An Amazon Riverboat Cruise

The Boat or La Lancha Docked in Santa Rosa, Perú

I recently had my first cow and pig boat ride.

57 hours after departing the Amazon River island of Santa Rosa, Perú,  I arrived in the Amazon port city of Iquitos Perú.

The boat you see took me slowly along the exotic Peruvian Amazon.

It gave me the opportunity to relax and watch Amazon villages pass by.

Sometimes we stopped to drop off and pick up passengers, unwilling cows, pigs, quinoa, water, soda, and other items for sale or trade.

I quickly realized that this was not a tourist boat. It was filled with locals who didn’t find the place exotic.  Almost none of them had ever left the Amazon region because the only option out is by plane or several days of river travel. 

The only other outsiders were a couple from London and a traveling artist from Bogotá.

Scenic Boat Ride From Colombia to PerúAcross the river you see the Amazon island of Santa Rosa, Perú.  That’s where the tiny Customs office where you get your Perú entry stamp is.  It’s also where you embark for Iquitos. This five-minute boat ride from Leticia, Colombia cost 3,000 Colombian Pesos or $1.55.

Forcing a Pig Onto a Boat is not an Easy TaskAt animal pick up stops,  I felt bad for both the animals and the workers who had to inflict pain to get them to grudgingly comply.  They were leaving their perfect natural environment to be sold for human consumption. 

Cow DownIt took a long time for the workers to get this strong-willed cow onto the boat and into the storage area. From what I could see, the first, or bottom floor was a horrid place.  I wasn’t allowed in.  The passengers are required to remain on the second and third floors, or at the bottom  front (in the photo).  The grunt workers are only allowed at the bottom.

One of Many Stops Along the WayThis was another of several stops along makeshift village ports .  

Family in a Small BoatSometimes I’d glance out and see families in boats.  

Boat Under Typical Amazonian CloudsHuge bunches of clouds often block the sun’s extreme heat.  

This is an illustration of how wide the river can be in parts.  I was told that in Brazil there are areas where you can’t see land across.

Tropical Afternoon RainAs the Amazon is purely tropical, hard afternoon rain is common.  It cools things off wonderfully.  I thought:  Although they must be used to it, it’s still got to be brutal to deal with this strong, cool rain.

A Scenic StretchSome stretches are more scenic than others.  

The Amazon is typically calm.

Boats Along the AmazonGetting around by boat is the primary means of transportation for many.

Glimpses of VillagersOnce in a while I’d get close up glimpses of people.

House on the RiverThe dwellers of this small home live right on the river.

Sunset Over the AmazonThis sunset photo was taken after 22 hours on the boat, from the second floor.  We’d set off the night before at 8 pm, about two hours after sunset.

My Room for Three NightsThis was my modest room for three nights.  During the day it was too hot. The evening breeze kept it cool enough at night, except when we stopped at a port, when the breeze stopped and I found myself drenched in sweat. 

The 57-hour jungle trip cost 100 Peruvian Soles or $35.71.  This  included the bed, an electrical outlet and about six meals that were very possibly cooked with river water.  There was the option of paying six soles or $2.14 for meals that were slightly better than the food that was included in the ticket price.  Fortunately I had the cabin to myself.

TIP: If you take an Amazon region boat ride, try to pay the owner or head person of the boat. I arrived six hours before departure. The assistant showed me to my cabin. I paid him. He tried to charge me again half an hour later.  I explained that we need to talk to someone about this.  He said to relax and forget about it.  The next day he tried to get 100 soles from me again.  I told him that I’d already paid and watched him hand 100 Lucas, slang for Soles, to the owner.  He dismissed the issue again and wrote out a ticket.   He, along with four others, had been drinking beer for hours before I’d arrived.   The owner told me the next day that they always drink beer during the day before setting off in the evening.  This doesn’t include the driver of the boat. :-)

HammocksAlmost all the passengers brought hammocks and hung them on either the second or third floor.   The journey, including meals if you hang your own hammock, is 80 soles or $28.57. The difference between a cabin and hanging your hammock is 20 soles or $7.14.  This is a significant amount for almost all the passengers that typically take this boat.

There’s a nonstop tourist fast boat that takes 10 hours and departs at 3 am.  It costs almost triple that of the very slow lancha. I hear it’s too loud for conversation and too fast for taking photos or walking.

