No one said it would be easy, did they?
Iquitos is the largest city in the world with no roads attaching it to the outside world. One must either catch a plane or a boat to arrive.
As many of you know, I was headed to Pucallpa, Peru, to catch a boat to Iquitos two and a half years ago. On my way, I, along with the rest of my bus, was robbed by armed bandits. I decided not to head into the jungle and knew that Iquitos awaited me another day.
That day has finally arrived, but not without some difficulties.
My last night in Leticia I thought I would go to bed early, as I had to be at the port to catch my boat at 3am. Instead I got drunk with Vladimir and his friends, before going to a party at the University with some friends I had met the previous night. Needless to say, I did not sleep prior to my boat.
We boarded and were off by 3:45am. I was told the boat ride would take 10-12 hours. No problem. I fell asleep and had a mediocre sleep for a few hours.
About 10 hours in the boat stopped. Oh ya, the motor was broken in the middle of the Amazon. I´m bad luck.
So at first the guys driving the boat tried fixing the motor. No dice. The boat could move really slowly, so we tied to a tree and they worked on it for half an hour or an hour, who knows. Finally they decided to call for help, and we were told another boat would be arriving in an hour. We continued upriver at our slow pace.
4 hours later a tiny boat appeared. At this point it was starting to get dark outside and my iPod had long ago died. Apparently there was a mechanic on the little boat and he worked on our boat. No dice once again. Half an hour later another boat appeared.. it looked just like the boat we were on, and I thought we would all hop on that boat and finally be in Iquitos soon.
WISHFUL THINKING. The other boat could only hold 20 people. There were about 50 of us. Now remember, I know some Spanish, but when people are talking to each other or announcing things, I barely understand a word. It’s too fast. I didn’t know it was time to flippin STAMPEDE to the door to get on the little boat.
So I didn’t get on.
Then another half hour later another bunch of people stampeded their way out and got on the little boat; maybe 7 or so people got to leave that way.
And so we were left there in the pitch black, outside, in the middle of the Amazon. No one spoke English. Now earlier I was alright – these things happen, it was a road block but it was ok. But once we were abandoned by both boats, with no food, minimal water, and no word on if another boat was coming (perhaps we were told but I never heard, plus it seemed it would be another 4 hours if we were going to be rescued!) I started to really panic. Yes, I am doing a jungle trek, but that is with an experienced guide. We were just a bunch of people on a boat.
Alright, for all you who honestly think I’m all strong and brave, I’m about to shatter the illusion. I started speaking to myself in English, and swearing quite a bit. No one knew or paid any attention. And then I started crying. I’d been on a boat for 15 hours or so already without being able to communicate at all. I had no idea what was happening or if we’d be there all night. The toilet didn’t work when the motor wasn’t running, there was no toilet paper, we were all sweaty and stinky, it was cramped, and there were no lights on in the boat. So I had a bit of a cry.
Then a man sat next to me and started trying to speak to me. He was very patient with me and would repeat things, and talk slowly. When I said Ï was scared, lonely, tired, and I needed a cigarette, the whole boat laughed. I was dead serious but it got a chuckle out of everyone.
This kind man, who it must be noted was named Hitler, continued to talk to me and I calmed down. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere… the motor! The motor the motor the motor! It came back to life! We were on our way! Hitler told me we would be in Iquitos in an hour!
So finally we made it. 18 hours on that little boat, and by the end I felt positively chlostrophobic. I got off the boat and all the taxi drivers were yapping yapping yapping. I had no idea what hostel I was going to yet and just wanted to be left alone to breathe for a minute. They weren’t having any of that. Honestly I know taxi drivers are aggressive over here but these were the worse I’ve ever encountered. They followed me around and just wouldn’t leave until I got in a taxi. The hotel the taxi driver brought me to was expensive and didn’t give me good vibes and I just wanted to go sit in the Plaza de Armas but the taxi driver kept flippin following me!
I was at my wits end. I sat in the plaza with my bags and a kind looking artisan with dreaded hair from Argentina came along and asked me in spanish how I was. I said the truth! I was not good, I was not happy, and I just needed a flippin hostel. I asked if he knew of a good, cheap, close by, touristy hostel. Honestly I don’t need to be meeting many tourists and speaking english, but after that day, I just wanted somewhere homey.
So he brought me to a hostel, at long last. The couple who own the place spoke french, though my brain was pretty dead so I kinda half spoke french and half spanish to them, but of course they understood. They showed me to my room, gave me a map, they were just very kindhearted. Finally I went out to get a meal, not the cheapest of meals but by this time it was almost midnight, I’m lucky I found vegetarian food at all.
When I woke up this morning I still felt a bit uneasy from it all. I went downstairs and ran to the store to get a couple of eggs and some bread, which ran me the insane price of about 40cents Canadian. I went to make my breakfast and a German girl named Andi was in the kitchen. She and her partner, Olly from England, are the only others in my hostel at the moment. Chatting with Andy this morning honestly got me back on my feet. We spoke in English over breakfast, and I told her of my journey and all the problems I’d had, but I also told her about my trek to the jungle that is coming up and how excited I am. She told me about her experiences with ayahuasca, and it just gives me goosebumps how beautiful it was.
So here I am, hiding out from the intense heat (it’s worse than Leticia!) in an internet cafe. And now? Time to go explore Iquitos, after 3 years of attempting to arrive here. Wish me luck!