Just as wild, weird and wonderful as I expected: Pushing ourselves off the shores of the small Rio Payamino, where we have been constructing our raft for the last month. No test-runs, no nothing, just two explorers who are convinced that their idea will work: To float down the Rio Napo for nearly 1000km crossing the border into Peru on their homemade bamboo raft. Without an engine. “It’s half price in Peru, so we will make it the first month without an engine and then buy one in Peru” we logically conclude. Goodbyes to the friendly Amazonian tribal Shuar family that has helped us build the raft for the last month. Their 22 year old daughter with DOWN syndrome is exhaustively sad and refuses to say goodbye, I have only seen her happy for the entire month that we have been here, everyday. She sits calmly and watches us as we work and returns a smile with genuine warmth. I never said goodbye to her, as she refused to accept the fact that we were leaving and ran away.
We slowly drift away from sight and are on our own. Things appear safe and calm, until a windy small rainstorm hits us after 1 hour. Chaotically, we gather our stuff and learn how to use your rollable plastic walls. The zinc roof is shaking in the wind, and the nails are coming out. I climb on the roof and we reinforce the roof with metal wire. 1 hour on the river and we are doing repairs, interesting start, what will happen?
Rain and wind stops and we get control again. No problem. We managed to harvest 70 liters of drinkable water in 10 minutes, strong intensive rain. We are leaving the “big city” of Coca, the will see nothing more than villages for the next month. The impressive suspension bridge hangs over us and we luckily pass through two of the pylons of the old bridge without crashing. Ignorance is blessed, as we didn’t have a clue about the danger we are heading into.
We realize that we have little control of the raft with our simple poking-sticks, as it takes more power to stop and control a 2 tonnage vessel. We construct some simple, but large oars and within long we install them. Seems to be working, not very much, but it gives a little control. We are making progress, floating with 3-5 km. pr hour and a start to regain a little confidence in our project. “Maybe it is possible”.
Our local friends, Jamie and Stephanie, have joined us for the first couple of days. 4 people on the raft, and we are all learning how to manage our little floating house. We crash againts tree-trunks in the water and quickly accumulate several minor damages. “I think it is safe for the people onboard, but I am not sure that our raft, La Balsa, can survive these multiple daily crashes” I hear myself say.
But for now, we are doing good. The first day was a limited success, but a success none-the-less. We progressed, we didn’t sink, we are comfortable and safe, the journey is beautiful and naturally engaging, we have food and cook a nice chicken on our fireplace from some drift wood laying around. A serene, lonely beach in the river is our spot for the night and the fire burns away with a mild sound as the full moon rises to illuminate our present moment and location. Beauty defined.
“It’s not easy, it’s not entirely safe for our raft, it is never boring, it is highly unpredictable and it IS super-adventure”. Love it. I really, really feel alive.
We are doing it. Floating down the River Napo on our homemade bamboo-raft from Ecuador until we reach the Amazon River in Peru, where we will buy an engine.