Sepahua – Atalaya: the beginning of my adventure by boat

So with the idea of getting a canoe to travel down to Atalaya, I was cycling around Sepahua while I met some kids at the river fishing.

While chatting to them, there suddenly was a dugout canoe floating down the river just in front of our eyes!!! The kids didn’t hesitate a moment and jumped right after it. With a big effort, they managed to get it on land.

It was in a pretty bad shape, but what a crazy coincidence! To be able to fix all the holes though, it had to dry (something which just isn’t going to happen in rainy season.)

So i kept searching but just found eight meter boats, which wouldn’t be easy to handle on my own, I thought.

A carpenter proposed to build me a five meter one and it was surprisingly cheap (80 euro). All right!!! Let’s do it!

As a carpenter myself, it was pretty cool to see it taking shape (chainsaw for the win!). And to my big surprise, it was ready in a day!

I called it: the Urubamba express 2. Vamos!!!

Lovely family offering me a lifejacket in Sepahua!

It ended up taking five days to get to Atalaya.

I totally loved the adventure.

First stop of the first day: It happened to be the birthday of this lady and shortly after meeting we were all dancing and drinking.

I asked her if the boys and girls were her children. “No, they are my great grandchildren.” She must be early in her fifties?

As usual, the men can’t really control themselves and lose their dignity long before the sun sets. (See the man resting out on the old boat floor.) Luckily one of them still could teach me some of their language (Jine).

In every village i was met with curiosity. Children sometimes ran away, scared of this strange creature, even though I’m definitely not the first white man here.

I was always offered fruit, cooked mais/cassava and ‘masato’ (local drink made of mais, cassava and sweet potato that ferments over the day) to continue my journey.

Cool host. He had recently moved to the jungle and had a nice filosophy: “we are the visitors here. Therefore we have to respect the animals. I`m the only one not shooting at the monkeys.” (still no monkeys seen)

Just once a lot of water came into the boat, making me loose some stuff. The camera got soaked and will take a long time to dry. My phone died. And the tent poles drifted away. These are probably one of the most inconvenient things to lose? Luckily it was a sunny day and I could dry everything out. I pitched my tent next to some fishermen that night using some sticks.

So, I had a lot to prepare in Atalaya. I bought big drums to keep my gear dry. A mosquito net to replace the tent for now. Etc.

My friends from Sepahua sended me my bike by boat.

I obviously wanted to keep traveling this way for some more time! So, I started planning the next stage to Pucallpa. The biggest change was that I wanted to add an engine. I had always thought my first motorized trip would be by motorbike, not with a boat!

First, there were some authorizations to gather. There are not many people visiting this area, and some white people have come here in the past to take much more than just photos. So i had to prove I’m just a visitor passing through. In the end, i got a letter from two different organizations representing the native people in the area, asking them to help me on my journey.

After the first test run with the engine, we realized my boat was too small to support the weight of it and the 60l fuel for the next few weeks.
My boat is 5m, people here use 8m ones or more. So, the carpenter who made my boat wasn’t that skilled after all. He told me to get an engine in Atalaya and that i could sell it here for 500 soles (i paid 300).

But people only use small boats here to race. And i didn’t find a buyer.

Of course, there’s always a solution for a problem. It took us a couple of tryouts, but in the end my little boat became a lot more stable and can carry much more weight by adding two logs on its side. I’ve started calling it ‘la balsa’ (the raft) …

Next stage was going to bring me to Pucallpa, some 3/4 days away, but I was hoping to spend some 2/3 weeks while staying a longer time in the villages on the way.

There people do use small boats, so I was hoping to sell it there and get a bigger one.

It was pretty cool to spent a long time in Atalaya. Me being the only foreigner in the whole ‘city’, makes me meet many people. Cycling through the streets, the “hola Walter/ amigo/ gringo!” shouts made me feel welcome.

And then there’re of course my two partners in crime, Jaime and Elisvan, to whom I owe a lot. They shared their knowledge, installed the engine, taught me to ‘drive’ and added the ‘stabilizers’. Pretty grateful!

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