Eastward Ho!

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This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, December 03, 2003 was originally posted on December 08, 2003.

DAY 46:  Since no roads go to the Amazonian jungle city of Iquitos, there are only two ways to get there:  by plane or — if you have time to kill like me — via a cargo boat up the Rio Marañon, one of the main tributaries that make up the mighty Amazon River.  The closest river port for these cargo ships is in the city of Yurimaguas which involves — as Lonely Planet describes — “a tiring road trip from the coast.”

My tiring road trip was already tiring before I even got on the bus.  I checked out of my hostel at 4:30 a.m. and walked the streets of Chiclayo — which had a waiting cab driver outside each of the many small casinos in town — about 1 km to the bus station of a bus company that could take me to Yurimaguas by 2 p.m. — much sooner than Lonely Planet had mentioned.  When I arrived at the station, it was locked but soon a janitor let me in to wait.  There was a man with his wife and kid waiting there as well.  He already had a ticket to the city of Tarapoto, the city before Yurimaguas, on the same bus.

Five o’clock came and I had no ticket, but that didn’t matter because the bus wasn’t there yet.  I discovered that another difference between Ecuador and Peru is that the Peruvians don’t necessarily follow fixed schedules.  Soon the desk manager I spoke to the day before came in to start his day.  I asked him for a ticket to Yurimaguas for the 5 a.m. bus as stated on the board:

Chiclayo - Yurimaguas: 5 a/m 2 p/m

With his hard-to-understand Spanish, he tried to explain to me that the 5 a.m. bus only went as far as Tarapoto and the 2 p/m bus went all the way to Yurimaguas.  (Funny, up until that point, I thought “2 p/m” was the arrival time in Yurimaguas.)  He told me that I should probably wait for the 2 p.m. bus which would arrive by 6 a.m. the next day.  I didn’t know what to do and was really confused with his speech.  It was trying to have a conversation with Ozzy Osbourne.

Luckily the man waiting in the room came over to help me out and told us that I could save time by going to Tarapoto on the 5 a.m. bus and getting a car to Yurimaguas at 3 a.m. — which is what he was going to do.  I trusted him for some reason — you get some sort of trust from a guy if he’s traveling with his wife and kid — and decided to take his advice; the thought of waiting in the dark room for nine more hours didn’t bode well with me.

For his help, I helped the man with all his bags to the bag check-in.  His name was Miguel and I explained to him why I was so bad at Spanish.  I bet to the bus manager, I sounded like Ozzy Osbourne.

The 5 a.m. bus came late because it actually originated in Lima the day before and was running a little behind.  It came around 6:30, dropped off some people and picked us up.  I made sure my bag got on board.


ON A LONG PLANE, TRAIN OR BUS RIDE, there’s always some guy who is really talkative and just points everything out the window with a comment and tries to make small talk with everyone.  It was just my luck that this guy had the seat next to me and I entertained him with some short answers no longer than four words each.  I thought that maybe I was annoyed with him because of the language barrier, but the other passengers he tried to talk to gave him similar short answers too.  I ignored him by putting my hat over my eyes and going to sleep.

The bus made its way away from the coast and into the Andes en route to the Amazon Basin.  We made a food and bathroom stop in the mountains for an hour.  Goats and dogs hid under the bus for the shade.  After the break, the Talkaholic moved to the seat ahead of me and talked the ear off some woman.  She tried to ignore him by going to sleep.

The bus driver drove on a winding road through the Andes.  Hours went by, two of which were killed with a Spanish-dubbed screening of the movie Vertical Limit.  The bus ride was more or less smooth.  It stopped in small towns along the way to drop off and pick up passengers.  Unlike the economy buses I had been on so far where vendors constantly came on and off the bus to sell goods, the tactic for a special service bus was to sell goods through the window with bowls attached to sticks (picture above).


MORE HOURS WENT BY.  I slept and stared out the window.  It never got too boring because the beautiful lush green scenery kept on changing as we left the Andes and entered the Amazon Basin on a road that hugged the Rio Marañon.  The bus rolled over small streams, paved roads and dirt roads.

Another movie came on, Collateral Damage, staring Governor Schwarzenegger, about a fireman-turned-renegade CIA agent on a quest to avenge his family’s deaths by Colombian guerillas, by singlehandedly backpacking to Colombia by himself.  The film was both silly and scary — scary, in that I was near the Colombian border and the movie showed (Hollywood’s version of) how the guerrillas kidnapped foreigners, killed villagers and stuffed a poisonous coral snake down a guy’s throat(!); silly in that, yeah right, like people on a South American bus can conveniently switch to English whenever you can’t understand something.

Day turned to night and we stopped in stations in small towns.  I was on the look out for Miguel and his family to see if he was getting off or not because none of the stations really said what town they were in, and what made it more difficult was a lot of businesses and streets were named after other towns.  I kept a watch on the bay that my bag was in underneath but had no problems. 


AFTER THE FIFTEEN HOUR BUS RIDE — my longest to date — we finally arrived at the end of the line in Tarapoto, a city which my abridged Lonely Planet guide only had half a page dedicated to it, and no map.  I was dead tired and just wanted to crash for the night.  A mototaxi — a motorcycle rickshaw thing —  took me to a hostel about eight blocks away.  It was a great choice because the attendant Ricardo was a nice guy — he was going to university studying tourism and practiced his English with me — and the room had a private bath, much needed A/C and cable TV.  MTV videos came on in English and Spanish, The Simpsons came on in Spanish, Saturday Night Live reruns came on in English, and movies came on in the international language of porn.

After a long, long day, it was nice to feel at home again.






Next entry: A Fresh Young Boy

Previous entry: Tomb Raider




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Comments for “Eastward Ho!”

  • LP wasn’t kidding when they said the trip would be tiring… I’m exausted!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/08  at  02:15 AM


  • wow…seems like the only international language of porn sounds staticicky and looks fuzzy…booo

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/08  at  03:06 AM


  • fifteen hours! and i thought grey hound was bad! but i would choose N. Peru over Buffalo any day! the picture out the window looked beautiful!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/08  at  04:38 AM


  • coo, boobies ...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/08  at  01:14 PM


  • Glad you made it to Tarapoto safely!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/08  at  02:07 PM


  • Wow, that photo of the beautiful greenery really was amazing. Glad you’re back… I’ve got to catch up. When you said international language of porn I thought of the movie “Better Off Dead” when Ricky’s mom said that he and Monique spoke the “international language of love”.... hehe.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/08  at  06:45 PM


  • Erik,

    Stop following me!

    Ricardo

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/08  at  07:21 PM


  • 15 hour bus ride!! i hope there was air conditioning…

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/10  at  01:37 AM


  • 15 hour bus ride, eh? I know how you feel. Did similar ride in china.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/12  at  08:24 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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A Fresh Young Boy

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