Welcome to day 3. I forgot to mention that yesterday, March 8th, was International Women’s Day. All around the city every girl had roses. When I got back home I had to look it up to figure it out. I don’t remember celebrating this in the US, the center of creating holidays to market for. I actually just thought it was the Latin men showing their love. If I may generalize, I see lots of American men and women marrying Latin counterparts. 9 times out of 10 it ends poorly. From what I have seen, Latin men are compassionate, but unfortunately that love extends to multiple women, and this of course makes the women extremely possessive and jealous. Not that I would know anything about that, just stereotyping of course.
Back to our story. I landed in Leticia Colombia, which is basically in the middle of nowhere, sitting right on the border of Brazil, Peru and Colombia, thereby creating a clusterbleep for passports and international travel.
Here is a picture from the plane
The Amazon is the river, with the far shore being divided between Colombia on the left and Brazil on the right. The near shore is Peru. This will all become important as we follow my path around this international nightmare.
I got off the plane with much fanfare and excitement from the natives.
It was raining, and would continue off and on for the next 10 days. I got a stamp at the airport to exit the country of Colombia and hopped on a moto-taxi after thoroughly researching his credentials, driving records and parking tickets.
Locals love it when they see guys like me leaning off the back of the bike taking pictures of themselves, especially because they already weigh more than the bike and the driver together, not including the 50 pound pack on my back.
The only thing they like better is snapping shots of Colombia’s finest. A real crowd pleaser.
So, the way I understood it, I needed to get my reservation on a boat leaving at 4am for Iquitos (13 hour fast boat 250 miles West on the Amazon into Peru.)
To do this I would need to go to boat office in Brazil, then go to Peru to get an entry passport stamp, before returning to Colombia for sleep, then back to Brazil for boat to Peru to catch the fast boat deeper into Peru. Should go pretty smooth.
So I had the motorcycle take me to Brazil (5 miles from Colombian airport). Here is a picture of crossing the border in Brazil, consisted of a saw horse that we drove around.
The town across the border in Brazil is called Tabatinga. It just sounds like the hideout of a villain in a James Bond movie. It was a little shady, and overrun by moped gangs
I was dropped off at the boat office, but they said they were not accepting reservations for another 6 hours. There was no where safe to explore here so I caught a moto-taxi back to Leticia and started walking around killing time
I walked down to the riverfront and got my first view of the Amazon
It was kinda a little tributary of the river, so not too impressive. I will refrain from documenting its grandeur until such time as I see fit.
I sat down and had lunch, which was a mix of chicken and rice
Before I left I was listening to a nurse lecture on her aid work in Equador. She said she has seen countless volunteers ending up with digestive problems while in S.A. It always traces back to one of three things; lettuce, salsa, or ice. Well of course during lunch I was piling on salsa and guzzling ice water in the heat. Oh well, I reasoned, might as well continue eating salsa the rest of the trip since I already started, right?
I went looking for a hostel to sleep until 4am when the boat left for Iquitos, still paranoid about getting on said boat. I found this little place, La Jangada owned by a young Swiss named Herve. I told him my plan to head back to Brazil in a couple hours to get my ticket and he asked me if I had been to the Island of Santa Rosa in Peru to get my Peru entrance stamped. I thought they would do that when I got on the boat at 4am. Apparently I had to go into Peru within the next hour before closing to get stamped.
So I headed down to the river in Colombia and hired a boat taxi to take me over to Peru
When I got there, the place looked like the wild west.
I was contemplating staying over there so I could just stroll out of a hostel at 4am and onto the boat, but it was 4pm and Friday and everyone was already drunk. The tamest thing I saw, that I felt comfortable taking a picture of was a few quiet souls playing pool
I went to the immigration office and no one was home. I say no one was “home”, because of course the office was primarily a residence. I walked around and made stamping motions on my passport until someone rounded up the stamping man. He took care of me and I could not get off this island soon enough. So instead of taking the boat back to Colombia, I had them motor me over to Brazil, where the ticket office was. I got off in Tabatinga
I found a motorcycle taxi and eventually found my way back to the boat office. Whenever I get on a moto-taxi I always get these weird looks. It is usually some small kid that comes up to me and mutters like Short Round for Indiana Jones about how he will take me anywhere, and when I agree on a price, we rush to a bike as everyone is laughing. I don’t know if they are laughing at the stupid gringo, or because I just agreed to get on a bike with a 10year old who was stealing some other guy’s bike for the day, or possible because I was being led off to my great demise.
