And so we left Coca behind. We booked a boat the day before to get to Nuevo Rocafuerte, the town on the Ecuadorian side of the border. It took about eleven hours along the Rio Napo, stopping only once for lunch in a cute little town called Panacocha. The boat was fairly crowded but it was a really pleasant journey, making lots of stops along the way for people to get off and seemingly just disappear into the jungle, presumably to some hidden house or village where they lived.
Arriving in Nuevo Rocafuerte, we quickly got shown to a hostal by the son of the owner. It was basic but clean and spacious so we stayed there before crossing the border to Peru. That night the weather took a turn for the worse and we were in a storm so big that the hotel moved and the curtains were hanging horizontally! We didn’t get much sleep, but woke up to the kind of sunshine you would expect from the Amazon, it was a beautiful and scorching hot day.
We got our immigration stamps and arranged, through our hostal, a canoe to take us to Pantoja, Peru! Getting into the boat, we looked at each other and thought, “Is this it?”. It was basically a hollowed out tree with a motor on the back. It was taking in a lot of water, meaning the driver had to bail out constantly, while also trying to control his young child who was moving and rocking the boat. Meanwhile we were rigid, not daring to move, and praying we wouldn’t capsize/sink. Two hours later we arrived safely in Pantoja, a tiny but friendly village where the immigration lady finished her lunch before stamping us into Peru. After enquiring again about the elusive lancha to Iquitos, we got mixed replies, maybe it will come in three days, maybe longer, we were told.
We ended up spending almost a week in Pantoja, wandering around the village, having a few beers by the river, reading on the hotel terrace. We were on hello terms with everyone after a few days and the old lady in the shop (who was wearing a t-shirt which read, “Spank me, I’m feeling naughty”, much to our amusement) even complimented us on our Spanish. She then pulled out an instruction booklet for a pressure cooker written in English which she wanted us to translate! We managed to muddle through somehow but our Spanish certainly leaves a lot to be desired; basic conversations are a struggle let alone translating instructions!
When the lancha eventually decided to turn up it was an exciting event with the whole town out to see who and what had arrived. The day was spent unloading the boat and we managed to track down the captain who informed us that departure would be on Friday at 6am. Finally a definitive answer! It meant we had yet another day in Pantoja but we had grown quite fond of the place by now. Our only problem was running out of Peruvian soles as the two shops in town which would exchange money were running low too so were refusing to change with us. We boarded the boat the evening before it left to save another night’s accommodation and waved goodbye to Pantoja; we were on the way to Iquitos at last!
Where we stayed:
Hostal Chimborazo in Nuevo Rocafuerte – $14 a night for a double ensuite with fan
Hospedaje Napuruna in Pantoja – 20 soles a night for a double ensuite
Where we ate:
Hostal Chimborazo in Nuevo Rocafuerte – $3 each for rice, salad and chicken
Two houses to the left of our hospedaje in Pantoja – 5 soles per meal which was rice and plantains with either eggs, fish, meat or chicken for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with coffee or fruit juice
Boat from Coca to Nuevo Rocafuerte – $15 each
Canoe from Nuevo Rocafuerte to Pantoja – $60 for the boat