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From Pantoja to Iquitos

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The boat was supposed to depart on Sunday around 4 a.m., so it was easier to stay there that night. In fact the monkeys were allowed to board and sleep on the boat from the very first day, but they preferred to enjoy the comfort of the clean toilette and shower of the hotel a while longer. On Saturday evening Bimbino and Bambina packed their bags, and stepped on the board of Arabella-1. They hanged their hammocks at the level under the roof as it seamed more spacious and fresh. It was their first experience sleeping in a hammock. To their surprise, it was fairy comfortable.
The monkeys woke up when the sun was shining bright, and it was the right time to get a breakfast. They had made two bowls and two spoons out of their empty 3 liter wine bottles, and lined up for food, excited. When Bimbino and Bambina saw their breakfast, they wondered if it was a joke. When they tried it, they realized they were in trouble. Curious to know what the monkeys got for breakfast? Three small pieces of dry old bread and a whole bowl of warm slimy white liquid. That liquid was in fact a traditional Peruvian rice drink people usually have in the morning, but on that boat the monkeys were lucky to try the worst possible version of it. Rice was being boiled as long as it dissolved in the water. For giving the drink kind of a taste gloves, cinnamon, and sugar were added. The result was the most disgusting derivation of thin rice pudding and porridge.
Being hungry, disappointed, and scared of the future Bimbino and Bambina went exploring the boat. They discovered quite a few things that raised their mood. On the third level behind the kitchen they found two toilettes and two shower cabins, which were much cleaner than they hoped. On the forth level where they had their hammocks was a bar, where they could buy cold beer relatively cheap. Up on the roof was a nice place to sit and read when the sun wasn't shining and the rain wasn't pouring hard. From there they could also observe the life on the boat, and the process of loading when they stopped. In the evening it was the best place to watch sunsets.
There were quite a few disappointing things as well. The worst was the waste problem. There were signs "NO BASURA EN RÍO" everywhere, but people were constantly throwing away plastic bottles, beer cans, plastic wrappings, etc. Every minute you could see a piece of plastic ending up in the water, even though there were quite a few waste collecting bins standing around. But it was not yet the worst. Throwing the trash into the bins didn't actually make any difference. When the monkeys saw the crew of the boat dumping the trash out of those very collecting bins right into the river, they realized that those people were just hopeless.
The boat was going slow that day stopping every hour for an hour or two to load the cargo. Steadily it was getting more full with platanos, chickens, pigs, and people. People went on board willingly. Pigs, however, were not excited to take a ride. The workers had to pull them on their legs. It was quite a dangerous adventure for both, the man and the pig. A wooden plank connecting the boat to the shore was only thirty centimeters wide. When it rained the plank became muddy and slippery. The workers being mostly barefoot, or wearing light slippers, had to go over this plank pulling severely resisting huge pigs, who seemed to prefer going swimming rather than boarding the boat.
Not less remarkable was the ability of those men to carry heavy bunches of platanos one after another hours long. For their efforts the workers were provided with the better food and bigger portions. But it seemed a low remuneration for such a job, especially when the monkeys got to know that after such a trip those men had only 200 soles (≈ 50€) to bring to their families.
The first day of the trip seemed to be the longest one, as they were standing most of the time loading the cargo. In the middle of the day it rained heavily, the other time the sun was just burning. The next days the weather was similar. For lunch the monkeys got some rice with some pork, which was one of those pigs who they saw struggling to stay on the shore just a few hours ago. The portion was quite small, so they stayed hungry again. In the evening there was the same rice drink with dry bread again as for breakfast. Then Bimbino and Bambina eventually realized, that they were doomed to stay hungry for the whole trip.
Could anything become worse? It could. When the monkeys woke up next morning, they found themselves surrounded by at least 20 more hammocks than the day before. It seemed like there was no space between Bimbino's and Bambina's hammocks, but there were four people hanging there, two by the head side, two by the side of the legs. There was a whole spider net of hammocks on the boat. People were literally hanging above and under each other, everywhere you could and couldn't imagine. It was not usual though. Closer to Christmas, therefore, more passengers. However, there was a positive side of the boat being so full, not only with people, there was no more space for cargo as well. The next two days they didn't stop, and the trip took only three days instead of the usual five.
In hindsight this trip was a great experience for the monkeys, still they would never do it again.
A river taxi.
Sitting on the roof, observing men work.
The workers loading bunches of platanos on board. It is said that 30000 of platanos are daily consumed in Iquitos.
A bunch of platanos boarding the boat costs 5 Soles. When it leaves the boat it is sold for 15 Soles. One fried platano on the street is sold for 1 Sol.
A pig struggling for life.
All the chickens were pulled up to the roof.
And it was the best place to chill out,..
... to learn Spanish,..
... to take pictures,..
... to make friends,..
... and to watch sunsets.
When the sun was too strong, the monkeys used to relax in their hammocks.
When the rain was pouring down, they had to stay under the roof as well.
Río Napo enters the Amazon.
They managed to reach the great Amazon before it got really dark.
Advice from Bimbino and Bambina
Where to stay:
On the level under the roof, it is more calm and fresh. On the level lower there is a kitchen and traffic to and from the toilettes, not recommendable to stay.
What and where to eat:
The food on the boat is a joke. Buy your own stuff in Coca. Yes, in Coca (San Francisco de Orellana), it is the last possible point to buy vegetables and fruits.
You can buy cold beer on board. A can of 0,33 cl would cost you 5 Soles. There are some snacks available as well.
How to survive on the boat: The price for the trip from Pantoja to Iquitos is 90 Soles.
The trip takes from 3 to 7 days depending on the circumstances: amount of cargo to load, amount of stops, level of the river, power of the motor, etc.
Bring your own food!
Bring a lot of alcohol! Good for the evenings.
Use antiseptic alcohol for your hands often, especially before eating.
Bring books, games, or anything what could be entertaining.
Be prepared for a long journey.
What to bring:
A hammock. $12 in Coca.
A rope to hang your hammock. 3-5 meter depending on its thickness. Up to $1 for a meter.
Moskito spay. $5. In a pharmacy.
Sun block. $11,50. In a pharmacy.
Toilette paper. In case you forgot it, it is sold on board. Might be just a bit more expensive than usually.
Slippers. $2. Easy to wear and help to keep you feet clean at the shower.
Food and drinks!
A lot of water. Count minimum 1,5 liter per person per day.
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