As mentioned earlier, Coca is a cute little city. With 30.000 inhabitants it is not very large, yet it seems to have most things. However, we are looking for some slightly odd articles: 18 plastic barrels with 200 liter volume, giant bamboo 9 meters longs, mosquito-net by the meter and a cheap engine that will push a 1500kg raft. 10 blocks from the city center some large hardware stores conglomerate and we start our hunt. Within long, we have located the bamboo: it seems that the local construction companies use them to build scaffolding, like they do many places in the World. The plastic barrels are a bit more difficult to come across, but we are sure they are around: Oil companies that operate in the nearby jungle use them to transport chemicals and other nasty liquids in. But to save money, we want to buy used ones. We keep asking around and follow various instructions around town, like a kid on a treasure hunt. It’s good fun, we speak to scores of people and they look very sceptical when we tell them that we need them to build a raft so that we can sail to Peru and Brazil. “Who? Only the two of you? It’ll take months and you might get lost. There’s snakes, insects, crocodiles, piranhas and untouched Amazonian jungle tribes”. Yup, that’s why we want to go !
No shops can help us with the barrels, but a friendly customer overhears the Gringos weird desire for 18 large, used plastic barrels. He calls around and asks us to come with him in his car which flows fast and furious through town while the driver is on the phone. “Louis Grande” is the father-in-law of our newly acquired friend and he, basically, sells trash: Scrap metal, old rusty non-functioning engines… and huge 200 liter plastic barrels used in some dirty chemical industry. His shop is located in the same poor neighborhood that we live in. He has 5, but can supply more. Perfect.
We have made contact with a local house right next to the river. It is a fairly basic house made of wood and standing on stilts to avoid the flooding river, which rises up to 6 meters. No windows, lots of kids, surrounded by jungle. Louis and Daniel are brothers and the oldest men in the house, so we approach them. “Can we use some of your land to construct a raft for the next 3 weeks?” Sure, but you’ll have to pay a bit of money and we will also keep an eye out for the raft, when you are not here. Perfect.
4.50. No, we are buying 34 pieces of bamboo, we want them cheaper. Ok, 4 dollars each, but you can’t scramble through the pile to only take to good ones, you have to buy all. “Bueno” we say and start scrambling through the pile for some nice, long, straight pieces of bamboo. Biologically, bamboo is a grass, and a very impressive piece of grass: We find bamboo up to 12 meters long with a 15cm diameter weighing up to 70kg a piece. Durable, flexible, cheap and super-strong. Big macho jungle-ecuadorian wood-workers help us load it onto an undersized truck, that carefully transports our “grass” through bumpy gravelroads to the jungle. They all find it very interesting that we will attempt to construct a raft and float to Brazil.
We also find plywood and profiled aluminum roof for a competitive price, which we order. Next week it’ll arrive, they say. Knock on wood, we have lots!
The rain is very impressive here in the Ecuadorian jungle. It starts within 20 seconds and pours like you’d never seen before. It can often complicate things a bit: Cars get stuck, entire neighborhoods get flooded.
Our bamboo and barrels are located at a small gravelroad where a tiny path leads us the last 300 meters to our construction site through jungle, flooded swamp-areas and a symphony of sounds. The rain is pouring. We start to carry the heavy bamboo on the muddy, slippery, wet path. A job from hell, but it has to be done. Two wandering Colombians who make a living by sharpening knifes on the streets helps us a lot, strong sturdy dudes, not afraid of physical, hard, heavy work. The local people and their kids at the house are curiously monitoring us. We manage to nearly transport all the materials on the first day, good progress. We are all tired and the Colombians deserve some beers for their effort: Time to head back to the bar and celebrate. We have started! On the construction of a large 10 x 4 m raft that will take us down the mighty Amazon River!