How Hertz felt?

Trip Start Sep 05, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Monday, January 7, 2008

Iīm not trying to call John out....well actually I am....but Iīm not sure he was accurate with some of his word choices in his last entry. Were his days being bitten by hundreds of mosquitos while in the Peruvian jungle really "perfect"? Maybe at the time (although I doubt that as well) but certainly not during the dreadful moments while in another jungle when he thought that he might have malaria.....

But first letīs back track. After a whirlwind week of christmas festivities in Berkeley, California, I was back in Lima Peru before I could really realize that Iīd ever left. I knew though that I was happy to be back in South America. The people are friendly, the weather is hot, and I was even briefly enchanted by the toilets that you canīt throw toilet paper into. I was also giddily awaiting the arrival of our Pisco friends, Crystal and Paul, to begin another adventure- into the jungle and then Colombia. The adventure began slightly ahead of my plans though.

Crystal and Paul arrived at the airport a little late, well over an hour late. What had taken them so long? Was it the traffic, had they begun to opperate on Peruvian time, or did it have something to do with the fact that Paul had been stabbed two nights before? I assume that it had to do with all of the above. And yes, you heard me right, one of our traveling companions and fellow volunteers was stabbed on his last night in Pisco Peru. Some thanks for volunteering for over 3 months in fetid, dusty, and apparently dangerous Pisco. Good riddance. (Project Pisco is actually coming to close as I write because of a large number of robbings and muggings in the last couple of weeks. Over 5 volunteers were robbed at knife point in various locations and during various times of the day. Mind you, the volunteers are the only gringos in Pisco which shows how much respect the community has for this volunteer group which has been working on their behalf during the last 3 and a half months)Because of Paulīs new stab wound(luckily it isnīt too deep and didnīt cause any internal bleading)he wasnīt able to carry much and generally was in quite a lot of pain, especially while eating and drinking. In any case, they arrived and we preceded to check in. Up at the aerocondor check in counter we hand over our passports and low and behold, they have no record of our reservations. This is when I present my print out copy of the purchase but somehow this paper proof means nothing and our reservation has been canceled. Iīve been awake for the last 24 hours on flights and in airports, Paul has been stabbed and canīt speak Spanish anyways, so itīs level headed and fluent spanish speaking Crystal to the rescue. She books us flights onto Iquitos with two different airlines and we can all let out a sigh of relief.

By 5 that afternoon, weīve met up with John in Iquitos, the jungle...The next few days are spent preparing for our trip down the Amazon river into Colombia and observing how New Years is celebrated a la Peruano. Most memoral and interesting moments from New Years:
- Yellow is the color or luck for the Peruvians and consequently is everywhere for New Years. Yellow balloons, yellow jello, yellow necklaces, yellow hats, and yellow underwear...which John and Paul proudly sported.
-Apparently the Peruvians like to mass as many holidays together as possible and somehow it turns out that New Years also celebrates Jesusīs circumcision. An interesting turn for the nativity scenes which were still up from Christmas.
- Probably one of the strangest things was that there was tons of activity before midnight and after midnight but none at all at the strike of twelve. Early in the evening, the street on the water front was packed with vendors and crowds. For the "countdown" we headed to the plaza de armas where we thought there would be the most festivities. But there were very few people and no count down. The only way that we knew that it was midnight was by seeing other gringos kissing. In true boy fashion, John and Paul thought this would be a great moment to light off the fire works which that I bought earlier in the market. They laid a square shaped one, made up of lots of small rockets, on the ground, lit the fuse, and let it go. And then it tipped. Instead of shooting up into the air, the mini rockets shot every which way, sending mothers and children running. Every one ran to avoid the rockets EXCEPT one STUPID little boy who instead ran towards it. Paul, despite already being wounded, chased the boy and grabbed him in the nick of time. Lesson learned, no more fireworks.
- Even though Iquitos is reputed as being a safe city to visit, theft is still pretty common. Earlier in the day, John had found little peruvian hands in his pockets on three occasions, so being the clever boy that he is, he started carrying wet bars of soap in his pockets. Nothing more. Surely in the throngs on New Years eve,more than one young boy found himself with a slimy hand.
- We drank some beer.

And that was New Years.

