(Day 124 – 130)
24.03.2010 - 30.03.2010 34 °C
Leticia is the gateway to the Amazon jungle on the Colombian side and is completely landlocked, you can only access it by flight (or boat). Its proximity and familiarity to Tabitinga (Brasil) is such that you can just wonder down the street and have a meal in Brasil then get back to Colombia for your dessert. Quite fun and easy. Peru is also just on the other side of the River.
Upon arrival, we felt the humidity hit us instantly. Its not like we arent used to humidity (try Mauritius on a Summer´s day) but this was something more intense than anything we´d experienced before, with a mixture of high temperature and high humidy really taking us by surprise.
We met some other backpackers at the airport and all shared taxis to the hostel we had booked. After settling in we all took a walk to the centre of this little town to have a drink and watch the sunset from a Park where exotic Parrots and various other birds come at sunset. It was quite a sight, or rather quite a sound!
On the next day, we were going to take it easy and enquire about taking a slow boat into Peru – having been told that there were no boats going on that day. After some enquiries with our buddy Yannick (from France), we found out that a boat was actually leaving that very same day, and at 12h we found ourselves in a frenzy of organisation to get hammocks (to sleep in on board), food (as food is meant to be yuck), getting our exit stamp etc etc to be ready on board as soon as possible as the best spots get taken fast.
On route to the boat the 3 of us had to go back to the airport and get our Exit Stamp from Colombia. Then we had to take a water taxi to the town belonging to Peru in the Amazon – Santa Rosa – just a few minutes away where we had to get our Entry Stamp to Peru!
Once all this was done, we finally boarded the “Gran Loretana” which was to take us to Iquitos over 3 nights and 2 days of slow cruising on the Majestic Amazon River and into Peru.
The “Slow Boat” isn’t a luxury boat; in fact it’s purely a cheap means of transport for the locals to get to villages along the Amazon. Despite hearing different and mixed feelings about the experience, we decided to see for ourselves. After all, what an authentic way to travel up the river and relax at the same time (Martin had been looking forward to this trip for a VERY long time and was to be one of his highlights of our trip so far).
The worse experience would be that the boat could be absolutely packed with people and hammocks on all levels; some even transporting cattle, horses, chicken and pigs along too. Luckily for us, our boat was relatively clean; we had enough space and were livestock-free! We saw some boats go by with all of the above and thanked the heavens we were lucky enough to avoid THAT experience!
It’s known that you have to “rough it” a bit when you travel the slow boat, shower water is from the Amazon (which Steph bravely made use of), toilets are disgusting and you get little sleep. But the views, sunsets and beauty of travelling extremely slowly up stream and so close to the banks of this mighty river make up for this a thousand fold. The great thing about travelling upstream means you always hug the banks of the river rather than being hundreds of meters away travelling downstream and can see some wildlife (although not much, some impressive birds and river dolphins mainly).
We spent our days reading in our hammocks, looking out at the scenery (amazing how long you can do this for), we even played a game of Bingo with the locals on the last day! And the evenings were spent having a few drinks and the 3 of us playing games and chatting before going to bed nice and early.
It was great stopping at all the small Amazonian villages along the way to drop off supplies and pick up other people. Small communities with thatched huts on stilts lined the banks where we were able to wander around a bit and try local samples such as BBQ crocodile (which Martin tried!) or fish and rice.
The only disturbing part of this trip (and actually throughout our trip in South America) was the fact that all the locals throw their rubbish overboard: Bottles, nappies, anything goes. It was particularly hard as some even teach their kids to do it! We felt helpless throwing our rubbish in bins as we wondered if the bin would be emptied in the Amazon too...It seems they don’t realise what an incredible part of the world this place is and have no respect for it.. Even more frustrating is that we are only visitors to their beautiful country and cannot tell them how to do things as we are merely observers..
Anyways, apart from that, it was an amazing experience and we both enjoyed it immensely.
We arrived early morning in Peru in the town of Iquitos where we spent one full day and one night before flying off to Lima on our way to Cusco.