South America | Peru | Northern Peru – A quick jungle trip
Semana Santa 2004.
We had two days off because of Easter; Thursday 8th and Friday 9th, so we decided to see some deep jungle. Jerónimo and I.
We got on a bus to Pucallpa Wednesday night. It was full, there was little leg space, the bus was old, there was no bathroom, and most of the luggage was put on top of the bus, secured with rope. But all in all an okay bus, the windows opened and the seats did go back a little. We got ourselves as comfortable as possible; after all we were to spend the next 21 hours there.
There are no nice buses that take you to Pucallpa, just like there weren’t to Abacay. I guess if you’re looking for comfortable bus rides you should only see things that are on the coast. And there you can get these luxury buses (never ridden one, but I’ve seen them).
The road to Pucallpa went by Ticlio, Huánuco and Tingo María. About a third of the road was unpaved, the last bit, the part when we sat sweating in a very hot bus. And it was so bumpy I sat wishing I had worn my sports bra…
Anyway we got there safe and sound and we hadn’t changed our mind about taking the bus back to Lima. (A couple of Swedish girls were seriously talking about taking a plane back, but I dont know what they ended up doing.)
We got our backpacks and got into one of those Indian motorcycle taxis asking if we could be driven to Puerto Callao, which we had read in some guidebook was a cheap part of Pucallpa to stay. And it sure was; we paid s/. 4 for the room. It was very simple, and there were plenty of mosquitoes entering through the holes in the mosquito net.. The shower and toilet was down a flight of steps. I must say that this is the one cold shower I have truly enjoyed. The cold water felt wonderful on my skin.
Around dinnertime we went out to get something to eat at an outdoor restaurant grilled fish and banana. (Its nothing like the bananas they have in Norway its more like a potato if the taste resembles anything.) Going out after sundown was not so smart, we were half eaten by mosquitoes before we were through, and it was hard to enjoy the meal.
When we got back to his house the owner came in with clean sheets, but after I saw some bugs crawling in and out of the hay mattress we put the thick bedspread over the mattress and slept on our sleeping bags on top of that. We got plenty of mosquito bites, and they itched for days to come.
We slept late and took a colectivo boat to Patria Nueva around 11am, s/. 10 for both of us. It took about 5-6 hours to get there. We were off to see how jungle people in that area lived. And not the dress-up-for-tourists-version of it where everybody is selling you handicrafts, we werent interested in seeing that. Nor the deep-deep-into-the-jungle-version where people actually do snake dances, dress traditionally, and behave in other curios ways, we didnt have the time, knowledge or money to do that.
The boat ride in itself was an experience. First we crossed the lake Yarinacocha, then we went by several smaller rivers and by the Ucayali river. Patria Nueva was the boats last stop. It was a wooden long boat with built in benches along both sides. It had a roof where the passenger’s luggage (and bananas) could be stored for the ride and curtains so that you were secured a boat ride on the shady side. A teenage boy was badly hurt, he was lying in the bottom of the boat moaning while his father and sister did what they could to make him comfortable. Along the way we stopped many times to let on or off passenger and/or cargo. As soon as the boat stopped there were flying creatures biting us, but as long as the boat was in motion there was a nice breeze and we were neither too warm nor bitten. The scenery was great. And even though we sat on wooden benches we enjoyed the ride.
When we arrived in Patria Nueva we talked to several people living there, it was a pretty small community. One stretch of road with houses on both sides and a soccer field at the far end. We could sleep in a house that wasnt in use, a municipality-office-sort-of-building. We put up our tent inside. We were invited to dinner at the leader of the communitys house. As a courtesy we bought a big bottle of soda to share with him from the little kiosk. There was a TV in that kiosk and a group of people watching it. To my frustration there was no water to be bought in Patria Nueva or anywhere within walking distance.
People in the jungle wear Nike t-shirts and old worn out blue jeans. They drink drinks from the Coca Cola company, watch TV, sell bananas or fish to the nearby cities and want to live the American dream. Their houses dont have walls, are made out of natural looking material, stand on stilts and have bananaleaf roofs. They sleep in mosquito nets on a bed they roll up during the day. Some of the older women wear “sweaters” (see top picture) that are typical for the area. There is no electricity there. No toilets or showers. There is a lot of mosquitoes, mud and bananas. I was glad I brought along those black knee-high rubber boots.
Before getting some dinner we took a short walk from Puerto Callao to the nearest community. We sure saw some big trees! Coming back it was starting to get dark and we saw an amazing sunset. We were a bit late for dinner but the lady had saved our fish and fried banana, it was really good and we ate well while the mosquitoes were sucking blood through our clothes. The repellent we brought didnt really work.
After dinner we went by and talked to some people we had travelled there with, and then we went straight into the tent to avoid more bites. We were told that the boat left at 5am the next morning.
It rained that night, a lot.. The sound was terrifying and exciting all at once. We were happy but sweating inside the mosquito free tent.
We got up early and packed down the tent while being attacked by hungry mosquitoes. It had almost stopped raining. Jerónimo was attacked by fierce dogs as he went to see if the boat was ready to leave while I packed up the last things. The boat was not ready to leave. And we waited for another two hours. I was upset in a patient kind of way. And I was very glad when the boat finally set of down the river.
We stopped on the way picking up people with lots of bananas, a man and his wife whod fished some huge fish, and more bananas. The boat ride was wonderful, I enjoyed the breeze, the scenery, looking at the people, eating stale bread, brushing my teeth and reading some in my book. I was fascinated to see how the women and young girls picked lice out of each others hair, and how they atE the lice.
Arriving in Puerto Callao we wondered if we were to stay a night and a day more, but after some back and forth and checking the departure times of the buses we decided on leaving. We were tired, dirty and itchy, and the bus ride home would be tough.
We got something to eat in Pucallpa, got run down by women in traditional clothes selling handicrafts they were really pushy, and waited for the bus that was an hour late. The passengers where annoyed with the bus leaving an hour late, and even more annoyed when we stopped half an hour while filling gas. The bus stopped many times and people got on and off, but it was nice driving through the hot part of the country by night as wed already seen how beautiful it is on the way there. The bus broke down when we were pretty close to Lima, but it only took an hour to fix it. And we arrived safely in Lima a little more then 22 hours after we left Pucallpa.
It had been just the kind of jungle trip we had wanted to go on. We were anxious to sleep in our comfortable bed after getting a good shower.