This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution click to the left or right of an image in blog mode. The images were generated from video to give the best possible view of the journey.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Down the Ucayali to Pacaya

We had been down to the Pucallpa wharf a couple of days before to find out which boats were setting off towards Iquitos, the isolated main city of Peruvian Amazonas accessible only by river or by air. We now went down on the day of departure to join the Morochitaii on the next leg of the journey.

The river boats were all pulled up on the muddy shore and the place was a chaotic melee of trucks getting stuck on the maddy access road, produce and vehicles haphazardly jumbled together, people everywhere struggling with heavy loads surrounded by a muddy string of shanties covering as food stalls and cafes.

Panoramas of the boats and shanties.

We found ourselves a place on the river boat, but loading was taking hours. There is no scheduled departure time. The boat simply leaves when it is fully loaded. There are no cabins, but you need to get in early to find a reasonable place to string your hammock and put your stuff. From there you have to keep your eye on it all because people are coming and going everywhere.

Not only were cars being loaded but a whole Danafrio ice cream truck was struggling on up a coupe of preilous planks in jerks pushed by a large front-end loader.

We set up hammocks amid a crowd of others filling all the available deck space and took it in turns to keep an eye on our packs and possessions. I had planned for this by rigging my pack with a steel rope with eyelets so it could be padlocked to a deck post and in addition had it spiked with an auto alarm running off the motor bike battery I used for recharging the videos via the solar panels.

In the middle of the melee, a middle aged man came up to us pleading with us to consider going on an expedition to the Pacaya-Samiria nature reserve.

He had a folded pencil-drawn map and said he could arrange the whole thing from the boat with his relatives by radio if we agreed. Since the offer seemed plausibly genuine and we were going right by the reserve and we hadn't visited any nature reserves in the Amazon Basin, and the price was very reasonable, we agreed.

Adam set up in his hammock.

Towards evening the boat took off into the night.

The next day the boat chugged on down the Ucayali, now a major transport river with many large boats coming and going and a rather desolate looking scrappy jungle border.

A shag and a white heron.

The river now became very wide in sections where the flow fanned out into flood plains.

We passed several villages ...

... and then a regional town almost entirely filled with thatched huts apart from the town centre and church ...

Panoramas of the town

The town centre

Panorama of the town centre

The boat made regular stops at any village where people were getting on or off or trading was to be done

Some parts of the Ucayali are very tortuous with islands and many channels.

A panorama at a point where the river divided into several channels

Brahmin cattle and wild parakeets.

The local crowds at yet another village stop.

Panoramas of another glorious Amazonian sunset.

Finally we disembark at the village opposite Pacaya-Samiria

The village had a conservation project hatching tortoise eggs.

Another river boat passes by

We had to stay over for a couple of nights in the village while our hosts - a small family affair with two brothers running a single dugout canoe - got permission to enter the reserve.

We had to make two trips along the river bank to the next village to get permission to enter the park by radio.

Fora and fauna on the track between the villages

Radioing for permission

A rather unhappy pet

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