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To The Other Side

It was one of the most beautiful boat rides they had ever had in their life: stunning, a little bit scary, smooth, and chanting. Bambina had to get used to the feeling of instability of the boat, it took some time. But, when she finally could confide in the captain and trust in his knowledge of the river, she was able enjoy the ride. Being so close to the water changed their perception of the river and nature around. It's like the difference between going by car and by bicycle on land. This boat was a bicycle. They were so much more in contact with the surroundings, they could easily touch the water, they saw white birds flying around, and the jungle seemed much closer this time.
Señor Sifuente must have known the best time to start the trip. Around 5 p.m. they left Rocafuerte, and half an hour later the game of the light started. The nature was quiet, and the water was still, so that it became a mirror which was reflecting the sunset colours of the sky. It was amazing!
A few times the motor of the boat stopped. Good that they went down the river, so they would have arrived at some point anyway. But their captain was tranquil and was always able to start the motor again doing some secret magic, the same he used to navigate on the river, as if he saw a path on the water invisible to all of the rest of the passengers.
 Jungle The jungle in the water.
 Captain Our captain.
 photo IMG_1988.jpg The colours of the sunset.
 photo IMG_2005.jpg Pantoja. First, you see a Peruvian military base.
 photo IMG_2010.jpg And then, behind the bend of the river, the village itself.
Pantoja, Peru
So the Monkeys arrived to the other side of the border, they were in Peru. It was a Thursday, the 12th of December.
In the process of unloading the boat they lost a big bottle of water, luckily not wine. Bimbino didn't manage to catch the bottle when Bambina threw it on the shore, and it rolled down into the river right under the boat. Juanjo, their Spanish friend, tried to help them to get it back, but all the attempts to find the bottle went in vain and made his t-shirt wet. The current right at the shore is quite strong. Be careful not to drop your stuff while unloading.
Everyone knew already the reason the gringos came. So right away the Monkeys were shown a hotel to stay and told to expect the boat to arrive on Saturday. In the hotel they were offered to stay in a double room for $6 per person, and Juanjo in a single one for $8. The Monkeys didn't want that much of comfort, and agreed for a place on the terrace to hang their hammocks for $2 per person. In the end they decided to sleep on the floor, as they didn't have the right rope for hanging their hammocks. Bimbino and Bambina just put some paper boards on the floor, as bums usually do, and their sleeping bag on top. And they slept very well...
Bimbino got up first, and soon came back to wake Bambina up:
"There is a big boat parked at the shore. We must run quick before it leaves without us!"
"Wtf!" - Bambina thought. "It was supposed to arrive on Saturday they said!"
The boat was not going to leave any time soon though. It had arrived earlier than expected, but would live only on Sunday morning. The whole day people were unloading the cargo. This boat is the only source of products from the big land. The vegetables and chicken people can grow right there, but Coca Cola, chocolate, tin cans, and all the other mass products are being transported with this boat. The boats bring valuables of the modern society in exchange for platanos and life stock. The next days thousands of platanos were loaded on the boat. And the monkeys had to wait.
 photo IMG_2011.jpg Arabela-1 was the name of the boat.
 photo IMG_2013.jpg Looking forward to the trip!
The first important task in Pantoja was stamping the passports. There they didn't have any problems at the immigration office. A nice Peruvian lady was happy to stamp their travel documents. Moreover, she was so excited to meet the Travelling Monkeys, that she ask them for a short photo session together.
There was not a lot more to do in Pantoja beside reading or learning Spanish. For a change Bimbino and Bambina were walking a lot around observing the life in the village. A big challenge for them was finding food. On their first day in Pantoja the monkeys woke up quite late, around 10 a.m. When they started looking for a café to have breakfast, none of the restaurants had food. The breakfast time was over, the next meal would be ready after 1 p.m. To forget about hunger Bimbino and Bambina went to explore the town, and the most interesting sight they found was a toilet. They were absolutely astonished with the engineering idea embodied in this structure which seemed to remain standing contrary to the laws of physics.
 photo IMG_2014.jpg Where the shit was being dropped off remained a secret.
