Day 37, September 3rd, we have completed phase 2 of the trip–the Red Zone is over (more or less)!
After a big push yesterday–12 hours paddling and getting in after dark–we made it to Pucallpa! For days now (or weeks really) we have been anticipating our arrival here because it means we get on our support boat–the Perolita! This means no more camping in the sand, pooping with the sand flies, eating dehydrated meals, etc…it means being delivered to a relative lap of luxury…
But alas, as we arrived last night, we found out that the Perolita is not here. They are actually quite a ways downstream and are not coming up because they are worried about security. Not exactly the news we were hoping for as we pulled into the big city. This is also bad news for Cesar because it means he is stuck with us for probably another week!
But, you probably aren’t reading this to listen to me whine, so on with an update.
We have had a navy escort for the past 4 days and they are coming with us for 3-5 more days below Pucallpa. The Peruvian Navy has been amazing. We are all astonished, and incredibly grateful, that they are willing to commit their time and resources to our expedition. We have been with Lieutenant Caceda and a team of 16 marines the last 4 days and they are a great bunch of guys!
It is very nice to have them with us as it has definitely lessoned my level of paranoia! I can sleep much better at night now that I don’t have to wake up at each noise and worry that the “bad guys” are coming.
I do think 1 or 2 guards got a little more than they bargined for though. Each night 4 marines have to stand watch. On our last night above Pucallpa, the guards were especially attentive. I got out of the tent to pee in the middle of the night and gaurd with a big gun came over and shined his big and very bright flashlight in my face while I was peeing and asked if everything was ok. A bit embarrassed and at a loss for words, I said “um, yes, all good, just peeing!”
Now, onto the dolphins, they are the one good thing about the flatwater:-) We have seen them everyday since Atalaya. There are pink dolphins which really are pink! And they are big and a bit ungainly looking. Their dorsel fin is flat topped, not pointed like a normal dolphin. More common are the grey dolphins which look like very small ocean dolphins. There are lots of these and they are constantly jumping around.
Everytime we see the pink dolphins I think back to Joe Kane’s description of the dolphins’ farting noises in his book Running the Amazon. At first we thought that Joe Kane must have an odd diet because clearly he did NOT know what a normal fart sounded like! Then we realized we were hearing the grey dolphins, and when we finally did hear the pink dolphins surface and breath, we were very relieved to know that Joe can indeed properly identify a fart noise!
In other wildlife, we see storks all the time now. We also see parrots all day everyday. The bugs haven’t been too horrible. There is a mosquito hour each evening and morning but other than that, they aren’t too bad. We still have no see ums but not nearly as much as we had higher up.
On the climate, it is hotter than crap now. After our 3 days of rain upstream of Atalaya, we have had nothing but cloudless skies. We are all taking doxicycline for malaria which makes you more sensitive to the sun and we are in the sun 12+ hours a day and it isn’t exactly working out so well. We all have red noses and the worst is our hands are all messed up. Even though we have back of the hand protection (sun paws), our fingers are frying! I am now paddling in my pogies (mittens for cold weather kayaking), Midge is paddling with socks on his hands, and Don is toughing it out but his fingers have turned a very weird red/yellow color. It litterally looks like he put “fake tan” cream on the top half of all his fingers.
So, do the rain dance would you?
On culture, last night when we arrived to Pucallpa, Midge and I were guarding the kayaks while Don got the hotel. We never had fewer than 30 people standing in a circle around us staring at the kayaks and at us. It is quite funny that most people won’t talk to us, they just want to stare at us and the kayaks. A few people talked to us and that was nicer/less awkward! The most common question is “where is the motor?” I also don’t think many of them believe us when our answer to their question of “where are you going” is “the Atlantic Ocean.”