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THE MIDNIGHT BOAT TO PEBAS

November 22, 2022

THE MIDNIGHT BOAT TO PEBAS

By Campbell Plowden

September 24, 2022

The only way to go downriver from Iquitos to the town of Pebas used to be one of the large "lanchas" that carried lots of cargo and up to 300 people who hung their hammocks tightly together on two upper decks. This trip usually took 12 to 15 hours going downriver and as much as 20 hours coming upriver.
Lanchas for cargo and passengers traveling on the Amazon River in Peru
About 6 years ago, the government bought two nice boats that used to ply the fjords of Norway. They call these boats the Ferry and named them Amazonas 1 and 2. These boats make the same trip in 5 hours. Tickets have to be reserved in advance, and there are stricter controls getting on board. Masks must be worn. Passports are checked (since the ship goes all the way to the Brazilian border).Bags are inspected, but we are still in Peru. The official poked around my checked bag but didn't notice I was wearing a well-stuffed backpack. On board, we actually had to sit in our assigned seats. In the lower deck these were like economy seats on a plane.
The "Ferry" for comfortable travel on the Amazon River
I had a nice chat with my wife via WhatsApp then reclined my seat to get a few hours of sleep. I woke up once to use the restroom and had other reminders that we were still in Peru. Several adults had laid down on the floor in various places. I barely missed stepping on a baby in the dark that its mom had laid down on a blanket in the aisle.
When we got to the mouth of the Ampiyacu River near a military base called the Pijuayal, we disembarked with our bags to a wooden boat with two benches to take us the rest of the way to Pebas. The river level was the lowest I'd ever seen it. Less cautious larger crafts were routinely getting stuck on sand bars.
Campaign party for regional election in Pebas, Peru
After checking into our hotel at midnight, I walked up to the plaza to check out the music and festivities. Two political parties had hired singers to entertain their supporters. It was nice to be greeted by friends from the area, but I didn't stay long because I didn't want to engage with the mostly drunken revery.
Elections in Peru are intense. There are a least 10 parties competing in the next election here in a week. Voting is mandatory. Citizens are fined if they don't vote.
I ate my last sandwich in my hotel and went to bed.



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