21 October 2023 Iquitos
In search of a slow boat
It seems to me that wanting to be spiritual is just another craving, another search for identity. For example, wanting to be a Bodhisattva, and keep being reborn until all sentient beings are free, is justifying clinging to existence. Besides, empirically, the numbers just don’t add up.VJC
I woke up at the Hospedaje Neyditato, Iquitos, to a power cut. But no worries, there’s no hot water even with the power. I packed as best as I could for a river boat trip. I even doned shorts and flip-flops. During my entire four month journey across Europe earlier this year, with temperatures very often above 30°C, I never once wore the one pair of shorts I had with me.
So, my knees felt relieved to be out on their own for the first time since pre-COVID.
Breakfast at the hostel is not included and I have a BRN board meeting on Zoom later, so the hotel owner, Luis, suggested that I go to the Amazon Bristo who have satellite Internet and reasonable food.
I take a Tuktuk and the driver asks me what am I doing in Iquitos. I tell him I want to take a slow boat to Santa Rosa (Peru)/Leticia (Columbia)/Tabatinga (Brazil)… where the three countries converge on the Amazon. My new amigo, Roberto, the Tuktuk driver, wants to be helpful, so we go to the port and he helps me buy a ticket for 100 soles (with commission included no doubt). Then he takes me to the Amazon Bistro just in time for my 10 am meeting.
It was a productive Board meeting of the Buddhist Recovery Network even though I could not contribute much because I was using my phone and there was a lot of background noice at my end!
After the meeting, I stayed on at the restaurant for lunch and then walked back to the hotel to collect my bags with the intention of setting up my hammock in a good place. I have watched YouTube videos of this trip and the boats always seem heaving, with little or no space between passengers!
I do have a preference for a little personal space. But, I realise in some instances I have to let-go of preferences if I don’t want to suffer.
At 2 pm Roberto collects me from the hotel to go to the port. We stop at a supermarket for me to stock up on a few more essentials:
- More water
- Inca Cola
Luis, the hotel owner had very kindly given me a hammock but unfortunately it turned out to be too small. So, as luck or good entrepreneurial skills would have it, a woman was selling hammocks and ties, so I bought a full-size new hammock for 100 soles and ties for 5 soles. The hammock lady and Roberto fixed up the hammock for me in a good spot on the top deck.
Top Tip: Don't be like me! Buy a big (muy grande) hammock from one of the many 'hardware' stores around Iquitos BEFORE you go to the boat. You could save enough money to pay for a night in a hotel in Tabatinga.
It’s not yet 3 pm and the boat isn’t going anywhere until at least 6 pm so I get to swing gently in my newly acquired hammock with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to be.
It’s dark at 6 pm, and the boat is filling up a bit more but not too crowded. It seems that there are two boats leaving this evening, neither of which are as busy as seen on various YouTube videos about this journey. I am grateful for the space.
We move way from the dock at 20 minutes to 8 pm. Well, at least we are underway. Later I spot a sign written in Spanish on a large piece of cardboard saying departure time 7:30 pm.
Although, in theory, food is included in the price of the boat ticket, supper on the first night isn’t. Nevermind, I have some biscuits and bananas… I won’t starve just yet.
I appreciate my good fortune. I don’t have much and I try not to suffer for what I don’t have. A special someone once gave me a book called ‘Enjoy Every Sandwich” and that seems to be as good a purpose for life than any.
As the evening progresses, people settle down, tarpaulin ‘curtains’ are lowered on both sides of the open deck, and eventually the lights go out. The internet fades away, and so do I.
- Tuktuk (morning) € 3.50
- Iquitos to Santa Rosa boat ticket € 24.50
- Brunch at Amazon Bristo € 11
- Tuktuk (afternoon) € 5
- More supplies and sundries for boat trip € 7
- New hammock and ties € 26