Peru travel blog by Mark Berman -
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After a couple of weeks of traveling the Amazon by road, I finally came to the end of the road in Yurimaguas, the only option was to continue by river! This
would be my 4th journey by river in the Amazon Rainforest, but my first in Peru. The other trips were in Brazil.
Origin of the Amazon River
Yurimaguas is a small city 2hrs north of Tarapoto
and sits on
the banks of the Huallaga River. The Huallaga River joins the bigger Marañon River further north and only when the Marañon River joins up with the Ucayali River
that connects to Pucallpa
does it become the famous Amazon River! The Amazon River actually begins about 80-100kms south of Iquitos
and goes all the way to
the Atlantic Coast east of Macapa
- Brazil (the equator). Of the 4 river journeys in the Amazon that I have done, this trip was the most laidback, relaxing and
uncrowded one of them all.
Finding a Boat
Firstly after arriving in Yurimaguas from Tarapoto and finding a cheap hotel to crash the night I headed by mototaxi down to the port
to look for a ferry or cargo ship. It's a small port and a boat was easy to find. I was actually asked by a worker if I was going to Iquitos and was pointed
towards a large cargo ferry called MF Gilmer IV. I went up to the 2nd deck and talked to the captain who was sitting at his desk outside. He said it would be
$100 Soles ($30USD) for a hammock on the deck or $150 Soles ($45USD) for a cabin and I could also have a hammock at no extra cost. Since there was no great
difference in price and because I had spent 9 nights on hammock decks on my Brazilian journeys, that's right you guessed it - I thought I would try a cabin this
time! It wasn't a fancy cabin, just a top and bottom bunk, nothing more and there was no guarantee I would have it totally to myself unless I payed $300 Soles
($90USD) for both bunks. I wasn't overly bothered but was really hoping no one else would take that bed, and as it turned out, nobody did!
Unfixed Departure Time
I was told we would
be leaving Yurimaguas at 6pm the following day - good I thought, I will get there by 2pm. I spent the next day having a look around Yurimaguas and then headed to
the ferry. There was a lot of activity happening when I arrived with men carrying sacks of potatoes and rice aboard from trucks parked nearby. They just kept on
unloading and unloading, then another truck would pull up! I soon realised that we wouldn't be leaving at 6pm at all. I asked a few of the other people what time
they had been told, funny, we all had been told a different time! I am sure the ferry was never going to leave before that night, obviously not until all that
cargo was aboard. Haha, in the end we didn't leave until 8am the next morning, quite hilarious really and part of the adventure. It was interesting to watch the action and
was a bonus free nights accommodation!
Downriver We Go!
Finally we were on our way, a morning departure means an afternoon arrival 2 days later (3 days / 2 nights). Cellphone coverage
was gradually lost as we headed downriver towards the first main town (community) Lagunas. Speaking of cellphone coverage you are better off in these parts with
Movistar, not Claro, some of the river towns have coverage!
Spending the Day
The days are spent relaxing, reading, playing guitar, enjoying photography and just taking it all in.
The sunsets are great too! It's a slow pace on a ferry at speeds of only 13-17kms per hour!
Change to the Marañon River
Lagunas we stopped at during the night and by 8am we had arrived in
Maipuco, we were now on the Marañon River, much larger than the Huallaga. This day would be very interesting indeed as we travelled along the river beside the
Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. As we pulled in to Maipuco, half the town was lined up waiting to board so as to sell food and drinks to the hungry passengers and
crew, quite a sight! Maipuco has a cellphone tower, time for a quick tweet or social post!
Enjoying the Journey
From Maipuco to San Pedro to Saramuro. I enjoyed seeing the wooden
thatched roofed houses on the banks of the river and the communities and people living there. It got quite interesting when we got to Saramuro. A huge protest
with banners telling the petrol companies to stop abusing and contaminating the rivers and that their fight is a matter of life and death! The community although
dressed in normal clothing wore feathers around their heads and carried spears! We were told not to take any photographs, but I did get a few. During the rest of
this 2nd day we passed through Nueva Elmira, Ollanta and Roca Fuerte and I started seeing a bit more bird life among the trees. Locals sometimes would wave a sheet
or t-shirt from the banks to have someone or something brought out to the ferry by motor-canoe.
Food Onboard the Ferry
The food onboard
(included in price) was quite basic, mainly white rice with a small piece of chicken and some fried banana. The meals on the Brazilian ferries were much better with
Sunsets on the Horizon
Another orangey sunset, then I chilled in my hammock until late, talked with some of the mere 15
backpackers on my deck (all the locals and families were on the first deck) and finally sleeping in my cabin.
Start of the Amazon River
By around 5am we arrived in Nauta (a major junction / town / community in the Amazon), the last port before Iquitos! It is around 15kms north of Nauta where the
Marañon River is joined by the Ucayali River to become the amazing fantastic wonderfully awesome Amazon River!!! The weather really packed up and went to
the dogs for most of this 3rd day with heavy rain. By 3:30pm we had arrived at the port in Iquitos
! From the port just take a crazy mototaxi ride into town for $5 Soles ($1.50USD)!