I woke up much more rested. Breakfast was cafe con leche whcih is served in a bowl and has little to do with coffee or milk, looks like Amazonian river water and tastes like a Frapuccino fell in a vat of boiling water. The object of the game is to dunk your ration of 3 stale pieces of bread in the brown broth and soak up what nutrients you can. While to the reader at thome this may sound scant but I assure you that to us it it was like angel food cake with fresh strawberries and we finished our last drops with gusto. Well, I didn’t exactly finish but, as was to become the custom with all meals aboard ship, I would offer my food to Jarden who, at first with reluctance and then with increasing eagerness, accepted my gifts. Filled with bread, warm water and an eagerness to stretch my legs I decided to set off to see the other floors.
The boat begins in the hold, which is reached by a very large dumbwaiter attached to a winch and contains a lot of exotic cargo.
The first floor of the boat is also reserved for cargo and extends into the prow, where the larger cargo is stored: everything from contstruction equipment and boats to farm animals and large bags of dried fish. Boats and airplanes are the only way to transport anything to roadless Iquitos and for bigger ticket items the only real Previeweconomic way is boat.
As we go down the river we stop by tiny pueblitos and upload their cargo of bananas, fish, rice and other jungle produce and offload our travelling vendors who stay the night to sell their wares and then catch the next boat one stop to the pueblito downstream. We also take on people and as the voyage progresses hammock space becomes more and more dear.
The second floor of the boat is where I live and sleep. It is the biggest, the most crowded and it contains the kitchen. Every time the cook banged his spoon against the cooking pot everyone ran to get food. At first this wasn’t important as everyone got the same but, as the final days of the voyage approached and the kitchen began to run out of food, not everyone on the crowded ship got to eat.
The second floor also housed the majority of toilet/showers. The shower was directly over the toilet so, in theory you could wash yourself as you went about your business but I never tried this luxury. At first they were clean and self cleaning but later the drains become clogged and water and human waste piled up leading to an unpleasant for the unwary late night visitor.
The third floor was somewhat the executive level. While anyone could sleep here, there is less space and only two bathrooms which keeps the population lower. It also has a better stocked kioske which serves beer at the outragous amount: $1 per can. On Amtrak they charge $4.50 for a beer but here on land you can buy a delicious steak with all the trimmings and a drink for $1.50.
Aboard the Don Segundo it was virtually impossible to be without companionship and I needed only wander a few steps before finding new friends. Or rather they find me: everyone wants to talk to the gringo. I took a few pictures of children eating things off the ground the next thing I knew I had been invited to the 4th floor for a drink. Not wanting to arrive empty handed I went downstairs to get my supply of canchita, a treat for anyone who enjoys the the toasted but unpopped kernals of corn usually left at the bottom of the bag. Usually served on top of ceviche it is a tasty treat in its own right and on board the Don Segundo, best kept under lock and key. I kept it in a black plastic bag similar to my toiletry bag and every time I would go to get my soap Jarden would ask: “Canchita?” I had hidden some canchita in a blue bag and, suspicions unaroused, I ran back up to join the party.
The party was a real party complete with an MP3 cd player busting out the top 150 cumbya music hits which might as well be the top 5 because they all sound the same to me. After the cramped conditions below I was entirely unprepared for the sight. An MP3 player pumped out the Peruvian Top 150, which might as well have been the top 5 because they all sound the same to me. Young men and women danced, joked and drank beers in the sun.
I had imagined a 5 day Amazonian boat ride as a rather grim endeavor best remembered as a tough experience overcome with your fellow travellers. This might be true on the lower levels where people complained of the bread prices: “30 cents for five loaves? Outrageous! It’s half that at home! I would rather go hungry!” These high rolling 20 somethings had strewn the roof level with their empty, and expensive, beer cans. The only other inhabitants of the roof level seemed to be small children who took glee in throwing the cans off the side into the river.
Peruvians love to litter and, though I don’t pretend to involve myself with noble task of changing their culture, every time I see it I am filled with the burning desire to say “You know, one day you or your children are going to have to go down to that river and fish that bottle back out just to put it in a garbage can. It’d really be easier for everyone if you just put it there now.”
The day was idyllic and we danced the hours away.