Tally Me Banana


This blog entry about the events of Saturday, December 06, 2003 was originally posted on December 08, 2003.

DAY 49: The sun was already up when our cargo ship stopped in Maripoto, a tiny village on the riverbank where the Rio Huallaga meets the Rio Marañon.  It was the first of many stops along the way where we picked up bunches and bunches of bananas.

At breakfast, Armando the waiter sat down with Manuela and I, and served as a sort of moderator.  He explained to Manuela that I could in fact understand Spanish more or less, just not as quickly since I am not — as people on the ship assumed — Peruvian.  Manuela couldn’t comprehend why anyone would want to come to Peru — everyone she knew wanted to get out.  Armando had to explain to her that extranjeros (foreigners) — a word I’ve heard a lot — come to see the jungle because there is no jungle where they come from.  It still seemed like a foreign concept to Manuela, being from a jungle city, but she came to understand it.  During coffee, she still tried to sell me on her daughters.

Armando showed us a log book he had of all the extranjeros who had been on the ship.  Out of the 42 foreigners who had made the river trek from Yurimaguas to Iquitos — most of the French — I discovered that I was only the second American to make the trek on that cargo ship.  (The other guy was from California.)

The M/F Eduardo IV continued its way north up the Rio Marañon, making frequent stops at the villages to pick up bananas.  To the villagers, a visit from the big cargo ship was a big event; everyone in town it seemed came to the riverbank to watch all the excitement.  The cargo men loaded the ship with bunches and bunches of bananas until the village had no more to give.

THE TWO FEMALE BACKPACKERS I tried to talk to the day before were sitting up on the 3rd floor deck to watch the excitement of villagers watching us back.  The latina-looking one started a conversation with me, seeing that I was just a tourist with a camera and not a Shady Tour Man. 

“[Are you a student?]” she asked.

“[No, I work.  I’m here on vacation.]”

“[I thought you were Peruvian, but a different kind of Peruvian,]” she said, whatever that meant.

“[Really?  The others think I’m Japanese, Chinese or Korean.]”

“[I can see that.  How old are you?]”

“[Twenty nine.  I look 18 or 19, no?]”


Her name was Marita and she was from Lima, and had done some archaeological work at the site of Kuelap.  “[Are you a student?]” I asked.  She looked about college age.

“[No, it’s my profession.  I’m 28.]”

JEAN-PIERRE, MARITA AND HER FRIEND MADALON (Spanish for Madeleine) and I watched the river go by, on look out for the occasional pink river dolphin that would jump out of the water briefly.  Madalon broke the news to me that she actually spoke English (she was Dutch), and it was good to hear a familiar language for a short while.  She empathized with me since she was clueless to Spanish when she arrived in South America.  Her fluency in Spanish came from 5 years of working there.

SOME KIDS FROM A VILLAGE hopped on board to sell frozen aguaca fruit treats, made by crushing the aguaca fruit into a paste, putting it in plastic bags and freezing it.  The ship left their village before they disembarked and they all looked pretty confused that they were being kidnapped.  “[We’ll just sell them in Iquitos,]” the captain said.  Eventually, their parents came up to our ship in a motorboat and the kids transferred boats while both were in motion — and without any stunt doubles.

It was a shame the kids had to go so soon because the frozen treats looked pretty good, especially on a hot day.  However, Madalon told me about the myth that aguaca gives women their beauty, and men who eat it are labeled homosexuals.  That wouldn’t have boded well if Jun was around — not that there’s anything wrong with it.

THE AFTERNOON WAS ROUTINE — village after village we’d pick up more bananas.  Marita, Madalon and I killed time with a portable Chinese Checkers-type of game.  Along the way, we heard the roar of the boat motor during slow currents, and the calming sounds of splashing water when the engine was cut to let the faster currents push us along naturally. 

“Miras, el sol,” Armando said as I was finishing up my dinner.  At the stern of the ship lay a beautiful Amazonian sunset with light shimmering in the ripples of the water.  As the sun lowered itself below the horizon, the sky grew an intense pink aura so wild that it made the port side of the ship look like it was making the jump to lightspeed.  The pink hues of the sky reflected in the smooth ripples of the river, like pink velvet blowing in the wind.

The magical moment was tarnished when the crew put on the same Jean-Claude Van Damme bad bootleg DVD movie and the same Steven Seagal bad bootleg DVD movie.  (How’s that for “first class?”)  Instead of watching the movies, I watched the river go by with Marita and Jean-Pierre.  The ship stopped by a couple of villages at night to pick up more bananas.  The cargo men, as the famous Harry Belafonte song goes, “stocked bananas ‘til the morning come.”

Daylight came and we didn’t wan’ go home…we had arrived finally arrived in Iquitos by sunrise.

Next entry: Houses On Stilts

Previous entry: A New Shipmate

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Comments for “Tally Me Banana”

  • colorado has some amazing sunRISES, that’s beautiful though! sounds like you’re easing into the life on the boat AND Ambiguously Gay Jokes smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/08  at  06:01 PM

  • funny how when WHEAT walks in to a room that there is also “an intense pink aura” ....

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/08  at  06:22 PM

  • Muy tranquillo….. y bonito.

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

  • Erik,

    Before we rule out marriage to one of the daughters, lets see what they look like.


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

  • i think Warren got something….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/08  at  08:26 PM

  • Warren/LP:  All the moms out here should get together and make a catalog…  it’s the holidays after all…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/08  at  08:46 PM

  • or a calender…

    Seriously though, those sunset pics are astounding!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/09  at  02:11 AM

  • Erik, you never cease to amaze me.  You always seem to make friends, no matter where your are. 
    Keep it up and you will…..... become a married man before you get home.  You know before long all the women will start looking good to you.  It’s kinda like at the end of a night at a bar, your drunk and the later it gets, the better everyone starts looking,  even the ugly people are looking good.  So watch out!!!!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/09  at  02:28 AM

  • Erik: What you said to Warren/LP….SO WRONG!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/09  at  12:54 PM

  • Erik,

    Make sure take a close look at the girl’s mom before you decide to marry, this way you can get an idea of what she will look like in 20 years.


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/09  at  08:13 PM

  • I thought I heard a scream

    Posted by Neven  on  12/10  at  03:26 PM

  • Warren/LP/Risa:  From what I’m gathered here, it is a common trend that foreigners come to Iquitos—not to experience the jungle, but specifically to find a wife.  From reports from different people, usually it’s desperate guys in their 30s, looking for someone to clean up after them. 

    Richard (from Iquitos) also tries to get me to marry one of his friends; in fact, he recently got a wife for a tourist from Spain who was out here looking for one.  Wife hunting is so common in these parts that one phrasebook even has the translation for “Marrying me won’t make you an American citizen.”

    Andres warned me about the whole exploitation of women here…they make it sound easy, but ultimately a marriage to a local girl to bring home involves a lot of paperwork and a lot of money.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/14  at  01:03 PM

  • Those bananas are so many that they look like leaves of a palm tree!
    *Please Write Back For Both Comments(email)*

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/23  at  08:06 PM

  • Hey Erik!

    We just discovered your blog and love it!
    We’re planning a trip to Peru in June and just reading your entries feels as if we’re almost there ourselves.

    Great pictures and personal observations!

    San Francisco

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/03  at  09:44 PM

  • JEFF (SF):  Thanks, glad you enjoy it and welcome to The Fellowship of The Blog…  spread the word!

    Peru is great, how much time are you spending here?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/04  at  10:04 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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Houses On Stilts

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A New Shipmate


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