… is a beautiful song by Placebo, anyway:
Within a couple of days, we are leaving. Leaving our little hometown with newly acquired local friends. Leaving comfort, people and safety behinds us and replacing it with isolation, adventure and solitude. I am extremely excited. And a little bit scared…
Yesterday, we ate breakfast at a little cornershop at 8.15am in the morning. Mango juice and a sandwich. Then walked to the military navy base and politely asked for permission to enter the encampment. “We are here to obtain the necessary licensing and permits for our newly built raft” we informed them. The Navy oversees the marine regulations and vessel registration here in our little hometown Coca. They are friendly and helpful, but are working a bit disorganized and inefficient, actually typical South American: Friendly, sociable but slow.
The rain is pouring down in a violent, windy manner and any suggestion of leaving the dry comfort of the Navy base is not welcomed by the Marine who has to do a safety inspection of our raft. “Lets wait till the rain stops” he says and I am thinking: “A Marine who’s afraid of water, are you serious?”. After 2 hours even the South American patience runs out, and the Marine agrees to go. “We go in our boat” he says, and leads us into a small over-engined military supercraft. We make our way in the pouring rain upstream to our raft and the Marine smiles when he sees it. And laughs a bit of the entire idea: “You are floating for 5 months to Brazil on this thing?” he asks as he measures our vessel and takes notes. 2 life vests, a flotation ring, check. A fire extinguisher? Check, we have it, though I don’t understand what we need it for when we will be in the middle of the largest river on the Planet for the next couple of months, surrounded by water.
We passed the safety inspection without a mark. Ok, he didn’t inspect us too hard but still: We passed the exam in front of The Ecuadorian Military. At 15.33 in the afternoon we return to the Navy base and witness some more paper-juggling and joke-swapping between the relaxed officers as the time ticks. 17.30 and we have a large pile of documents with International Sailing Permits, Port Registration, Certification of Ownership, Safety Inspection Report , Tonnage and other official document. 61.16 dollars lighter but we have a very solid documentation that can take us into foreign water on our own vessel. Issued by the Navy, not too bad!
Safety inspection performed and all documents issued the same day, I will revise my prejudices about South American inefficiency: In Denmark the process of certifying a homebuilt vessel for international traffic would take weeks, involve consultants and be ugly expensive. In Ecuador the military inspected our vessel and issued all documents the same day. I am impressed. Really. Guess the military doesn’t have that much to do here in Ecuador.
The last items are being installed at La Balsa: Our water harvesting, water tanks and sink system, tables. We need to put a bit of homebuilt bamboo furniture on the raft and we can sail. Today we bought nearly all our food. “20 pounds?!” the shopkeeper asked to be sure she heard correct. “Yes, we want to buy 20 pounds of rice” and 20 pounds of potatoes and 10 pounds of onions. She dances happily around her shop as we buy a huge amount of food, probably the biggest sale in a month. 60 kg heavier, we leave the local market in a taxi that takes us back to our poor neighborhood.
Nucanchi Huasi is the name of our “barrio” and it is so eerily atmospheric in the early evening: The sun is setting as the Ecuadorian lower middleclass drifts back to their dwellings, the kids are playing between dirt-piles and sun-faded wooden houses as the lazy streetdogs emerge from the hot daylight for another evening of fighting and barking.
Friendly Jorge comes home from work as we are carrying our vast food supplies to his house. I will never forget his family that has been so friendly, helpful, warm, fun and welcoming. An Amazonian Shuar Tribal family, somewhat modernized but with their traditional life well kept: Their language, customs, culture, knowledge, art. They used to live deeper inside the jungle but moved closer to town “to have access to education for the kids and some jobs for ourselves”. They still fish and farm, but supplement their income with a “regular job”. We built our raft on their land, they helped us built it and we became friends. On request from the family, we designed a simply 8x8m floating restaurant with rooms, as they are thinking of opening such a thing. We spend some hours discussing different ideas, prices, construction materials and methods, size and price. Then we say goodbye. I exchange facebook details with their daughter and walk away with a strong feeling that I will return again one day to revisit them and maybe be able to help them in a similar way that they helped us.
Phonecalls to my closest. Goodbye for a month? I have frequently thought about how it would feel to push ourselves away from the rivershore and start to float down the entire vast nothingness of Amazonia. Tomorrow it will happen and without any test-runs: We don’t have an engine as we plan to buy it in Peru, where it is cheaper. So we can’t make a testrun, as we can’t go back again. Once we start, we start.
We spend the last day installing the remaining furnishing items on the raft and loading everything. I think it will be a comfortable home:
Adventure lures and we are out to find it. Goodbye people.