Since Iquiotos is the largest city in the world, which is not connected by any road, anyone, who wants to travel from Pucallpa to Iquitos, has two ways: you can either fly or take the boat. We opted for the four-day cruise. This, one imagines will be quite an adventure, and yes, even a little romantic... at least before. One has in mind a boat, like the idyllic steam ships from the 19. Century, traveling up and down the Mississippi River. One imagines hammocks hung lazily on deck, swinging back and forth in the breeze, while he gazes on the wild forest to the left and right gliding along the river. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different, and looking back actually leaves a shudder for a moment.
The problems already begin, in that it is impossible to get truthful information, as to when the boats will actually be leaving the port. No kind of “Travel Agency” or similar exists for the boats. Which leaves no other choice but to go personally to the port hoping to get the desired information... Chalk boards hang on the respective boats, where the expected departure is noted. However, these are very unreliable. In most cases, one finds written on the chalkboard “Mañana”, which will likely remain there, until the boat is truly ready to leave the port, whereupon the “Mañana” will finally change to “Hoy” ... Therefore one can not really count on anything written on the chalk boards, and only has the possibility to ask as many people as possible. This will surely give you a huge variety of answers. From the many responces you can then select either the average, or perhaps the answer, which is most frequently given. In short: you can never say with certainty, when the boat will actually leave the harbor. This fact and the desire to secure the best spot for your hammock, requires you to come on board already one to two days in advance, before the boat even thinks to fire up its engines.
We arrived the day before on board, but already had problems to find a place at this time, even where only two hammocks could have been placed side by side. I felt from the first night very cramped, but did not yet realize, that it would get much worse. On the day of departure, about another 100 people rushed on board. Including a family of four women, a man, and four young children, who decided it was a good idea to move in among our hammocks. After two days I was ready to throw one of the children overboard, the portable children's toilet, which was rarely cleaned began to stink, and one had difficulties not to slip on thier food leftovers, which were strewn around the floor.
Yes, so a river cruise is not for everyone. You share the boat with about 250 other people, which Jason did not hesitate to compare to a prison, and all sharing only six toilets. The light is switched off on board very late and when it's finally dark then of coarse your hammock-neighbor will turn on his radio. When the radio is finally put out, it can be expected for sure, that one of the brats starts bawling... The food, one thinks, is not so bad, until you learn better, when you end up with diarrhea for days. So, the song goes: “Eine Bootsfahrt, die ist lustig, eine Bootsfahrt, die ist schön… (A boat trip that is funny, a boat trip that is nice)”
If one can manage to overlook all of these things, he finds himself often enough in situations, where he almost enjoys the whole journey. The wild jungle actually flows slowly over to your left and right and is very beautiful. At sunrise – and sunset, it is almost peaceful on board. Whenever one arrives at a port, a wild flow of vendors rush on board, selling all possible variety of goods. On deck cards are played and chickens wander about. The days in the hammock, almost cozy. The boat ride from Pucallpa to Iquitos was indeed not the most fun experience, that I have ever been through, however it was certainly worth while, and in retrospect we probably both would have been very disappointed, to have missed this unique experience.