Our expedition up the Ampiyacu and Yahuasyacu rivers was a deeply engaging experience. To meet these semi-modernized tribes and go hunting and fishing with them. To visit the local “Chief” of the tribe in his traditional Maloka house, socializing with them on the dirt floor, enjoying local jungle foods and drinks, sharing coca-powder and questions about his and our cultures. Applying genuine interest in their society and being met with a similar honesty and interest.
Now, we were back in the ancient and cute jungletown of Pebas. A colorful gateway in the center of town says “ Bienvenidos a Pebas. Tierra de amor” = Welcome to Pebas. Land of Love. It surely is a lovely little place.
We leave a great thanks to the family in Pebas that looked after our raft for the last couple of days while we were on our upstream-expedition in our small boat. They also belong to the Bora tribe and have been helpful in allowing us to use their land for some boat repairs and afterwards guard our raft. We have made friends with them in the process and especially their kids find us immense entertaining. A floating house with some weird-looking foreigners that speak a mysterious language but yet communicates in understandable Spanish. We invited them for popcorn on our raft the first day. Then Peycho bought a slingshot from them and afterwards awarded them a nominal payment if they gathered him some ammunition. The funny, friendly, full-bearded foreigner: Peycho, an attraction in its own right, now “the sling-shooting playful-uncle”. A sure way to guarantee the daily return of the kids.
I gave them some Danish adventure-travel magazines with photos of foreign landscapes, animals, cities, culture and people. They gazed through the pages, fighting for the right to “control” the magazine and decide which pages to look at. We did a bit of business with the local family as well, buying some wood materials, a handmade palm-leave bag and some fruits. We left behind several things that we didn’t really need, and they accepted it gratefully.
“No es muy seguro de aqui hasta la frontera. Tienen que cuidarse” the locals warn us. “It is not very safe from here to the Brazil border. Be careful”. Ok, I will try to float “carefully”, don’t really know what that means or what else to do. It wasn’t the first time that people warned us about the safety on the river. It for sure wasn’t the last.
We were floating down the Amazon for the last 400km out of Peru to reach the tri-border between Colombia, Peru and Brazil. It is a legendary border. 30 years ago, a weapon-, human and drug-traffickers hub without much police presence. Today? A weapon-, human- and drug-traffickers hub with a massive police and military presence. But it is simply too attractive to traffic here: You can easily hide in the Amazonian vastness and the river-system leaves endless open, remote corridors of access between Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. A traffickers paradise, one could say. It is nearly impossible to patrol it.
We leave Pebas behind us and float into the huge Amazon River again. We decide to just keep on floating throughout the night and to take turns to watch. The Amazon is so huge, that you are often far away from the shore and hence safe. If wind pushes you to the shore, you pull the engine alive with a roar and easily escape the dangers. And it is beautiful to float in the night. All Alone. Alone in this giant unpopulated region, floating in total serenity, total silence as the stars pack densely above me and some soft sounds of water-swirls from the Amazon reminds me that I am actually moving downstream with up to 10km/h. Think. Read. Gaze. Dream. Wonder.
Soon, we will arrive at the tri-border. And hopefully getting through the bureaucratic loophole with the Brazilian Marine Authorities to allow our home-made bamboo raft to enter their waters. 3 months before the World Cup: They don’t want any bad publicity and to allow a homemade bamboo-raft with foreigners to float through pirate-infested waters could be deemed too risky for them.
“Please don’t let papers stop us” I am thinking. Because we will continue “under the radar” without papers, ifnecessary, I sense.