Regardless, I got to the office and asked them about a ticket. After at least 20 minutes of frustrated hand gestures, I came to understand that I was on the manifest and did not need a ticket. Ummm, No! I know how this is going to go, I get to the boat at 4am, not speaking Spanish, telling the driver that they told me I did not need a ticket and that I was on the manifest. He would get pissed and I would be stading on a dock in the Amazon watching the boat head off. So I begged for a ticket, but no dice. I knew I was screwed.
I got back on a bike and rodeto Colombia. I got off the bike and the driver wanted 5K Pesos. I had pesos, Reals (Brazil), and Soles. I did not have the amount he wanted and I just added up various currencies till i got to what he wanted. He told me all currency was equivalent, but that was obviously not true. Since I was not familiar enough at the moment with the exchanges, I did what I normally did. I hand over a bunch of money and accept what he decides to return and strut off.
I walked by the Parque Santader, which the guide book mentions as the place where the local parrots and such come in to sleep around 5pm. Of course I look at my watch like Jim Carrey in the bathroom truckstop in Dumb and Dumber and it is right on time.
You can’t talk or hear anything over the screeching green parrots. After about 5 minutes I escaped without getting shit on too much and headed to a local “pharmacy” for a new bottle of desperately needed deodorant.
This is the pharmacy
These bottles had not been opened since some snake oil salesman found them in the 1800s and sold them as the latest in male enhancement remedies. Some of them had English directions, with things like ground leaves into paste and rub on body to cure arthritis, impotence, diarrhea, etc…really not all that different from modern medicine.
It was kinda funny as I looked for some of this when I got home and found them in the local store in some fancy bottle converted from leaves to a moisturizer, stating pretty much the same uses.
I headed to hostel for a about 5 hours of sleep. I did this because I went to a no less than 5 bars asking for a Cerveza, and it took about that many for them to explain something about how the president would not allow drinking on Friday nights….what? People were going crazy about 500 yards away in Peru and you don’t serve beer at all? Yes..ok, I am going to bed.
I awoke with a start at about 330am. Damn, I over slept my 3 alarm clocks. There was some sort of vehicle downstairs honking his horn. I came downstairs, trying to dress, as 3 backpackers asked if I had the Tuk-Tuk or the cab. I looked at them like they were idiots and replied that I had the small car. Later realizing that the Tuk-Tuk, seen more famously in Thailand was the small three-wheeled car.
I gathered my crap in the pouring rain and was off back to Brazil to catch a boat to Peru to hopefully catch the fast boat to Iquitos. Fortunately, I always pack my bag for a quick getaway before I fall asleep because I am prone to such events.
Seriously I had never crossed city limits as often as I am now crossing country lines. I ended up going to the same place in Brazil as the hostel backpackers and sharing a water taxi over to Santa Rosa in Peru
These backpackers had been traveling for a couple months and turned their noses up at a short-timer like me. You will notice that there are tourists and travelers. Tourists zoom in, use the guidebook and try to hit the major attractions. Travelers stay for a week and sip cervezas, smoke weed and stumble into various adventures based on local’s suggestions. Often ending up in Argentina when they really had planned to be in Spain by this time. It did not matter as long as they got to the city where there plane for home leaves in 3 months.
I am obviously conflicted in that I would like to be a traveler, but I have a life outside of travel (debatable) and don’t enjoy sitting around doing drugs and taking Spanish courses for 3 weeks.
As soon as they were done pontificating about the rawness of their experience they went back to their ipods, ipads and iphones and I did not feel so snobbish anymore.
We get to the boat launch, here is our seaworthy vessel
Everyone starts to huddle up as the Peruvian police show up and check passports for one of the 3 stamps I have. I would end up with about 12 at the end of trip, actually makes my passport look kinda nice. Almost looks like a ‘traveler’
What happens next? Everyone takes out their tickets and gets on the boat. Dammit! I of course do not have a ticket. I get to the boat chief and show my passport and start saying something about ticket in office and not required because number on el manifesto? He looks at me as everyone does here, and some people in the states as well…Annoying American.He radios back somewhere and I am approved. I was very very relieved and surprised. They packed everyone’s bag on the roof of the boat while I kept the death grip on my bag as I did not want to end up at Wally World with my luggage floating 200 mile back in the Amazon when we ran over an errant log.
I settled into an airplane like coach seating formation and popped some pills. I slept for about 2 hours, thinking the boat ride was only going to be 8 hours as advertised. Unfortunately I had 13 hours of fun as we swung by the 2nd largest ball of twine on Earth among other stops.
To Continue Reading this Trip as i head into Peru, click Here, or click "Next" below to read more trips in Colombia