Iquitos | Pucallpa | Santa Clara
After Coca we didn’t know what we were going to experience. Our trip in the Amazon from the Ecuadorean city of Coca to Iquitos and then from Iquitos to Pucallpa (and Santa Clara) has been full of great surprises.
Being in the Amazonas is almost the best way to step outside of your comfort zone and confront yourself with your limits and fears. If you are scared of insects there will be tons of them around. If you get concerned when you don’t have a bathroom then there will be almost no bathrooms for hours or days or a week. If you are paranoid about something you will need to accept that and get over it. This is the first rule of the Amazon.
That’s what the rainforest is meant to teach you: get over your limits, let it go and you will have fun!
Let’s start from the beginning: Coca is a petrol-centered not-so-pretty city at the edge of the jungle in Ecuador. Just 10 hours bus from the hills of the capital, Quito. We spent 3 night there: finally on a Thursday morning at 6.30 we found a boat that would drive (for 15 hours) us (+kids/mamas and few other tourists) to Nuevo Rocafuerte.
Nuevo Rocafuerte is the frontiera of Ecuador, where you get an exit stamp and, if you are lucky, you’ll find a gentle señor Gugliermo waiting for giving you a boat-passage to the first little village of Peru, Pantoja.
Pantoja is by itself a very small village with kind people and loads of grasshoppers. We had to stay there only for the night because the day after a boat for Iquitos was ready to leave. Buena onda was on our side and we didn’t need to wait for a boat to come another day (or week).
Since the boat that leave from Pantoja is a lancha that goes pretty fast and leaves at 5 am. It takes two almost-full days to get to Iquitos but it stops for the night. Therefore we paid with the ticket one night-stay in Santa Clotilde. A very small village, where, searching for a beer, we met a 9 years old kid pretty good at English and we spent the rainy afternoon talking with him. We had dinner in a little kiosk in the middle of the street and we slept some hours before leaving at 4 with the boat.
Iquitos was a shock. When you get there the first thing you feel is all the overwhelming amount of mud, river-smell and food. A huge city that is possible to reach only by airplane or boat and has basically no cars only moto-taxis. A crazy amount of tourists and tours and people trying to sell you tours at every corner of the street. Iquitos is well known to be the best place to do a rainforest-tour of 2 or more days. But we didn’t do it. Our feeling was that everybody was trying to make a business out of it and nobody was really concerned about the “real” life in the rainforest or about offering a “sustainable” tour.
Iquitos became then a city to leave and we decided to embark in this 6 days adventure to get to Pucallpa. On a busy and hot day we got our ticket for Henry, a cargo-boat with other 250 people and at least 400 chickens and 100 mototaxi (plus one cat and one monkey).
We were not feeling very well at that time but we decided to get on board anyway at around 4 pm since the boat had to leave at around 6 pm. We thought it would be fine to sail on the river. But then, after setting up our hammocks and making a pile with our backpacks, the boat was stuck and didn’t leave the harbor until the day after at 9 pm!
How was the boat when we finally left Iquitos? A good mix of kids running around, very curious locals that were asking the most funny questions to both me and Lasse and an Italian couple, now living in Brazil, that was our main company in the middle of hammocks, people and luggages.
After 6 days at the edge of every hygienic condition we left our lovely cargo-boat Henry and we got to Pucallpa, where we took some days just to relax and have WiFi.
We got in contact through some friends with a family from the Shipibo community of Santa Clara and we decided to stay with them for a week. The Shipibo tribe is well known for being a matriarchal based community where women are making beautiful embroideries and hand crafting. They use natural medicines, as ayahuasca and many more, and their diet is mostly based on rice, fish, chicken and platano. As most of the communities in Peru they have a very strong connection with Pachamama and its natural cycles.
Life near the jungle is where you really have time to work on yourself because every other need is satisfied with simple things. You have a roof over your head, cook on a fire, shower with three buckets of water every other day and use a very simple toilet as bathroom.
We spent a lot of time walking around small villages and talking with some people there, meditating, talking about fears and limits and looking at how simple life can be without the stress of our “westernalized” society.
The only bad note of living in the village was the amount of mosquitoes that every night tried to get me. After the first day I had 167 itchy bumps only on my left leg! And I spent most of my sunsets and nights inside of the mosquito-net that we have brought with us.
Leaving Santa Clara for Pucallpa felt like the good thing to do after 7 days of full immersion on ourselves and on the culture of the shipibo community. But when planning to get to Lima we found out that the street have been closed for at least some weeks and it was not meant to open in the near future. The only option was to fly (unfortunately).
After a month where our only transportation was a moto-taxi or a boat the idea of taking an airplane sounded weird. Coming back to all the comforts it was great but it gave us many things to think about.