On January second, with hammocks, tupperwear, and a hardy supply of tuna, bottled water, peanut butter, Orinda tangerines, and holiday salted almonds, we borded the dodgy vessel that woud carry us from Iquitos Peru all the way to Leticia Colombia. As Westerners we thought it would be prudent to bord the boat early, beating the masses and setting our hammocks up in a prime location. Aside from one other gringo, an old well weathered Pole who spoke no Spanish or English, we were the first on the boat. We settled on the top deck, with a liberal amount of room between each hammock, as close to the open air as possible. During the next few hours until the boat, the Gran Diego, set off, we watched slightly aghast as dozens and maybe even hundreds of Peruvians clambered around us trying to steal some of our highly valued space. By 9 pm, the boat was supposed to leave at 6 by the say, we were packed in like sardines. Every single hammock touched, some hammocks had been arranged in a double decker fashion, some hammocks rested on the incredibly uncomfortable benches, some hammocks held three family memebers or more, there were even more people sleeping on the ground underneath the hammocks, and noone could move. Aside from the previously mentioned Pole, we were the only other gringos stuck in the mass of sweating humanity. There had been a french couple who had been cycling around South America for more than 18 months. Within 15 minutes of being on board though, the girlīs camera and passport had been stolen. From that moment on we kept our eyes glued to our chained backpacks and never let our cameras, passports, and wallets off our bodies. How most boat thefts occur is that before the boat departs, it stands in the harbor flanked by other boats on all sides...including the back. Squatting on these adjacent boats, little boys watch and wait for the perfect moment to nimbly hop aboard the departing boat and grab whatever they can before quickly returning to their perch. These young theives are almost impossible to catch and as far as preventative measures go, John spent many hours engaged in stare downs with the young boys waiting to swoop down on the gringoīs space.

Finally at 9 we were off. Crammed into our 4 hammocks, sipping beers, we were quite comfortable and could only laugh when our boat rammed into two others on itīs disembarkment, and then when a little boat with itīs lights off would silently pull up next to ours to drop off a secret load. Many crew members were eager to assure us that the secret load was nothing more than gassoline but since we were on our way to Colombia, we couldnīt really be sure.

Morning on the Amazon found us surrounded by the noises of babies crying, a tiny little dog scurrying around the hammocks trying to find food or a good place to relieve itself, Milanaisa (the scrawny chicken in a bag oustreching its hairless neck trying to escape or atleast cluck- Iīm sure that you can imagine that John thouroughly enjoyed harassing the pitiful chicken by shaking the bag until it started to make noise. The family actually had to move the chicken in the bag away from us so that we wouldnīt laugh at it anymore.), and the young deck boys sleeping up all of the refuse which had found its way to the floor and would afterwords find its way into the amazon river. The days preceeded peacefully reading and playing pinball with the hammocks.

On the third day we arrived at the three way border of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru( the respective cities are Tatabanga, Leticia, and Santa Rosa). We passed through Santa Rosa for immigration exit stamps and continued to Leticia where NOONE waited to check our passports, check our stuff, or care that we were entering their country. Instead of having an immigration office at the port where hundreds enter everyday we had to make the journey to the nearby airport to have our passports stamped. Otherwise, I suppose we could have dissapeared.

The next day offered yet another adventure. Into the jungle we went accompanied by a one eyed, coca chewing fiend, machete hacking local named Sergio. In tall rubber boots we waded through mud, slapped mosquitos, tried unsuccesfully to fish, and then sat...a lot of sitting which drove me crazy. Somehow John managed to become even more uncomfortable than myself by becoming disturbingly ill. On the second day, he woke up sweating with a fever and an incredibly white face. He wouldnīt eat and was having bowel "problems".It later became evident, as we were trying to hike out that he really was sick. The 4 hour hike out of the jungle became his living hell. His legs were weak and could barely support him let alone allow him to balance across the fallen trees over rivers. Blonde haired gumby did make it back but not without considerable effort and maybe one of the most miserable days of his life. Sergio was concerned that it might have been malaria. We now think it might just be dysentry picked up on the boat. Last night he started a course of Cipro and should hopefully be better soon.

Hugs and kisses from Bogota...weīre trying to be careful.
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