Sleep, shit, eat - the usual routine of the day. Bimbino and Bambina found a decent restaurant: a bit far away from the center, just two minutes walk, but with a relatively good lunch offer. It even seemed tasty after half a the day of starvation. If the sun is shining it is incredibly hot in the restaurant, as no insulation is used on the roof, but sheer corrugated sheet iron. It made a sauna effect inside the building. However, the monkeys came back there the next day anyway.
 photo IMG_2029.jpg Chicken with rice for Bimbino. And fried eggs with rice for Bambina.
Two days in Pantoja passed pretty fast. The monkeys didn't have much time for reading and relaxing in the past two months, so they enjoyed their time at most. In the evening they took sort walks around the village to enjoy the sunset. After such a walk on Saturday evening they packed their bags and stepped on the board of Arabela-1.
 photo IMG_2030.jpg The main street of Pantoja. The concentration of the city life.
 photo IMG_2035.jpg The same street, and the hotel with the blue walls where the monkeys stayed.
 photo IMG_2036.jpg Every little village has a discotek.
 photo IMG_2040.jpg Hospital, and immigration office behind.
 photo IMG_2041.jpg Town Hall. Always empty, but with all the lights on. A great example of how to waste energy.
 photo IMG_2043.jpg A bridge to the other side. Literally.
 photo IMG_2045.jpg On the other side there is a graveyard.
 photo IMG_2050.jpg You think you could buy chicken here? Nope, it's an election campaign.
 photo IMG_2051.jpg Bye-bye Pantoja!
Advice from Bimbino and Bambina
Where to stay:
There is only one hotel in town. It is located at the riverfront. You can stay there for $6-8 in a room with a bathroom inside. Or you can hang your hammock on the terrace for $2.
If you have to stay longer and have a tent, it should be possible to find a camping spot near by someone's house or in someone's garden.
What and where to eat:
The food in Pantoja is very basic. Simple soup, salad, rice and chicken would cost you $2,50-3,50 (6-10 Soles). Vegetarians can get fried eggs with rice and salad. The soup is often made with fish. You can also get fried fish time by time.
There is no fresh bred in town.
The best lunch the monkeys found in the restaurant up the hill on the other side of a football field. There are no names on the restaurants in Pantoja, but everyone knows where it is possible to eat.
The best dinner they ate on the main street. On this photo you can see a tent-ish construction with a green roof. This is the place. Don't wait till too late, the food is quickly eaten at that table. And after 8 p.m. it is very unlikely to find a restaurant that serves food.
In fact, the best is to have your own stock of food and cooking facilities. Vegetarians should bring veggies and fruits. There seems to be nothing except for platanos.
How to find a boat:
There is no schedule for the boats in Pantoja. You might be lucky to arrive just in time for the boat, you might have to wait a week. But the locals usually know approximately when the next boat should be arriving.
The price for the trip from Pantoja to Iquitos costs 90 Soles. Don't believe, that food is included. It is not food, it's a joke.
The trip takes from 2,5 to 7 days depending on the circumstances: amount of cargo to load, amount of stops, level of the river, power of the motor, etc.
What to bring:
Money! There is no ATM in town.
Exchange rate USD/Peruvian Sol:
You get a very bad exchange rate in Pantoja: 1 Dollar = 2,5 Soles.
In Rocafuerte there is a possibility to exchange money with a better rate. So is you didn't do it in Coca, don't hesitate to exchange money in Rocafuerte. The rate would be 1 Dollar = 2,6-2,7 Soles. What they sell Dollars for we don't know. Always check the banknotes you get, Soles as well, each of them!
ATM:
There is no ATM in Pantoja (and no in Rocafuerte, as we mentioned before). Make sure you take enough money with you from Coca!
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