Every trip to Peru is ripe with adventure, but I think last week’s events top the list. No more is the “day of 10 parades and one protest in Cusco” or “the 2 boats, 5 buses, 1 plane and 2 cars in 36 hours” or one of the others at the top of my list of Peruvian adventures.
Let me tell you how one of my days this past week went.
On Sunday evening, Moises (the house parent at Puerto Alegria) and I decided that we would go into Iquitos the next day. He had a meeting in the afternoon, and I needed to check email and just spend a day in the city. We decided to leave at 11am, so Moises could get to his meeting on time, and we would be there until 2 or so.
When I woke up the next morning, Moises greeted me by saying we were going to leave in 15 minutes so he could take Luis, who had recently fallen from a tree, in to the hospital to have his cast and broken arm checked out. That was fine with me, and we met down at the boat to find the motor not working. 25 minutes later, with the help of the groundsmen and watchman, the motor started and we were off.
Since a group was arriving at the end of the week, Moises decided to send the boat and motor to the mechanic to have it fixed so we would not have any issues in the next week. We parted ways with the boat and headed into the city. We had left the house before any of us had breakfast, so Moises, Luis and I went to a little café on the street in the city and got something to eat. Breakfast here isn’t a bagel and cream cheese, or rolls with cheese and ham. I had arroz chaufa (fried rice), while the guys ate something much more hearty.
After breakfast, we parted ways – Moises and Luis to the hospital and me off to the Internet. We were to meet at 3pm at the port where we dock the boat to head back to Puerto Alegria.
By 4pm, I had yet to hear from Moises. I wasn’t surprised; I did not expect to get a call until much after 3pm. By the time I did hear from Moises, he told me that our boat would have to stay in Iquitos all night to be fixed and we would be going back using public transportation down the river. Secretly, I was a bit excited about this since I wanted to go on one of the boats that pass by our house carrying people, goods, and the occasional livestock.
But, since it was later in the afternoon, those public boats would not be traveling up and down the river and we would have to rent a small, private canoe. Moises left little Luis with me at our usual port while he went to find a boat operator. As Luis and I waited for Moises to return, dark storm clouds came over the city and there was a flash of lighting.
By the time Moises returned, it had started to sprinkle and we were slowly getting wet. After 15 minutes in the small canoe (that was not covered), we were soaked. It had started to downpour, and the lightening and thunder had become more frequent.
Without any form of rain jackets or plastic bags, our belongings were drenched in water, our clothing thoroughly soaked. It was getting difficult to go any farther so Moises asked the boat driver to stop along the river so we could take shelter in a neighbor’s house. Our luck, we didn’t stop at one of the handful of houses right on the bank of the river, the place we stopped was about 200 yards from the river. We trudged through the mud, puddles, and torrential rain to a stranger’s house where we rung out our clothing and waited for the storm to pass.
After 20 minutes of trying to warm up and dry off, we headed back out into the night, down to the boat. At the river, we tried to take off, but were stuck waiting for the boat driver to start the engine. Thankfully the rain had stopped and we were just sitting in wet clothing in the dark – a perfect haven for the mosquitoes of the jungle.
We finally got moving again and slowly made it up the river. The strangers we had stopped at had generously gave us a plastic trash bag that Luis was wearing and a large piece of plastic (like a table cloth) that I was using to protect us from the rain.
The next 45 minutes were just traveling down the river in the pouring rain, trying to avoid floating logs, other boats and not run into the shore.
At one point, the motor got caught in somebody’s fishing net, so we stopped to have it removed from the propeller. Strangely enough, it stopped raining when we had to stop to fix the engine or the propeller, but picked up with force once we were moving.
Another 30 minutes later, Moises tapped my shoulder and pointed out the familiar and friendly light of the house.
After almost 90 minutes (on a trip that should have taken no more than 25) we made it back to the house completely soaked all the way through. The night’s adventures made for some interesting stories with the boys when we returned, and they of course enjoyed laughing at how silly we looked in our soaking wet clothing.
I don’t think I have ever been so happy to return “home,” to Puerto Alegria, than I was that night.