Last Preparations in Coca
Posted on Dec 12, 2013 |
Baños de Agua Santa => San Francisco de Orellana
Hitchhiking started very late that morning. In fact so late that the monkeys started worrying that they would not be able to make it until Coca that day. Reason for that was one promise they had made: the promise to clean Maria
’s floors what took way longer than they have imagined.
The first part of the journey was quite easy, but once Bimbino and Bambina had reached Puyo, the provincial capital of Pastaza, the problems started. Standing at the South end of the city it was impossible to hitch a car going West. Waiting was no solution because of the low traffic. Walking however was a nightmare as the bypass road seemed to be endless. Pain in the feet and a sheer endless rain did not make the situation any better. Desperately looking forward to leave that place the monkeys were nearly about to board a coach when a truck driver stopped for them.
Trucks have some advantages when you are hitchhiking. They often stop for you and usually go long distances. A disadvantage is that they are very slow. This Ecuadorian truck however was special. It went not just slow, but extraordinarily slow, and not for a very long distance.
Somewhere half way to Tena the truck left the main street. The monkeys were able to hop off and get a new ride, this time on the back of a pick-up truck. It was a very windy ride but for Ecuadorian circumstances quick as hell. The car reached the speed of 100 km/h at least twice!
Nevertheless it was already getting dark when the monkeys left the car and there was no hope left for hitching another ride. When the monkeys were ready to take the next bus, the unexpected happened. A car stopped. The drivers introduced themselves as policemen on their way to work in Coca. Especially Bambina became very suspicious and a little bit afraid as she did not believe that story. Still the monkeys boarded the car as Bimbino was sure to be able to deal with the situation. For Bambina this was not secure enough so she kept a knife in her reach to be able to defend herself in case of a need. Bimbino as well did not want to lose control of the situation so he text-messaged their forthcoming host in Cuenca the details of the car and the number of it’s license plate. It is important to be careful while hitchhiking and to use your brain and intuition.
Despite all concerns the monkeys arrived safely in Coca. The drivers didn't really understand the concept of hitchhiking. They expected the monkeys to pay their share for the ride. The situation was quite uncomfortable, but Bimbino explained the drivers hitchhiking rule number one, and they left the monkeys alone. Lucky day!
Puerto Francisco de Orellana
Puerto Francisco de Orellana, better known under its short name El Coca is a small city located at the confluence of Río Coca and Río Napo. Coca is well connected by road to the west of the country. Everything that’s located east is predominantly only accessible by rivers. Coca is the base for the exploitation of Ecuador’s oil reserves. The city is full of workers on the way to their work places deeper in the Amazon, or just returning from there. And the water of Río Napo is full of rainbows and smells like gasoline even worse than the Guayas in Guayaquil.
You cannot call this city beautiful but it is definitely not as filthy and dirty as it is described sometimes. Coca has definitely a very special vibe to it. Prices are higher than elsewhere in the country, the streets are always filled with people and in the street cafes and bars it’s not always easy to find a free space in the evening. The hot and humid climate is definitely not a factor to make people go home early.
Bimbino and Bambina had a great host in Coca. Natália was not really able to host our monkeys but still she did so. As she could not offer any couch she simply gave her own bed to Bimbino and Bambina and slept herself in a friend’s room. On the first evening she took the monkeys out. No, they did not go out clubbing, for that kind of activity Coca is probably the wrong place, but they enjoyed a couple of beers together, sitting outside a bar in the downtown.
The next day Bimbino and Bambina were mainly busy preparing for their big trip. "Big trip?" you might ask. Right, we haven’t told you yet about the plan the monkeys had on their mind. Puerto Francisco de Orellana is located on the banks of the Río Napo. The river has it’s source close to Quito at the flanks of the Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s most famous volcano. It’s confluence with the Amazon is located some 1480 km further south-east in Peru, only a couple of hours away from Iquitos.
