Leaving Huanchaco yesterday was very bittersweet, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the community and spending time with my new friends. I decided it was time to move on because I had become a little too comfortable and if I were to stay there any longer, I wouldn’t want to move on. Although in the community wasn’t as productive for my project, it really gave me time to reflect on myself and my journey as well as how to proceed further.
Huanchaco — Trujillo — Tarapoto — Yurimanguas — Iquitos (the jungle). That was the outline of the next leg of my journey. After spending over a month in small provinces and towns throughput Peru, I decided to go where there will be more nature and perhaps more cultural traditions. The breakdown of the trip as follows, to get to Iquitos required a 24hr bus ride from Trujillo to Tarapoto then an additional 2hr taxi ride to Yurimanguas where I would spend 3 days on a cargo ship heading towards Iquitos. The trip was recommended to me by a friend I met in Huaraz who described it as “very life changing” and indeed, it was life changing and self-reflective for me.
Well after arriving in Yurimanguas dreary in the afternoon, I headed towards the local market with two new friends to get a hammock and some basic snacks for the ship. Since we wanted to catch the ship, we were in a bit of hurry but thankfully, we made it in time to the port on the Huallaga River where we boarded the “Eduardo V” Cargo ship. Since the bunkers and almost the entire ship was filled with food and other locals who wanted to get to Iquitos and other parts of the Jungle, we were told to hand our hammocks on the top deck or “the gringo section”. The ticket cost about 80 soles and it came with 3 meals daily so I had no complaints and it was great that I made friends quickly when I got on the ship, so I was ready and excited for the journey to begin at 5pm.
The ship actually never left that night because the river had swelled, so I spend the night in the hammock bonding with locals and trying not to get eaten by mosquitos. Around 5:30am when the ship started moving, I arose to the noise but the impending sunset over the jungle immediately caught my attention. It was absolutely stunning. I got out of my hammock and went to join the locals hunched over the rails in a unison and quietness for the rest of the sunrise – Obviously, I took tons of photos as well. Breakfast was at 6:30 am and although it wasn’t the best, it was definitely edible as was lunch and dinner.
Witnessing the calm of the jungle and the smoothness of the rivers we traversed definitely set the tone for establishing stronger relationships and learning about the populations around the Peruvian jungle. From learning about each other’s families to discussing our motivations in life, I was able to apply my perception of Ubuntu to the many stories and lives I learned about. Additionally, as the boat stopped by some of the jungle villages, I loved observing the sense of tranquility among the many villagers along the river who waited for their loved ones and those who wanted to buy crops from the ship. It’s was quite fascinating to know that the cargo on the ship was the main source of food for thousands of people who lived in the jungle and around Iquitos. Well it’s both fascinating and sort of concerning because the food comes from one source and in a way, there are many complications that can correlate with that.
Time seemed to be much slower on the ship and it 3 days felt more like a week filled with peacefulness. I spent the majority of my down time enjoying a Hermann Hesse novel, Siddhartha, which led me through a journey and endless reflections on “individuality” and “self-discovery”. In correlation, finding purpose between oneself and one’s surrounding seems to be an emerging topic I’ve been experiencing more and more throughout my journey so far. I haven’t fully grasped or understood this topic but I believe more answers and questions would arise as this journey progresses.
Anyway, arriving in Iquitos was definitely bittersweet but I was really happy with the overall outcome of this “unplanned” journey and the time spent on the ship. Iquitos itself is a very remote place with very old post-colonial buildings that makes you feel like you’ve accidentally stumbled on Cuba but in a jungle setting. The province is also incredibly humid throughout the day and it rains between 3pm and 4pm every day. I wouldn’t say I didn’t enjoy my time in Iquitos but the weather and the persistence of tourism agents to sell me jungle tours soured my experience. Since the only way to leave Iquitos was to return to Yurimanguas on the ship or by flight, I opted for the latter, flew to Lima and caught a bus to Arequipa which marks the beginning of the last leg of my time in Peru.