We arrived by plane to the small Amazon gateway port town of Leticia, Colombia. The airport is really small and was full of mostly tourists heading to the Amazon.
We just missed the boat to Puerto Nariño, which was fine with me because they don’t have ATMs in Puerto Nariño and I was pretty sure we didn’t have enough money on us to last the next 5 days anyway.
It was really hot and humid and almost everyone was on a motorcycle or moped. There were very few cars. Internet was painfully slow and the food choices not that diverse. But we made the best of it, checking into a cheap hotel (the Hotel Anaconda was full with a professor’s convention) and hunting down the ATM to garner more cash. No credit cards in Puerto Nariño either!
We try to sample the nightlife of Leticia but either we’re too early or there is just not much going on. Just as well, we have another early day tomorrow to catch the boat to Puerto Nariño.
DAY 2 –
Up really early, too early!
We piled into the rapido (speed boat) in the port at Leticia to take the 2 hour boat ride up the Amazon River to Puerto Nariño. The muddy bank leading to the boat launch is set at 45 degree angle and is a slippery mess after all the rain. I see one lady with stilettos digging into the mud. She’s not some unprepared Gringa, she’s a native.
My first impression of the Amazon river was that it was huge, muddy, amazing and powerful. There are occasional houses hugging the river and I got the sense that it is everything to the economy in the Amazon.
After about an hour the boat started to make stops along the way dropping off people and supplies or picking something up to take a little further upriver. The river is the Amazon’s interstate highway and where goods and people can most efficiently move.
We took a right fork to Puerto Nariño and I instantly fell in love with the town. It’s a peaceful, beautiful little hamlet built on the banks of a small gulf of the Amazon river. Kids were swimming to stave off the heat and fisherman were casting their nets . There are no cars or motorized vehicles in Puerto Nariño, and other than the motorized canoes, the only sounds were the buzz of insects and the hum of daily life as the villagers went about their normal routines.
The crew and I were met by representatives of our Cabañas, the Alto Aguila (High Eagle), and we piled into a small canoe with an outboard engine to take the 5 minute trip upstream to our cabaña.
The walk up the muddy, grassy steep hill to our cabaña is hell with our gear. It’s a slippery mess though they’ve done all they can to make it not so, building natural wooden stairs and walkways but for me, this is already challenging. I’m a runner and work out almost daily, but I was huffing and puffing and a big sweaty mess when we finally arrived up the hill at our cabaña backpacks and gear in tow.
The cabaña consisted of four bunk beds and not much else. Oh and a baby owl screeching at us menacingly that instantly popped on my backpack (while it was still on my back I might add!).
Our guide, Witman, assured us in Spanish the owl was harmless and we find out as he gently removed him from my back and the owl perched on his hand.
I put my hand out and the owl gently nibbled it. Perhaps when he’s older these bites will hurt but for now, they just tickled and this bird, cute as hell, was our instant mascot.
We proceeded to think of names for our new friend and Moses settled on BabaBoohey which stuck. BabaBoohey would be our companion the next few days and keep our cabaña free of nasty little critters in the wild, amazing Amazon.
We unpacked and quickly got ready to hit the lake just upriver for some Piranha fishing. On the way, we spotted some freshwater pink dolphins surfacing. These dolphins are nearly blind but are extremely intelligent.
I took a swim in the Amazon, being assured by Witman,that it was completely safe and that the Piranha wouldn’t attack unless I was bleeding or wounded. To my knowledge, I was not, so I dove in, heartened by the sight of all the young kids swimming in the river I had witnessed on the way up.
After a swim, we fished for Piranha but the closest we came to catching anything was watching Witman pull them in one after another. Still, watching them attack the meat on the end of my hook was pretty cool.
Later that night, we went to town for dinner and witnessed a local soccer game. On the way back, a sardine jumped into the boat, so we ended up catching a fish after all. I’ve done a lot of fishing in my life, but never had a fish actually jump in the boat with me.
That night, as we crawled underneath our mosquito netting and the fan stopped running (the electricity cuts off every night at 11PM until 5 AM the next morning) all I could hear were the wild sounds of the amazon mixing in with my roommates’ snores and pretty soon, exhausted, I was joining in.