After a busy morning packing, we’re met by Gerson around noon, say goodbye to our hotel friends…
… and head in the hotel’s mini-van to the waterfront where we climb down the steep steps to the rickety pontoon to where there are waiting speedboats but there seems to be a mix up with ours and to Zoe’s horror have to sit in a small, grubby floating cafe with a single table and a couple of broken stools…
…although they do serve cold Coca Colas and Sprite which helps a lot!
We meet Ollin, Gerson’s cousin and Frank who’s coming too, we’ll also have a boatman but will meet him when we get our own small boat on the Napo river. It’s an exciting trip too for Ollin and Frank who’ve never been up the Napo or outside Peru but are very familiar with jungle life and travel!
Gerson comes from a small jungle village and much technology is new him. He has a brand new Lumix camera, testament to his successful business and he rode in an elevator with us for the first time at our hotel in Iquitos. We show him the blue dot on Google Earth that is us, speeding down the Amazon – the magic of satellite – they think for a moment it’s the blue roof of our speedboat on camera…
We’re all too soon at Indiana, a smart town with alot of steps up to the road and market. We scout around the market with Frank to find a toilet for the kids and a lady provides us with a small bowl of water to wash hands and flush the loo, then we say our final farewell to the Amazon River(although our journey on the Napo is still very much in the Amazon rainforest) and pile into three moto taxis for a 20 minute ride on a paved road through the jungle to Mazan where we’re staying the night.
Mazan is on the river Napo and we’ve taken the short cut in the moto taxis rather than a few hours further by river down the Amazon to where the Napo flows into it. We pull up at a single story hotel and check into two very basic double rooms. They each have a bathroom but without running water. This is the kids’ first experience of a bucket and scoop to shower, wash, flush! We head out to search for lunch – there’s a restaurant but no menu – you eat what they have and we have rather tasty chicken, rice and fried potatoes, then wander around town, buy some biscuits in a bakery, and sit in a small village square whilst the kids run around and Lara shares the biscuits with some intrigued local kids. Mazan is very much off the typical tourist path, we’re not the typical town visitors.
The hotel has electricity from 6pm-11pm and even a room with some laptops the guests can use but the Internet is not surprisingly down. We meet a Norwegian nurse who has just spent a few weeks working on a mobile river medical boat that travels the Napo river. We head out to little playground we spotted by the river and watch sunset over the Napo and after a simple supper at the same little restaurant we get a early night back at the hotel. Lara, Zoe and I struggle to get comfy in the small, hot, double bed. I ponder the fact that this may be the most luxurious of our 10 night expedition and try to think positively!!
In the morning we head into town early in search of breakfast and find bread rolls, ham and cheese slices so we can have a ‘western’ breakfast – which we make and eat in the square by the river whilst Gerson tries to organise today’s boat.
We thought we’d be taking our own boat from here but instead we have a long wait for a crowded speedboat to Santa Clotilde, the girls are hot and fed up although a wander round a shop and purchase of new shorts and t-shirts cheers them up considerably!
Eventually we board a crowded public speedboat. Lara is on my lap and the windows don’t open enough to get cool. We have a few snacks but they dont provide any food until mid afternoon when a fried egg roll tastes like the best food on earth.
We finally arrive some 6 hours on at Santa Clotilde and guzzle cold cokes in a little street bar on the riverbank then head up another street to Habitaje Princesa 1 – we need two rooms again, they’re pretty dark, dingy rooms although they’re building some brighter en suite rooms at the back. They agree to turn on the pump so we can shower and let us use one of the ‘new’ bathrooms to freshen up – a very welcome cold shower although difficult to have any privacy with an interested lady and her kids watching us through the open window and asking me lots of questions! We are clearly a rather unusual spectacle!
We eat supper of chicken and rice in a tiny restaurant by the river, and Zoe finds a little shop to buy some nail varnish for 1 sol a bottle (about 25p)
Gerson is worried and explains that the boat plans are not panning out as expected which may blow the budget. The boatman he’s found says we can’t take a Peruvian boat beyond the border towns of Pantoje and RocaForte through Ecuador to Coca, but asking around it seems we ‘should’ be able to take a public boat from there to Coca – we’ve read stories of people stranded in either of these towns for days waiting for boats and cant help wonder what lies ahead but it sounds like there aren’t alot of alternative options and the public boat in Ecuador won’t cost more than US $15 each – we have enough US dollars for this! And hopefully enough for a night or two in a hotel at the border!
In our girls room we decide one single bed is simply too hot for three if us and get out a thermarest so Zoe can bravely sleep on the floor in spite of Ben’s sighting of a big cockroach in the boys room. Electricity goes off 9.30pm and the little town and hotel fall silent and dark! Around 3am I wake to torrential rain pounding on the roof and listen to it for the rest of the night, hoping it will stop by morning for the boarding of our basic, open sided boat to take us to Ecuador!