Exclusive for Vagobond by Matthew Barker
Nueva Utuquinia is a typical Amazonian settlement, home to around 400 villagers who live in stilted, palm-roofed houses and lead a largely self-sufficient existence, farming their small patches of land and harvesting the abundant river and jungle.
Achiles demonstrated just how abundant the jungle is the following day, as we hiked from Utuquinia to the next village – a four hour walk through virgin forest. Along the way he stopped to point out tracks left by a jaguar, and later a tapir. The canopy bristled with screeching monkeys and the almost Jurassic calls of countless bird species.
But the abundance of the jungle’s animal inhabitants is almost insignificant next to the sheer quantity of edible fruit that literally drips from the low branches. Our trail was scattered with granadillas, coconas, oranges and lemons just waiting to be picked and eaten. With a few slashes of his machete, Achiles felled a small palm and stripped out the tender heart from its trunk – much tastier than the tinned version.
The journey back to town took another two days, thanks in part to a series of blockages in the think channels; driftwood, logs and swamp that had been washed into the river by unseasonably high water levels.
With each blockage we were forced to abandon the boat, machetes in hand and cut a channel for the boat. Fortunately the water was not too deep and we were able to drag the boat through each time, although not without destroying our propeller and getting thoroughly soaked in the process.
“It’s all part of the adventure,” my friend shouted as we jumped back into the water for the third time in less than an hour. He was right, but I was still glad when we reached dry land and found my first hot shower and comfortable bed in five days.
Trip styles in the Peruvian Amazon vary greatly. To get the most from your trip it is recommended that you work with a travel planner.
Matthew Barker lives and writes in Peru.