Iquitos. Isn’t that the city that became quite famous through Werner Herzog’s masterpiece of cinematography called “Fitzcarraldo”? The city that flowered in the shadow of Manaus in the times of the rubber boom but still isn’t connected by road to the rest of the world around one century later? Yes, we are talking exactly about that place and here exactly lays the reason for the monkey’s big adventure. If you want to visit Iquitos to wander in the footsteps of Mick Jagger and Klaus Kinski you either need to board a plane or you need a lot of time and go by boat.
Going from Coca is probably the toughest, longest and most uncomfortable possibility if you come from the West. In comparison to the connections from Pucallpa on the Río Ucayali and from Yurimaguas on the Ríos Huallaga and Marañon the river Napo still doesn’t get a lot of tourists. There is a speedboat connection from Coca to Nuevo Rocafuerte, the Ecuadorian boarder town (around 10 hours), but afterwards things become really tricky. To Pantoja, the first Peruvian city there is no public transport at all, so you have to make your own arrangements, once you have reached Nuevo Rocafuerte. From Pantoja you have connections until Iquitos, but those are very irregular, as the boats that connect those cities function mainly as transport ships for platanos and life stock. If you are lucky you have a boat departing the day of your arrival, if not you might end up stuck waiting for around a week. Depending on the number of stops on the way and the rainfall a ride can take from 3 days up to a week downriver. Calculating all these uncertainties in it was possible that the monkeys could make the trip in a couple of days but also that they would need more than two weeks. To learn about all the possibilities Bimbino and Bambina had to check with their footprint travelguide, and make a research in Internet. In Internet you can find quite a few blogs of people who have done it before. The most helpful information was found here
To prepare for that trip Bimbino and Bambina needed a couple of things. Most important was a hammock to sleep on the boat. Next on the list were practical things like toilette paper, mosquito repellant and sun screen on top of that a lot of drinking water and even more important, alcohol. But before shopping Bimbino and Bambina had to find out departure time for their speed boat to Nueva Rocafuerte and buy the tickets. Natália had shown them the ticket office before, but it was closed when they came by again. ...fortunately. Further investigation brought the monkeys to another company which has boats leaving later in the morning and arriving a couple of hours earlier for the same price! After the monkeys were finished with their preparations they ended their long day in the city in a street café for some pastry and juices. Completely exhausted from running around Bimbino and Bambina had deserved that. The juices were amazing. In fact, those were milkshakes that are called "batidos" in Ecuador. Bimbino had "mora" (blackberry), and Bambina had "fresa! (strawberry) taste. Batidos have a very delicate flavor, creamy consistency, and are quite nourishing. The pastries were also very good.
Bimbino and Bambina had deserved some treatment after a hard day.
You are looking at a ticket office (first floor) of the boat company which Bimbino and Bambina had found. Behind is the river, to the left is the bridge under construction, just 2 minutes walk from the main harbor.
A cosy bed where Bimbino and Bambina had a chance to spend two nights. Thanks to lovely Natália!
Natália liked Bimbino a lot. And he did not hesitate to flirt with her all the time.
Advice from Bimbino and Bambina
Where to stay:
. If she cannot host it is still advisable to meet her. She will cheer you up!
Where to go/hang out:
The city center has some bars and pubs. Just sit outside with a beer and enjoy the atmosphere.
What to eat:
Try "batidos" in a café on avenida Napo. We forgot the name of the café and the street crossing av. Napo at that place. But it is somewhere between Vicente Rocafuerte and Guayaquil.
Where to buy tickets for the boat:
There are two possibilities:
: an office on the photo above. Good boats, bus like. $15. The trip takes around seven hours. Departures: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 a.m.
: at the harbor. The boats are not as good. Departures Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 6:30 a.m. Warning!
When you arrive to Coca, check the boat information before blindly relying on the info above. The situation might change: the schedule, amount of boats going daily, etc.
Follow the adventures of the Travelling Monkeys! More stories to come soon...