|The view from top bunk cabin 1 Tuky III|
But only five percent of Peru's population lives there.
It's said to be an area of extreme biodiversity, with many species of birds, mammals, butterflies, orchids and more (all this via Wikipedia). I must have had some expectations about what I'd see in a rainforest jungle because I was surprised (and a little disappointed, silly me!) several times that the view from the Tuky III wasn't heavily wooded, with big trees full of monkeys and snakes. No butterflies or orchids visible from the river! Just muddy banks, scrubby cecropia (trees), and the illusion of something mysterious, perhaps, beyond. Doug took a 'float' trip down the Mississippi one time, and reported something similar; that you'd look up at the banks and wonder what was beyond them!
|Purple marks the Ucayali River; Iquitos is where|
it joins the Amazon proper.
It's not all either "jungle" or "river" either. There are big sandbanks throughout. We were traveling at the end of the dry season. Low water uncovers beaches which are used to grow food, squash, watermelons, tomatoes, and lots of rice. As the river was just beginning to rise with rains, it was time to harvest. Scattered solitary lean-to or tent-style shelters were inhabited by people looking after the crops, and trying to chase birds off, I was told. Or perhaps they were fishing, then drying or smoking their catch. Hard to imagine what it will be like with another 20 or 30 feet of water in a couple months from now.
|Topiary is a popular art form in Contamana and elsewhere.|
Also, at each settlement we came to, at least during daylight, we were met by vendors, usually women and children, selling consumables, like soda, breads and some fruits. Quickest (best)sellers were the fried fish, but there weren't many sellers of those. And in one bigger place, people came aboard with a wireless phone-calling device I'd never seen before. But we usually got off the boat for a quick peek at wherever, so I missed the details on that technology.
More interesting to me was that no one I asked could really describe just where the people in these settlements did come from. They clearly weren't indigenous people. Some were displaced by the Sendero Luminoso activity of the last generation, some displaced by poverty in their native areas; maybe it's just a better place to live than where they were before. There are lots of pueblos called Nuevo Something.
Every town had waterfront sawmills and big piles of sawdust and scrap. And lots of wooden houses of course.
|Tuky III at the dock at Contamara.|
There wasn't much biodiversity aboard the Tuky III, but there was some! Here a woman carries a baby (something) monkey in her hair. We had a handful of hens, and a basket of roosters on the cargo deck for a couple days. And huge crates of oranges, the cargo of our neighbors in cabin 3.
There was a young man whose job it was to sweep the boat continuously from end to end, and he did dispatch a large number of black beetles the size of a penny in the first day or two, but mostly he was after tracked-in dirt and food scraps.
|I made sure to bring mosquito coils, but these were about the only insects I saw.|
The number of hammocks ebbed and flowed, but we never had more than one 'layer', and folks had room to sleep arms akimbo, which I gather is sometimes not true aboard other vessels. There is no other way to get to Iquitos save by boat or by plane (tickets were a bit more than $100 per person, I learned when we flew out of Iquitos back to Tarapoto) so that may account for the predominance of young families as passengers.
Still, I think we had it pretty good on the Tuky III compared to some of the other and larger and older vessels we saw.