always, i search the village chief. I feel truly welcome here. He later goes to the radio to talk through several speakers across the village, letting everyone know a foreign visitor has arrived.

People are sincere. Women more emancipated. I even get a kiss on the cheek. The language more easy to learn than Ashanika. I liked this place and stay a day.

The beasts turn out to be ‘Bufeos’, some 2 to 3 m long. Their body is supposed to be similar to that of people. They don’t eat them for some beliefs. But the chief also told me they are a food reserve. Sometimes situation got so critical even dogs were eaten.


As usual, people bath in their boats. Mosquitos aren’t out yet. A beautiful sunset makes the setting. A dolphin pops up a bit further. It sound idyllic, because it is.

It’s almost new year and not much is going on. I try to learn some language and walk around. People invite me to share their meal.

But i also think to myself to just spend a day in a village if I can help out in the field/work a bit. Don’t like to feel lazy.

six year old boy taking a stroll with his canoe

I planned to get to a bigger village to have some of a party. But after chatting to a family living next to the river, it started raining hard so they invited me to stay.

As many in the region, Junior and his companions cut trees of which they make a huge raft. They then float down to Pucallpa to sell the wood.

With no electricity, there was just the buzzing sound of the mosquitoes. We all got in our mosquito nets at 7pm. But the huge meal with fresh fish was pretty sweet!

Preparing the fish and serving the intestins to the chickens and cats


The party had to wait till Pucallpa.

I meet Jefferson (22yrs) in the river while asking him for directions (distances) to the next villages.

I buy a fat fish from him to not arrive with empty hands at the next family that’s going to host me.

We chat more and i end up hauling his canoe next to my boat till Curiaca, where his grandmother lives. Jefferson proposes to navigate.

He has problems, he says. He was working at a wood mill, but his boss got crushed between two huge logs, dying on the spot. He hadn’t received a pay check in seven months. All the workers were making their way back to their homes. Jefferson had traded some big fishes for his canoe, but didn’t have food with him. So i gave him bread, cassava flour, sugar and water.

We end up spending the night at his grandma’s house.

It doesn’t take much longer to reach Iparia, the only big village between Bolognesi and Pucallpa. I camp one night at the square and head on. I wasn’t able to withdraw money at the bank in Bolognesi, leaving me with 150 soles (40 euro) for some ten days or more.

The local government did help me out with providing a detailed map of their region. Very helpful! And of course i met people who invited me for lunch, this time Bendigno and his family.

Being somewhat short on money, i tried to make good progress after Bolognesi. It explains the lack of good photos (i have always thought you have to spend at least two days in a village to take some good shots.)

The family hosting me in Samaria though, is going to harvest mais the next day. A perfect opportunity to help out, not take advantage of their hospitality and spend a bit more time there.


I did cut my hand pretty deep with the very first piece of mais i wanted to cut off (the leaves are really sharp!). The gringo is learning!

And we went fishing… with spears! Pretty cool technique! But maybe not the most efficient one? We didn’t get any.

After an uneventful stay in Flor de Ucayali (where i could camp in an old house, next to an ants house (bad idea!), i have one last stop before getting to Pucallpa.

I feel truly welcome in Limogema. Last night i had to take all of my things out of my boat myself (quite a job), here everyone helps me out.


After a volleyball game, we all flee in our mosquito nets once again as the ‘zancudos’ (mosquitoes) are out in full.

 

January 7

I spent the last two hours floating towards Pucallpa with some people bringing wood to the city. For a change it´s not illegally cut wood, but Bolayna which they grew themselves. They indicate me where to leave my boat in the big port of Pucallpa (opposite the city, on the other side of the river).

I knew Pucallpa was going to be a huge stop on this boat trip.

I actually had no idea if i was going to travel down to iquitos by boat (at least one month away), or get back on the road with my beloved bike.

First, i went to the marine to get advice. They told me the river was calm (if there’s no wind) and that it was possible to travel down to Iquitos by wooden boat.

Sounded good! It would take some more reflecting, but in the end i started looking for a bigger boat and put up papers around the fisherman’s harbour to sell mine.

I found an eight meter boat of which i bargained the price down from 350 to 250 soles (65 euro). The test run was pretty cool! Without two big logs on its side, a boat is much faster. Being longer, the waves of passing boats also don’t affect it.

So it was quite obvious boats were cheap here and i knew i would loose some on mine.

The only people using such a small boat like mine, are fishermen who take it up a narrow river.

I got up at 3am, asking around in the harbour. But all i had to do in the end was bring my boat over. (It was at the other side of the river.) It was sold in 10 minutes for 150 (half of what i payed).

Bringing my boat over to the fishermans harbor


Next big questions were fixing my electronics. When my boat got filled with water about one month ago, the camera had died and my phone started malfunctioning.

I found good technicians, but there were no parts available. Only in Lima, i was told. Ok, let’s take the bus then. I thought it was just one night, but it turned out to be a 20 hour trip. Wasn’t looking forward to that!

I was truly lucky to meet Kely and Paul in Lima, friends of friends of friends, who offer to host me.

The Sunday I arrive, I can use their bicycle and cruise around the city, linking up the cycle paths and admire the Pacific once again. Not too bad!

But then I head to the ‘Malvinas’ to get my electronics fixed and the trouble starts. It goes smooth at first: i almost have everything fixed in one day. What happened in the next three days is too much to write down. They essentially like to screw you over.

Finally I got my money back and was about to sell my phone for parts when i realised they returned me another one with broken screen. Etc…

The lenses were cleaned. They body of the camera too damaged to be fixed, so for 200eur I bought a new one.

I had lost the tent poles of my new tent in the river and was lucky enough to get spares.

So all in all a good upgrade, but I was happy to get out of there. The traffic jams, the noise, the 1.5 hour commute each day to get to the ‘malvinas’,… It was quite a big change after the jungle.

I do find it very strange to cross such a big distance like Lima – Pucallpa during the night, not seeing anything of the surroundings. So I decided to have a couple of stops on the way back to Pucallpa.

I got a bus to Huánuco at 2000m altitude. By coincide, Paul who hosted me in Lima knew someone there. Javier came to pick me up and took me to his property at 20km from the city.

I thought to just stay one day, but that plan usually doesn’t work out that way. It became four.

Javier had lived all his life in Lima, but had changed the craziness of the city for the quietness of the mountains. Since some 15 years, he also started learning about agriculture and medicinal plants. By now, he was healing people by just proposing the right nutrition combined with some plants. Very fascinating to say the least.

 

His wise friend Taita Shanti was probably one of the most interesting people I could meet in entire Perú. At the age of 95, he’s bursting with energy to start a school where kids are taught about nature, the Inca customs, organic farming,… I joined their first meeting, and felt very humble among these inspirational people.

Calling nature

 

I helped Javier in his house, fixing doors and fixing the electricity (re-routing all the cables of solar system, changing plugs and adding lights/switches).

The last afternoon I went walking up the mountain. That’s why I was there. It really rejuvenated me. I met Agustin, a shepherd on the top after which I watched a beautiful sunset.

A successful stopover in the mountains!

At two hours from Huánuco lays Tingo María, where I had another stop to visit the Lechuzas cave, as part of the National Park there.

Then the last five hours back to Pucallpa to (finally) get ready to keep going down the Ucayali river.

I was really stoked to get my visa extension approved! I’ve got another 90 days now, so I can move on without being in a hurry.

Hitting the water on Sunday, 28th of January towards Iquitos.

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