Written over the course of 3 weeks. Started in Pucallpa, perú, completed in Cartagen, Colombia.
The river is ever going. The blood of the earth pumping through over veins into the great oceans.
The sun rises the sun sets, family's and our group of international voyagers- and one old man, Ilsidro, vibrate with the freight and brown water.
Since I last posted, I have traveled some 1800 kilometers north, nearly half by cargo boats. With my Dutch amigo, we flew in on a storm to Pucallpa, missing the landing strip once circling around through the store with emergency lights blinking- we laughed as bounced hard hitting ground. Taking a motorcycle rigged auto rickshaw, we dive through the rain. We grab drinks in a town very different to any Peruvian city we've visited, things are looser, the trees seem to droop, the houses sweat, and the jungle feels almost island like.
We traverse the docks the next morning looking for puerto Henry, finding it on the other side of a river front market, next to corn mills, fish moguls, nautical supplies, 24 hour wooden bars with a man stumbling with a bloody nose out of a whorehouse, gambling halls, and the sweltering humidity of the encroaching amazon. A toothless man with faded prison numbers and topless woman tattooed on his arms tell us that there is a delay from flooding in Huanacó.
We find 4 great ships, painted orange, green and white with airplane façades rising out of the bridge deck. We're told to return the next day by a crew hand with a marine crew cut slightly spiked.
We gather supplies: water, ramen, bowls, bug spray, Oreos and ritz crackers- what else does one need. Having bought our hammocks earlier the next morning we gather our gear and cram onto a Tuk tuk, that struggles to carry our great portage. A slight rain, and a dizzying fluster of cranes, men carrying 50lb sacks barefoot through mud, families taking keep, we board our home for the next week. The fare is 100soles to Iquitos, around 28$.
We are directed next to a group of fellow travelers, four Argentines, one Swiss, a German, and an Italian- later another argentine joins- having a child in Colombia he is going to visit, and a Paraguayan couple, one a doctor with a Karl Marx beard and gentle cool air of a much older man.
We play chess, rummy, the beer is gone after the first day or sailing- 2 days after we board, 7 days after for some. People leave and load at numerous villages along the river, a cute brother and sister being along a small green monk parrot, like the one me and Chauné had. I pity the damn thing, clipped wings and a little boy who like to grab.
Conversations swing from food to politics, travel, and jokes regarding characters on the boat. I read "Gone Bamboo" by Tony Bourdain and "The Open Veins of Latin America" by Eduardo Galeno. I swing lazily from my hammock, talking philosophy with a philosopher, economics with an economist, and politics with a doctor. Me and my Dutch amigo have decided to start a championship of rummy, racking up points from Huancayo all the way to now Cartagena, our last few games will be played today. The award 20usd.
We muse life from the stern side, along the bathrooms, we avoid until we can no longer do so. The running water is river water, needless to say we don't shower. We debate star formations, practice Spanish and English.
On the final day of the voyage a jubilant energy paces the ship, we climb atop the bridge deck, we sing songs and take group selfies, the hundreds of Peruvians below laugh and take pictures of us, and us of them.
By night fall we arrive on land- find a old colonial hostel, yellow and crumbling, we wash off an accumulated grime and stink. First beer in a week, cold and good.
It is nearing 6 months of travel. My heart is full, my mind is free, the road home will take me through Colombia returning to Medellín to breath in the resilience of a beautiful city, and then to méxico. The in explores core of my heart, part of an identity I have so deeply tried to understand removed by generation, estranged by language, guarded by the borders of a racial society.
The world moves and for a moment I stand still, the world and I break- like counts of a beat. Anticipating the next confluence of rhythms. In my wayward youth, of pocket knives and burns on my flannel coat, I dreamed of brown rivers and rice bags. I dreamed of the town Pucallpa, of Dedghoan and the kali gandaki, I dreamed of the dusty street of Arjun Nadar. I have been in so many states, of despair, elation, driving passion, heartbreak, dulled and numbed, heats of desire, clarity,- a million human moments, being surrounded by people who look like my mother, my father, like me.
In my elation one night, I don't know when, perhaps the 25th of January I write: it is this- the raw humanity. The idea of being human, that is sacred. I know my purpose is what I make it. Damn the stars, damn the gods, we can fight them too.
A mixed people, coco brown to olive white, Asian eyes, beautiful and rhythmic, we pulse on the planet. I sit in a book shop in the old city and type.
The habit is like breathing.