Intrepid travellers Lars and Liane have just sailed down the Amazon from Yurimaguas in Peru to Iquitos in Colombia. They've put together this list of useful tips on how to not only survive the three day journey on a cargo ship, but enjoy it...
The tap water on the boat comes directly from the river and is not filtered – it is as brown as the river itself. You’ll think twice about washing your face with it, let alone put it in your mouth!
So, when you’re calculating the amount of water you’ll need, take into account that you’ll be using it for brushing your teeth and a quick splash for basic hygiene, as well as drinking.
Most boats have a kitchen that serves three meals a day but the quality can be variable. On our boat, breakfast was terrible – some kind of oatmeal – but the meat and rice we got for lunch and dinner was OK. Buy some crackers and cookies – and some fresh fruit – to supplement the meals that can be a bit stodgy and boring.
A lot of travellers get hung up on whether to buy or rent a hammock. If you think you can use your hammock after your trip, buy one. They only cost around 30 or 40 soles. If not, rent one on the boat. It will cost you 20 soles or 15 if you are a good haggler.
Whatever you decide, it is much more important to secure a good spot to hang it. Somewhere up the front of the boat – away from the engine and the toilets – is best. It’s much quieter here. And try to get in the middle row. Here, passing passengers don’t disturb you that much.
Take it as a given that Amazonian mosquitos will love feasting on you. Mosquito repellent is a must. And a mosquito net is a good idea too.
Night on the boat is surprisingly noisy. Some passengers fall asleep right after dinner, others play cards and drink and sing loudly. Come prepared with earplugs and you’ll be able to snuggle down in your blanket and hammock and have a wonderful, undisturbed night of sleep.
There is usually no toilet paper on the boat and the small onboard kiosk won’t sell it either. One or two rolls should do the trick. And some disinfectant gel for your hands won’t go amiss either.
If you decide to eat the food offered onboard, note that you have to provide your own plate for the ‘chef’ to put food onto. And unless you’re happy using your hands, you should probably bring a spoon too. It’s not a problem, as hawkers sell plastic containers, plates and cutlery on the dock, before the boat leaves.
The weather in the Amazon basin changes very quickly. One moment the sky is blue and the sun is strong and hot, the next moment the sky is dark and it’s pouring with rain. Go outside and enjoy the refreshing raindrops on your skin. It’s a fantastic feeling!
As soon as the sun sets, the air becomes chilly and you may want to put a sweater on. A blanket or a sleeping bag is a must.
Generally, things are quite relaxed on the boat. But you never know. Put your backpack under your hammock so it’s a bit more difficult for others to reach it. And at night, you should keep your valuables with you in your hammock.
If you’re really concerned about security, consider renting a cabin. They are equipped with a bunk bed and they can be locked.
If you are travelling in a group, this can be a surprisingly economical option, with a cabin costing roughly 300 soles. The cabins aren’t very comfortable, so you could use it as a storage room and sleep outside in the fresh air in your hammock.
This is very special boat ride. Listen to your favorite music or read a good book and lean back and take a deep breath. Feel the movement of the boat, observe the passing rainforest and the spectacular formations of the clouds. Is there a better way to journey through the Amazon Basin?
For more tips and inspiration from Lars and Liane, visit their blog, bobaroundtheworld.com
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