Up the Napo river towards Ecuador

As usual, it took a long time to get ready to leave the city. My bike took a long time to arrive from Pucallpa and the boat getting stolen didn’t help us much either.

When my bike finally arrived, I was so excited that I forgot my camera bag with my money and passport in a restaurant. I realized it half an hour later. I was fearing the worst. I mean, I had eaten at a small table next to the road at 100m from a busy harbour… No good! How could I ever even forget such an important bag? Anyway, the restaurant owners had found it and kept it without taking anything from it. Faith in humanity restored! But let’s not lose it again! My trip would have been very different if I had…

We took Silan from Germany and Geoffrey from France with us from Iquitos, cause we were heading to monkey island, a so called rescue center. No idea if they actually release animals into the wild though. But I got to see my o so cherished Macaw from up close! These are so pretty!

We dropped our hitchhikers off in Mazan, from where they took the fast boat back to Iquitos.

We then start negotiating with some locals, because we had heard it’s possible to haul boats by road to the Napo river (4km away), saving a huge 120km detour by river.

It sounded good, but it ended up being a bit of a nightmare. First of all, I realised I should never have bought this boat. As it turns out, I’m very talented to buy old, partly rotten boats! I guess it’s not so easy to judge it when it’s in the water.

Then the transport was so rough on it, that the pitch sealing the wooden boards, broke. When we wanted to put it back into the river, it almost sank.

We had no other choice but to spend two days fixing it up. When were we ever going to get going?

We removed the pitch on the inside, let it dry (luckily sun was out!) and sealed it again. We improved the roof and put new plastic on it.

Unfortunately, still lots of water was coming in and we had to add pieces of tin with card board to it. It still wasn’t perfect, but we now just really wanted to go.

leaving Mazan, saying goodbye to the carpenter and his family that helped us

We were absolutely stoked to be back on the river after all the delays!

Shortly after leaving, a drunk driver was following us. In trying to overtake us, he hit the tail of our engine! We got really mad and annoyed as he kept following for ages.

There luckily was another boat who had seen everything though, and they sticked around a bit to keep an eye out. They ended up inviting us to drink masato (made from cassava). There’s a birthday party too, but we want to go a bit further after being held up for so long in the city. 

Camping on the beach while having a couple of beers, was stunning! There weren’t even any mosquitos around. So beautiful to be on the move. So beautiful to watch the stars.

Catz had to wake me up in the middle of the night though. He was sleeping on the floor of the boat and woke up with a wet back. Oh boy, how I regretted having bought this boat! There was so much water in it, that the back of the boat was about to go under. The rest of the boat would have followed quickly after that.

We would start making two hour shifts to bail water to keep the boat from sinking. Then during the day and in the evening we nailed tin and cardboard on to patch the biggest leaks, reducing the amount of times we had to get up in the night.

With a patched up boat, we could now really start enjoying our camping.

Sometimes one slept in the tent and the other in the ‘bed’ (two wide boards on top of the buckets) in the boat, other times we both slept on the boat (Catz in his hammock). The latter is definitely the case is we suspect crocodiles to be around (which I thought was impossible because they don’t live in the big river). The traces we saw turned out to be from capybaras.

The biggest advantage of it all was that we didn’t have to unload the boat every night!!!

Catz tries his ‘throwing fishing net’ out next to our camp spot.

Traveling upstream on the Napo river meant staying close to the side to avoid the strong current. Our cruising speed had dropped to eight km/h, where it was about fifteen when going downstream (even with a smaller engine). The water level is not at its highest, meaning there are many sand bars and logs (which are stuck in the river) to avoid.

I hit about five sand bars a day, while Catz, with his experience as a captain, hits nearly none. But what can’t be learned?  I learned to read the river, and avoid its problems.

Once though, while hugging the river bank, I hit a log which was just low enough to be invisible and just high enough to get us stuck. The boat got lifted up and dangerously got out of balance. I jumped out to push us off, but Catz knew what was going on, kept calm and just drove us off with the engine.

Stuck in another sand bank

Another night is spend camping in front of a Kichwa community, Puerto Aurora. I head over to talk to the ‘teniente gobernador’, one of the village authorities, to explain who we are and what we do.

They tell us about two Spanish brothers who stayed in the village for a couple of nights some weeks ago. Some people were so scared of them, that they went to camp in the jungle under a plastic tarp with their dogs protecting them.

Because the thing is, that native people are really scared of gringos/whites. Not all of them, but many. They think that we travel here to tap off their body fat while still alive, steal their organs and cut of the skin of their face. We are called ‘pelacaras’, facepeelers. Hence the importance to have authorisations of the Navy and organisations representing the indigenous people. With these ‘constancias’, we search the village chief, proof that we are just tourists and gain confidence.

Some guys and kids came over in the night to chat around our bonfire. They were playing a football tournament the next day in a village two hours upstream. We agreed to take them, if they would drive.

Turned out it was the village anniversary, featuring football games and a party. As usual, we are invited to drink masato (drink made out of cassava). It being still early, we keep heading upstream.

After all this camping we realize village life is an important part of travelling through the jungle. As we camp next to this Kichwa family’s house, we are thrown back to realizing in which poor conditions people live here and back to realize how unfair life can be. We try to help by sharing our food and some petrol.

We are now getting close to the border. We have a last bonfire where Catz cooks up some bushmeat. I feel lazy not having cooked a single meal, but then Catz is a much much better cook!

With Catz running out of time, we had also decided by now to try to sell the boat at the border. Then, it was going to be a last eight hour speed boat to Coca, the first Ecuadorian town.

Upon arrival in Pantoja, the last Peruvian town, we head to the immigration office to get stamped out. I had recently realized i had overstayed my visa by a week, but the fine was just 1 euro/day. (Upon arrival in Perú, I told my sister that i was going to try to not overstay my 90 day visa for once. Even after getting a 60 day extension in Pucallpa, I somehow still managed to overstay… Never imagined to spend more than five months in Perú!)

Selling the boat goes much easier than imagined. We meet a couple traveling with their dog who fall in love with the idea of traveling by boat down to Brazil.

We make one last ride in it. We pay a man to take us to Nuevo Roqafuerte, the first Ecuadorian town, and to then bring the boat back its new owners.

Thank you Perú! You’ve been good to me!

Getting our bikes loaded up again in Nuevo Roqafuerte made us utterly happy. Freedom for the road was now thrillingly nearby.

We got our entry stamps and jumped on the fast boat to Coca for eight hours.

Catz jumped on a night bus to Quito from where his bike and some more busses were going to bring him back to Lima to catch his flight leaving from Peru.

I was very excited to get back on the bike and to get up in the mountains again. But I had also realized a while ago that my ankle probably wasn’t going to allow that (I fell close to arriving in Iquitos while carrying the engine and twisted my ankle). So I went to see a doctor to figure out what was going on with it.

15 days to three weeks of rest was the verdict. What the hell was I going to do in the city of Coca for so long?

On the plus side, healthcare turned out to be free in Ecuador! I got some pills and a shot in the but against the inflammation. I was also given painkillers (something I didn’t need), but I was told to give those to the nurse as her tip 🙂

I probably felt a bit lost after that. How to make a plan? I was to rest for a couple of days and see from there.

 

Some more pictures in the photo album:

 

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