Our original plan was to catch a bus from Quito and head further inland, over the mountains and into the area known as “the Orient”. There are a few parks that are supposed to be great, Yasuni National Park among them, and since oil companies have begun to work on extracting the vast reserves found under the park, we figure there may not be much of it left after a few years. Upon reading a bit about getting into the park (quite a feat in itself), however, we found that it’s actually possible (though not always recommended) to continue along the Rio Napo all the way deep into the Peruvian jungle. We’re not exactly sure what this kind of adventure will have in store for us, but that’s part of the fun, right??
After spending the morning doing some research online, it seems the trip will be something like the following:
- 8 to 10 hour overnight bus from Quito to Coca
- One-day by boat to Nuevo Rocafuerte at the border of Ecuador and Peru.
- Two hours by boat to cross the border to a city on the Peruvian side called Pantoja.
- Four to five days by cargo boat down the river to the town of Mazán, with a handful of loading/unloading stops along the way
- Quick jaunt on a three-wheeled motorbike across a narrow strip of land (skipping out on 13 more hours on the boat), and then a one hour boat ride to Iquitos, Peru.
- From Iquitos, the world’s biggest city without road access, we will spend some time recovering and enjoying the surrounding jungle, after which we can either fly back to civilization or travel another five days by boat to the nearest town with road access and then catch a bus.
Some of the “opportunities” (because there’s no such thing as a problem) that we run into could include:
- Dengue fever (not again!) and/or Malaria, for which we’ll be prepared with our bug nets, lots of deety bug dope, long pants & sleeves, anti-malaria pills, a digital thermometer & plenty of Paracetemol to fight fever.
- Side effects of the anti-malarials, which include insomnia, and extremely vivid and horrific nightmares.
- Cholera or general diarrhea nastiness due to sketchy food/water, for which we’ve: taken Dukoral (Cholera vaccine), will carry at least five liters each of bottled water for each leg of the trip, and bring our camping water filtration system & water purification droplets as a backup
- Crappy food (especially for silly vegetarians). We’ll be sure to stock up with tons of nuts & granola, as well as fresh fruit & veggies, and some kind of sauce to spice up the crappy rice & plantains we’ll be expected to live off of
- Head lice from some of the hundreds of people with which we’ll be crammed into the cargo boat. We’ll do our best to maintain some kind of personal bubble…
- The Candiru fish (aka cañero, toothpick fish, or vampire fish) that can swim up your urethra if you pee while swimming, after which it latches on with barbs, lives off of your blood, and grows up to 4 or 5 inches long (insert penis joke here). This will be a tough one for me, since I NEVER swim without peeing (the only exception being in my parents’ pool… =P)
- Flesh-eating piranhas (no further comment necessary)
- Incredibly high heat & humidity and associated discomfort & rancid odours
- Lack of English-speaking people – this should be great practice for our Spanglish!
- The ever-present risk of having our things stolen, compounded with the fact that we’ll be hundreds of miles from civilization.
At this point, you may be asking, “why would any sane person subject them self to this?” to which I make mention of some of the incredible things we may encounter:
- Being surrounded for weeks by incredibly lush Amazon jungle
- Riding in a riverboat alongside pink river dolphins
- Exploring the lush and wild Yasuni National Park
- Fishing for crazy jungle fish including piranhas and giant armored catfish
- Spending days taking in the magnificence of the Napo and Amazon Rivers
- Playing afternoon football (soccer) with the locals in Pantoja
- Seeing basilisk lizards (can run on water), boa constrictors, and anacondas!
- Modelling hand-made loincloths with the local tribes
- Witnessing some of the eleven species of monkey, including the pygmy marmoset (less than six inches tall fully grown)
- Soaking in some sun on the beach along the Amazon River at Iquitos
- Sharing a drink of mazato (a drink of fermented yucca mush) with the local indigenous peoples (and hoping it wasn’t prepared by mouth food-processor)
- Catching a glimpse of jungle cats including Jaguars, Ocelots, and Capybara
- Being surrounded by butterflies in the forests surrounding Iquitos
- Taking part in the “Carnaval” celebrated in many of the villages along the river during the beginning of February. We can expect a lot of drinking along with colourful waterfights (hopefully dyed with something that will wash out!)
- Watching some of the 1500 species of bird which inhabit the Amazon basin
- Sampling some of the local cuisine, which includes a type of grub eaten alive
- Having a truly memorable and authentic experience, surrounded by a variety of colourful and friendly people
P.S. I have to thank FollowTheRoad bloggers Katja and Augustas for putting together such a detailed report of their experience, which has come in very handy in helping us prepare for our adventure.