Spending almost 60 hours on a slow boat was a long time to endure.  There are many routes along the Amazon but they take what seems like forever for the distances involved.  For now, I’m all set with long, slow river boat rides; however, I wouldn’t trade the experience.

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Would you spend over 50 hours on a slow, bare bones and shabby riverboat?

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18 Responses to An Amazon Riverboat Cruise

  1. It’s such a pity to see these animals sold for human consumption!

    • Mike says:

      MADAGASCAR: I can’t disagree. We’re bred to like other animal flesh from a young age. It’s surprising how many people still think that we need cow flesh for protein, that vegetables somehow don’t have protein. :-)

  2. Julie K. says:

    Reminded me of the movie Fitzcarraldo with Klaus Kinski instantly..don´t know why exactly, but it did:) I guess I´m still under impression that the Amazon is one of the most mysterious places in the world.

    • Mike says:

      JULIE: Great! Funny! Thanks for the referral. I must try and see that movie.

      My guess is that if any of us non Amazonian people were to wander out into the Amazon aimlessly, it could be mysterious and even scary. :-)

  3. What an interesting ride! It’s a good thing you have a cabin to yourself and don’t have to share your sleeping area with the cattle. Nice tip about the fare. They must thought you’d be an easy one to scam.

    • Mike says:

      FREYA: Thanks! Even sharing with another person (a stranger) may have been rough. I got very lucky. I’m not sure how they store the pigs and cows at the bottom as I wasn’t allowed in to see. It looked like a gruesome place.

      I think that any foreign traveler might look like easy prey. It was also partly due to his intoxication. He was very buzzed (half passing out in his chair shortly after getting my dough and handing it to the captain. He may have forgotten that he’d charged me. I’ll never know exactly whether he tried to charge me three times on purpose or if he genuinely forgot that I’d paid him. :-)

  4. What a trip! You are definitely one of the most free-flowing travelers I read about Mike :-) We did a two day slow boat cruise from Laos to Thailand, but it included an overnight break in a small village, so definitely not as hard core as this, and no cows :-)

    • Mike says:

      SARAH: Thanks! The option was there. I knew the slow boat would be a unique experience while hearing first-hand that the very small and fast boat was no fun.

      I think the overnight in the river village in Laos is a fantastic experience. Also, because it’s SE Asia they have awesome local restaurants. :-)

  5. Wow! What an experience. Part of me is like no way, but the other part of me thinks this sounds awesome. I think with the right mindset, this would be one of those travel experiences you’re talking about for a long time to come :)

    • Mike says:

      CASEY: Thanks! It’s a bit of both. It’s refreshing to see some of the daytime scenery and the stars under a perfectly cool breeze at night. Add to that the local lifestyle you get to witness.

      The Right Mindset: Because you never know when you’ll arrive as you get different answers from different people, you tell yourself not to think about it, make the best of it and get there when you get there. A hammock and a book is a nice combo for relaxing, reading and snoozing.

  6. Hogga says:

    looks like such fun

  7. Al says:

    Very cool trip, I bet you´re happy, that looks almost as primitive as it gets; I´ve always wanted to sail from Manaus to the mouth of the Amazon -now that´d take a lot more than 60 hours, but the boat ride is probably a lot more comfortable… have you considered doing that? It´d make for a lot of great posts! ;-)

    • Mike says:

      AL: Thanks! It takes roughly eight days to get from Leticia to Manaus. Then roughly another week to Belem on Brazil’s Atlantic. That’s on the cheap, uncomfortable passenger/cargo boats. There must be very expensive touristy options too. I haven’t looked into them yet. The comfort would be nice.

  8. Mamma says:

    Really interesting! Great photos!

  9. Maria says:

    Forcing a pig onto the boat must have been an incredible moment. Much like herding cats, I would guess and then there’s the drunk entertainment. Crazy trip that makes me want to travel with you. *laugh*

    • Mike says:

      MARIA: The cow part was especially sad, but I’m desensitized from watching videos like Meet Your Meat. This was ideally a one time experience for the pigs and cows. It seems like they’re treated better here than in the states anyway. It doesn’t feel natural to me to eat cow. Making money often trumps sensibility.

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