Friday, October 12, 2012

From Iquitos Peru to Leticia, Columbia by cargo boat

To read the whole of this story, please turn to the following link;

The rivers are the life-line of people in the Amazon. In our Modern age, boats bring goods unimaginable even to me, a denizen of Modernity. I see things made in China and sold in Iquitos, for example, and I am in a state of awe at the cleverness and sometimes great usefulness of such stuff. Cargo boats make this life better.

Cargo boats run up and down the rivers in the Amazon bringing goods and people to places along the way, bring things that allow trade and money and a greater life. It must always have been this way on the rivers here in the Amazon, but in our Modern world it's a lot more efficient than in times past.

The captain of the cargo boat is shoeless. He doesn't wear a uniform. He is not a wealthy man. He is a man of some status, but he is not envied or greatly respected. He is just a man.
The cargo boats bring everything to the cities and from the cities to the villages to support those who supply in turn. I asked why people would live in such poverty on the river side when they could easily move to Lima or Arequipa or some other modern city where they could move up the social and economic ladders that define the good life in our time. The man I spoke with shivered in the warm evening breeze. He didn't have a sweater. He said he likes the life he has, and he likes his family and he likes his neighbors and others in the village. He put his hand on his son's head and smiled and I could see he wants his son to live this good life too.

The boy had never seen binoculars, and he didn't recognise the word for them.

I know about "larga bisio," or "long vision." I am a tourist here, and I have more than most will ever have. I don't have a job, and I am rich. Lucky me.

It might cost me as much as an extra $5.00 to have a cabin on the cargo boat. I pay it willingly.

At the beginning of our journey on the Amazon River the passenger decks are so filled with people and baggage and hammocks that it's nearly impossible to get to the dining table. Thus, one sits in ones cabin until the chef brings a plate of rice, beans, and a bit of chicken, sometimes the neck, sometimes a claw. This is service and one must pay for it. Dozen do, and 200 swing in hammocks and wait till we are fed.

Villagers came aboard as we stopped to unload goods and pick up bananas and fish. The locals brought food for sale.

In spite of being fat I don't eat much. I eat when I'm close to being sick from not eating. Sometimes I don't eat even when I know I should. Life is about food. I often forget that and think it's about careers and politics and war.

As a man with a cabin I had first right of refusal for turtle dinner.

But life is about eating and living and having a home and a family. It's about sharing ones life with others. It takes a family and others to make one real in the world. No one is truly human alone. 

Sometimes a village is just a place in the jungle.

It doesn't take much to be real, but it does take more than oneself.

Sometimes a village is a few houses in the jungle.

More is often better.

And sometimes there is no house to be seen at all.

Sometimes less is good enough.

Life on the river has its moments, though life is hard.

Life is hard even for birds soaring across the river. One seldom sees a bird land on the water. The reason is that fish devour anything that lands, even raindrops sending them into a feeding frenzy. But, seeing a dead fish floating on the water is common. As frenzied as the fish can be, they ignore their own dead till such time as the dead is no longer recognizable as one of their own.

The cargo boats make a hard life better.

I had the unpleasant experience on one boat to witness a puppy tied by the neck on the cargo deck one evening as the dog howled and cried for an hour from loneliness. I stood in the dark above him and considered asking if I could buy him and do just about nothing with him thereafter. But the dog suddenly stopped his howling. Sudden. Instantly. And then for 20 minutes as we sat at a village I watched as the water churned with the madness of frenzied fish. I didn't see the dog again.

Logging depends on the cargo boats, too.

I saw eagles soaring in the sky, though my camera doesn't show it; and I saw soft skinned pink dolphins seemingly immune to attacks by piranhas. I saw things the average Modernist swoons at the sound of seeing. And I saw logging. Life is about eatng, and it is about having a place to live. I favor life. In fact, I favor the good life.

For me as a tourist and a rich man life has great possibilities.

I'm not actually rich, but I play a pretty good role in faking it in the Amazon. I pamper myself sometimes. Swimming pool resort, color television with Brazilian porno movies first thing in the morning, round the clock security to keep out hippies....

Though they don't always turn out as promised.

But some things just don't pan out the way they do in the ads. But life goes on, and one lives with the lumps. It ends anyway.

All of life moves down river eventually. whether cargo or canoe trip or the simple act of decomposition.

A river must be a good metaphor for life. I'll try to think of something clever sometime to write here about that. For now I float along alone.

Everything goes down to the river and eventually to the sea

I'm on the Amazon and I am content. Others live this life all their lives and know nothing else. I know too much. I know that there are possibilities the locals can not ever dream of, even if they watch a lot of television. So I pick up my pack and board another boat to somewhere else and hope for a place some day of my own that I will happily call home. I don't think that day will ever come. I keep asking people why they live the way they do. They seldom have good answers. I hop on cargo boats in the hope of finding a place that is right. I keep moving on in the hope of finding the right answer.

We live here. This is our life.

I've never seen the Mekong.....

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

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