traveling for about a month since I finished my service
with the Peace Corps in Paraguay. I was with my Chilean
girlfriend, Pali, and our hope was to reach Venezuela,
by land. We had already explored Paraguay, Bolivia and
Central Peru. We had left Huancayo and after a long,
bumpy bus ride, had arrived in a town called Pucallpa
located in the Peruvian Amazon.
We were going
to catch a riverboat in Pucallpa and float down the
Ucayali River to Iquitos, located on the Amazon River.
Pucallpa was a muddy, bustling town that reminded me
a lot of other flat and dirty towns I had visited in
Paraguay. We walked around town a bit and found an inexpensive
hotel near the river. Once we unstrapped our backpacks
and toweled off sweat, we decided to explore the city.
We walked to the river port and looked at the dilapidated
boats and people selling fish and produce. As we strolled
through the port area we saw a long, yellow and green
canoe. Pali and I had joked about floating down the
Amazon in a canoe during the bus ride to Pucallpa. So,
just for the fun of it, I asked the man who made the
canoe about its price. It was too expensive for our
budget and it was so large that it would have been difficult
to navigate with only two people and no outboard engine.
I questioned the canoe owner, George, if there was another
way to go down the river, besides the public riverboats.
He said another option is to float down the river on
a raft. Ironically, as he talked about rafting down
the river two farmers floated up to the shore on a raft
full of bananas. As they unloaded the bananas I asked
them if they were interested in selling their raft and
their price. They quoted $2 for the raft and a $1 for
the oars. I’m sure they would have discarded the raft
if I did not buy it, but I obviously could not complain
about the price.
raft just after it was bought
about buying the raft. I had no idea what to expect
on the river, had no experience at navigating a raft
on a river and did not know how long it would take to
get to our intended destination, Iquitos. I suppose
since the raft was basically free, and since I was encouraged
a bit by Pali and George, I purchased the raft and the
oars. George even offered to help us modify the raft
and make it sea worthy for our adventure. The raft was
a bundle of logs, probably cork wood, that was lashed
together with the log’s bark. It was about 7’ wide and
10’ long. I paid two kids 50 cents to take the raft
to George’s house.
to a hardware store and looked at life vests for the
trip, but they were too expensive so we did not make
the purchase. I still worried a bit about the idea but
as Pali and I ate ice cream and talked, we convinced
ourselves that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.