We are up and going by 4:45 to get a tuk tuk to the dock by 5:30 am when they told us the fast boat would leave. Of course, Bon does not believe this but I am always a bit nervous when it comes to these things. The port is not the usual one we discover, it is quite a ways out and takes almost 20 min. to get there. Being dark and not knowing where we are going we head out onto a sloping mud flat where we see some lights, a bit of water, and lots of people gathered...Bon all the time saying, "This doesn't look right!" Well, it wasn't really...because the river is down so far the usual docking place is out of water! Even when the Ichi Ban tried to dock where we were told to board it got stuck and the passengers proceeded to board a series of smaller boats which then took us to the Ichi Ban (name of our fast boat). Well, by 7:30am all were loaded and we left! Bon was right again.
We should have known this was going to be a memorable trip after such an inauspicious beginning! Some 14 hours later (the trip is supposed to take 10 hours) we finally unload at a dock in Santa Rosa, the destination in Peru...we still have to get to Leticia. The boat got stuck on at least 6 or 8 sandbars along the way and once hit something very hard which damaged the engine and caused us to stop at least 4 times along shore while the men worked on the engine...something about the air intake was mentioned?! The Amazon is very muddy and impossible to see the depth even during the day, so speeding along in dead of night was not what I'd call a relaxing experience for me or I'm sure the crew. Meanwhile, I watched a great light show of lightening in the sky, flashing over the river every minute or two...fully expection an inundation to arrive and stop us dead or perhaps raise the river enuf to float us w/o any motor, ha!
Our arrival was greeted with touts galore, many waiting since 6 when we should have arrived. Out particular one spoke some English and we learned that just 2 hours before there was a shootout in Santa Rosa in which 5 drug running guys were killed. He claims this has never happened before here and the police/armed forces of Brazil, Peru, and Colombia were out in force!! We were let off in Tabatinga where the police checked out (spread eagle, etc.)all the people on board our little boat other than Bon and I (only gringos)...we had to take a shuttle boat to get to Leticia...then just the two of us proceeded on to Leticia w/ out tout! Getting off this little boat in the dark in what appeared to nowhere-ville, Bon says again (much more agitated this time), "Tim, this does not seem right!" Well, she was right again...the normal dock was far, far from the river, high and 'dry'! We walked over mud flats, over boards crossing muck, balancing on boards a bit high for Bon yet she crossed them (cursing under her breath)...and finally, arriving at a ramp and cement landing (the actual one) where there on the ground lay dead one of the culprits! First time I've seen a recently shot dead person! A bit creepy to say the least, but then I'm not much for violence anyway.
Now we head into town, the tout says we can get a taxi since it is a 15 min. walk but then at this hour (now 11 pm) there are none so we walk. After checking out 2 possibilities which prove either unsatisfactory or full, we consult our LP and head for another...this one also full. By now Bon is fed up and angry with me because we failed to get the first little boat leaving for Leticia in which most of the other Gringos on the fast Ichi Ban had disembarked...we were alone, with a tout, and not finding a room.
But we end up at Hotel La Frontera
right on the border to Brazil at ll30 pm where the room has aircon, priv bath, and costs $35 US! Much more that we usually pay but then this was not a usual day!
Today we head out to find new digs...LP recom Residencias El Divino Nino
, where we checked last nite but was full, now with space because (we figure) a ferry is leaving for Manaus. We head to the ferry terminal to find out that we can get into a cabin for only $275 US which is considerably reduced but mainly because it is scheduled to leave in only 2 hours from now (it's noon). I am tempted, 3 nite, 4 days all food seems pretty good deal considering that we expected to pay $100/day! Bon is not happy to go without seeing the jungle at least a little, so we head back to town and check out Amazon Jungle Trips
and Reserva Natural Zacambu
, the place Cathy Stuart and family went in January. After some discussion with Antonio and a bit of anguishing over the costs he finally come down to a price for 4 nites, 5 days that normally would be given to groups of 5 or more...still close to $100/ day /person! Plus, it helped that a couple of gals from CA just returned from 3 days there and really had a great time even tho it was raining most of one day and the river was so low they had to hike/wade a mile thru mud to get to the lodge! I was sold and Bon agreed so now much poorer but at least settled on a plan we head out tomor 9 am for the jungle lodge and stay 'til Friday! Hopefully, we will catch a similar 'deal' on the Saturday ferry for a cabin to Manaus, otherwise, we'll have to be 'hanging' out in a hammock on deck for 3 days!Amazon River Info