We have happily celebrated a bit of civilization and a great X-mas. It is time to get back on the river, back into solitude and adventure.
Before we leave the Ecuadorian border-town of Rocafuerte, we have to get passport stamps and pay a visit to the “Capitania”, which is the military office that oversees the marine regulations. We need an exit permit for our raft, with a passenger list to get cleared. 10 minutes, no problems, no payment. In Rocafuerte, we also met an interesting professor from Catalonia (dare I say Spain?) together with his Chilean photographer friend. They were doing an anthropological study and documentary on the local people on the Rio Napo and the influence of oil-exploration in the region. They want to join the raft for a day, sailing with us to the Peruvian border-town of Pantoja. “We want to record a day of your adventure. Include it in the documentary, maybe some interviews”. Sure, why not, they seem cool.
We also bumped into an interesting man from South Africa. His name is Misha. He had lived in the Amazonian state of Loreto in Peru for several years. Recently, he had lost a very important bag with camera, passports and electronics into the river, as a local boat capsized when he was being transported. Misha wanted to come with us to Pantoja, maybe longer. He decides to join in a split second and jumps our raft in the last minute before departure. He moves in an agile manner as he balances himself across our neighbouring boats, unto our raft. A slim, caucasian man dressed in a shirt, politely communicating with others. Turns out he is a Buddhist, this 38 year-old polite, young man. Most girls would find him attractive, I would say. Misha would soon be absorbed into the Amazonian-project, a thing none of us knew, when he casually boarded the raft that moment. He believes in karma.
Technically, we are not allowed to bring any passengers across the border. Together with the Catalan/Chilean documentators and Misha, we are now carrying 3 passengers. Misha doesn’t even have a passport and is hence illegally crossing the border. “Your risk, your decision, come if you like”, we say.
We didn’t make it to Pantoja, as a rainstorm hit us and we crashed into the side of the river, a bit rough actually. It was wonderful to see the instinctive reaction of fear from our new crew members, a reaction I clearly recognize from the first days on the raft. Moderately crashing against the tree-trunks as a storm is pouring rain on our fragile floating house, losing control but harvesting rain-water calmly in the chaotic process. We know it is safe, but clearly our new passengers have reactions to the new, unforeseeable environment. I think they liked it. Who wouldn’t?
“Jaguars? Panthers?”. “Yes, they can enter the raft in the night from the tree trunk next to us” says the Chilean photographer and points out his concern. “I hope not” I say. Because those are seriously big cats.