Instead of flying to Iquitos, we decided to be a bit more adventurous and opted for taking a four day cargo boat down the river to our destination. This option isn’t for everyone but if you’re prepared to be without hot water and can cope with not setting foot on dry land for a few days, then this experience will stay with you forever.
To make your trip go smoothly I thought I’d share some information that’ll make things easier for you.
Our port was Yurimaguas, a small town in the Amazon basin. To get to Yurimaguas you’ll need to get a bus to Tarapoto. If you’re coming from Lima there’s plenty of direct buses. We were coming from the North, in Mancora, and so had to take a couple of buses to reach Tarapoto. From Tarapoto you’ll likely be ambushed by mototaxi drivers before you’ve even got off the bus. Make sure you negotiate on the price (should be about 2-3 soles) and get a driver to take you to a collectivo company headed to Yurimaguas.
The collectivos go when they’re full: there’s no timetable. We were the last two to fill the car and headed off speedily to Yurimaguas. It takes around three hours to get there, probably longer in the rainy season. The collectivo cost us 20 soles.
Once you’ve arrived at Yurimagauas you’ll be ambushed again by mototaxis. Pay 1, no more than 2, soles for a taxi to the port.
What to do at the port
At the port you’re undoubtedly have a few people latch on to you. They’ll show you around the boats docked up and tell you which one is leaving next. We ended up on the Eduardo V which had three floors; one for storage and two for people.
If there’s still cabins available I’d recommend opting for that rather than just a hammock space. A cabin costs 200 soles and hammock space costs 150. The benefit of a cabin space is that you’ll have somewhere to lock your bags away and there’s a bed, which they’ll make up for you, if you fancy a slightly comfier night’s sleep. The cabins also have electricity points and at meals times your food will be delivered to you, so you won’t have to join the queue. You can also put a hammock out on deck to relax in during the day.
Other points to note:
- It may be worth your while getting off at Nauta if you’re planning to venture further into the jungle. A lot of tour companies offer trips starting from there so you’ll safe yourselves quite a bit of time by not going all the way to Iquitos.
- The boats never leave on time. We were suppose to leave at 10am then 3pm and finally left round 8.30pm
- Be prepared to share the boat with livestock; chickens, cows and pigs are not an uncommon sight
- You may be dirty, tired and desperate to get off the boat by the end of it, but you’ll have a thoroughly memorable experience, great sunsets and the chance to spot wild river dolphins. A true adventure
- Hammocks can be bought on the boat from local people for 30 soles each (we got two for 50). It may be cheaper to buy your own first