At 2am last Tuesday morning, the good ship Henry 3 arrived finally at the port of Pucallpa more than 100 hours after leaving Iquitos. This was not the happy moment I was expecting. It had taken nearly 4 days for me to be truly sick of the boat, the river, the food, my fellow passengers, the parrots, everything. I had reached rock bottom, I needed out. So you can imagine my despair when the boat actually docked and nothing actually happened. Nobody got off. No stream of vendors pushed their way on board screaming “Hay gaseosas! Hay panes!”. No procession of motortaxis arrived to spirit the happy passengers away. Nothing. Not a thing.
As noted before a bus is not an option to get of Iquitos, it’s plane or boat, so we thought we’d give the boat a try. We went to the dock Friday morning to pay for the cabin which was basic but clean, went shopping for supplies, got our rucksacks and at around 4:30 in the afternoon settled in, ready for the ride about an hour before it was due to leave.
4 hours later we finally set off, chugged 100 metres down the river, pulled up at another dock where a guy wearing a hard hat got on, got off and then we sat there for an hour. Eventually we set off again, only to return to the spot we’d started from where we sat for another hour. At this point we went to bed, before we’d even left.
I look back on the 4 and a bit days and honestly am unable to tell you how we passed the time. The boat had 4 decks, the bottom on with cargo and some hammocks. The 2nd one, a big open space FULL of hammocks. 3rd one up was open with hammocks and 10 cabins (one of them ours). 4th one was basically the roof with a little cockpit for the captain. That’s it. No bar, no TV lounge, no Observation lounge, in fact no seats of any kind.
The scenery was nice in a “I’m in the Jungle” kind of way, but it didn’t change (except for the sunsets, which were spectacular). The Amazon basin is flat, a bit like the Norfolk Broads but bigger and with trees and piranhas.
I don’t wish to sound ungrateful, but I’m glad I did it, but I’m not gonna say I enjoyed it. The food consisted of chicken, platano, rice and beans for every single meal (including breakfast, served at 6:50 sharp every morning) and most of ours ended up feeding the fishies. It was just that little bit too “authentic” to be truly enjoyable.
So, by the time we arrived, I really had had it. It felt like my entire life had been spent sweating on board this floating tin can. Luckily fate and an innovative mototaxi driver came to rescue, he came on board and asked if we needed a lift. Oh boy did we! So off we trotted, and in 15 minutes (which admittedly we both spent terrified of being stopped and robbed) we were safely tucked up in an air-conditioned room, back in civilisation again.