Welcome to the Amazonas!

Back to the jungle! After our short intermezzo in Bogota we were ready to leave the city and exchange it for nature, and a lot of it!

For a while we doubted if we would go to the Amazon because we feared our budget wouldn’t be able to cope with it. The only way to get there in Colombia is by plane. And leaving the amazon again in Peru would most probably also mean traveling by air even though there are a few alternatives with some boats. The plane tickets are reasonably cheap in South America but it is still a more expensive way of traveling.

However, we couldn’t stand the thought we would spend several months in South America and not visit the Amazon, and besides we saved quite a bit of money during our stay in Guatapé. So in the end we made the decision to go to the Amazon, and boy, we did not regret it!

During our flight to Leticia we could already admire the endless green tapestry beneath us, divided by many winding rivers. Of course, we already knew that the Amazon jungle is immense, but when we watched it with our own eyes we felt pretty small and humble compared to this sea of green.

When we landed it Leticia we were picked up by Paola, she brought us to our hostel where we were welcomed by David. It was immediately clear to us we liked both the hostel and the town. The people were friendly and the relaxed chaos in the streets felt very comfortable.

First thing we did was crossing the amazon to Peru, to get our passport stamped. Our exit stamp from Colombia we already got at the airport when we landed. With that, all our administration was out of the way and we could focus on the more interesting parts of our stay.

One of the annoying parts in the jungle is that it is fairly hard to get out on your own without booking a tour. And tours are relatively expensive. Despite that fact and our limited budget we opted to go on two day tours. One more touristic trip with a boat on the river and another one hiking into the jungle with a guide of the local Tikuna tribe.

So the next day we went off for our boat trip with about 10 other tourists. We visited the Brazilian border town Benjamin Constant with it’s fish and fruit markets and afterwards a Peruvian village entirely built on poles.

The most fun we had when we visited an animal refuge in the jungle though. Many monkeys, free to roam and leave as they please, had a lot of fun climbing on top of us and trying to steal everything that was not attached. We gave them some fruits to eat which they gladly accepted. Another attraction was a big anaconda and of course everybody got it around their necks. Now, I love animals and I’m not easily scared by most of them, but snakes are definitely not my favorites. So, Nina had to convince me to join her and the anaconda :). In the end it was a nice experience though and I’m glad Nina talked me into it.

A very nice lunch and a siesta prepared us for a swim in the Javari river which was also pretty nice and refreshing. On our way back to Leticia we got caught up in bad weather which provided some nice scenery and excitement.

We ended our busy day on the main square in Leticia to witness an impressive daily phenomenon: every evening thousands of parrots come to the square and search for a place to sleep. This is a very social and loud happening we watched from the church tower.

The next day we continued our busy schedule with the hiking trip in the jungle. This was a much more quiet tour and the only other people participating were 2 young Colombians. We visited two shamans who told us stories about the world and their culture. We got to taste coca leaves and a weird substance made from a local fruit. Most of all our guide explained a lot about the plants and insects we encountered.

The ritual of the previous day repeated itself and after a nice lunch and a short siesta we went to the river to have some fun. Once refreshed we continued our trip with more fun in the trees, pretending to be Tarzan and Jane :).

After all this action we thought we deserved some rest. So to go to Peru we decided to take the slow boat to Iquitos. This boat takes about 2 days and 2 nights to get to Iquitos (depending on the season). We bought some cheap hammocks and installed ourselves on the highest deck. It turned out to be a very relaxing trip. There is absolutely nothing to do except for admiring the mighty amazon and it’s shoreline. From time to time the boat made a stop at the villages along the way. And everywhere along the way people got on and off the boat with their little boats while the ferry was barely slowing down for them.

We also had some chats with our fellow travelers. Some of them locals on their way to a doctor in Iquitos and others just tourists like ourselves. So we got to know two Danish girls, Sarah and Sofia, two Argentinian guys, Daniel and Emanuel, an American girl, Clair, and Alina, a Peruvian girl who used to work as a travel guide all around Peru.

The life on the boat was pretty interesting. We got some food which was included in the price, it was not exactly high cuisine but at least we didn’t starve along the way. We were happy we also brought our own snacks though. The shower and toilets were very basic and both just used the river water. Getting really clean was not exactly an option. Despite that, we did shower because the hot and wet climate made everything feel sticky, including ourselves and the river water did bring some relieve.

The nature along the way was amazing, however, we also witnessed some negative sides of the life in the Amazon. Even though most people threw their garbage in the bin there were also some people who just threw everything overboard like it was totally normal. We were already warned by Boris in Guatapé about this behavior and since he told us he almost got into a fight when he reacted to it, we just tried to shamefully ignore these actions. It is a sad sight to see plastic trash floating around in this wonderful environment.

We were also warned about thieves on these boats so we watched our stuff closely. Nothing happened, maybe because we did pay so much attention, maybe because we were sleeping with a bunch of tourists close to each other or maybe simply because the stories about thieving were exaggerated. We noticed along our trip many “horror stories” about safety are exaggerated. Not that everything is “safe” everywhere, but you come a long way with some common sense and paying a bit of attention.

All in all we enjoyed the boat trip very much! Even though we were happy when we arrived in Iquitos and finally could take a clean shower.

We arrived in Iquitos late in the evening. Alina knew the city pretty well as she lived in it for some time. She guided us together with the others to a cheap hostel where we enjoyed our shower and afterwards decided to go for drinks together. It was a fun night! 🙂

The next morning we struggled a bit to order and pay our plane tickets to Lima, but once we got that out of the way we went into the city together with Sarah, Sofia, Daniel, Emanuel and of course our private guide Alina. Alina took us first to a delicious and cheap lunch at a local market. And later she took us to the market of Belen. A very interesting experience, unfortunately we didn’t bring our camera because it is a very poor neighborhood with a lot of pick pocketing and we opted for a “worry free” experience. When the rain started to pour down while at the market we wished we could make some pictures though as it was really a nice sight with amazing atmosphere. Instead we enjoyed the moment even more and Daniel made some pictures with his phone which he sent us afterwards.

The next day our company split up again, the Danish and Argentinians left for other destinations and Alina visited her friends in Iquitos. We had one more day to spend in Iquitos before we would fly to Lima and we did so by wondering around the city on ourselves, enjoying the street food, tropical rain floods and the relaxed atmosphere. The following morning we took a motochiva to the airport and so, our stay in the Amazon came to an end.