Exploring a new continent

Travel time: March - June 2010  |  by Dominik Weber

6 April Leticia

Today, there was a day for something new: Without having a Spanish speaking friend around me, I started to explore South America by my own. One more time, I went to the airport (this time, for the first time by local bus) but I underestimated Bogota's traffic. I left around 10am, but the bus just didn't move fast through the city. I didn't dare to look at my watch, especially since I didn't know at what time the check-in closes. On top of everything I did know that the bus will not go to my terminal, but will stop some hundreds meters away and I will have to walk. But everything was fine, I arrived, there was a little shuttle bus that brought me to the terminal and I arrived on time at the check-in and everything was fine. But I was sweating.
One more time, I took a flight of AeroRepublica, a rather young Colombian airline. I thought that all or at least most airlines in South America are old, unreliable and dangerous. So far, I didn't took one of those. AeroRepublica has only one type of plane, an Embraer 190, one of the newest commercial airliner on the market, the seats are in leather and you have ample of space. I think they are pretty good - beside the fact that everything is in Spanish only: the newspaper, the announcement at the terminal, the announcements in the plane. Well, after flying so much during the last years, I should know what to do with my swimming veste.
As always, during the flight I slept and only later I saw only green rain forest below us. We went down and two hours after departure, we arrived in Leticia, a small airport in the Southern trapeze that connects Colombia with the Amazon river. I got off the plane and one more time, I had to breath hard. I just had rained and so, on top of the 30C. the humidity was at about 100%. Welcome in the Rain Forest.

After paying my tourist tax at the airport, and after the sniffing dogs were screening all luggage, I tried to take my first photos of the small terminal building, but my camera wasn't yet rain forest proofed: due to the humidity, my lens got totally foggy. Anyway, I got my luggage and started walking to town which isn't far away. Leticia is a small town and you can only reach it by boat or plane. Something, that is not so special in the jungle. Since it is right at the border, the people there are very friendly to all kind of foreigners. They are just friendly and not, like in other places, they want to sell you something. I tried to find a hostel, but the first one has moved to more outside, the second I simply couldn't find and so I took the third one. It was rather an apartment buidling (one floor) with a lot of locals than a hotel, but it was fine. I had a single room at the Residencias Marina and "I got what I paid for". Simple, easy, with a bed, a bit of dirt and just ok for one night.
Beside being a jumping board for a trip to the jungle, there is not much to see in Leticia. A funny market, a one-room Amazonian museum, a zoo (that seemed to be closed) and a park where all the parrots are gathering at sunset for their nightly rest. It is unbelievable loud with these perhaps thousand of birds there. Very impressive. Only the motorbikes are louder of which there are plenty on the street, there are almost no cars.
It took me 1/2 day to see everything in Leticia and I think that was enough. Leticia was for me also a jumping board since I wanted to take one of the cargo ferries to Iquitos, a trip that takes three days and two nights. It leaves from Santa Rosa but nobody in Leticia could answer that question. So next morning, I took all my luggage, took a taxi to the other sice of the river and it seems that everybody knows there when the ferries are leaving. One guide book said, there is one ferry per week, the other said 2 or 3 per week. But I think that at the moment, it is about 1 boat per day. I found out that the same night, there were two boats leaving, so I could even chose which one to take.

As I said, Leticia is just at the border to Brazil and Peru. Since there is a lot of traffic between these cities, there is actually no boarder control when you cross it - you even don't need a visa. Leticia and Tabatinga seem to be one city and Santa Rosa in Peru is just across the Amazon. But when you go further into the country, first you need a Colombian exit stamp which you get at the airport, then you cross the border and on the other side you/I got the entrance stamp for Peru. But that's not so easy: Santa Rose is very small and more or less just one long street. Somewhere, there is a building from the immigration police, but I was waiting for about two hours until an offer opened the door. Well, actually, he lived next door, but wasn't in the office most of the day, perhaps he spent the time with his family. Welcome in Peru.
Since I was walking up and down the one street to see everything, the guy, where I bought a bottle of water, asked me to sit down in front of his shop and later he even asked me to leave my luggage in his house if I want to have a walk. I had to go back to Leticia to buy a hammock - something that I will need on the ferry boat. He was very friendly - something that will happen more in Peru.
But while I was waiting, another guy started talking with me. He was obviously no local, we started talking in English, but was actually from Zurich, lives at the moment on a Caribian Island and is visiting a friend of his in Santa Rosa, a German, Hans, from M√ľnster. Well, he invited me to see Hans. Hans had a house a little bit further down the one and only street, used to live in the jungle but since a few years in Santa Rosa. He was telling some stories about the drug mafia in Brazil, about dangerous animals in the jungle, the fact that he has a lot of time and that he does not have enough money. Well, with other words, in order to make money, he is using his house as a hostel. But since I wanted to take the ferry that night, it wasn't for me. Not this time, but perhaps next time.
It seems that in Santa Barbara, whoever has food, is cooking and selling it on the street. Today, it is one family, the next day, it is another. Something that I will see more during my time in Peru. Since I want to explore Peru, I already had lunch on the street, fish, and with the two gentleman, we also had dinner. Shared a beer and I got on the boat for my trip to Iquitos. It was raining very strong, but I didn't mind, I was on a boat for the next days.

Street life in Leticia.

Street life in Leticia.

Even a family with 4 heads can sit on a bike. This time, it was only three.

Even a family with 4 heads can sit on a bike. This time, it was only three.

Fresh market.

Fresh market.

Sitting in a taxi across the river.

Sitting in a taxi across the river.

THE street in Santa Rosa.

THE street in Santa Rosa.

The last sunshine before the daily rain.

The last sunshine before the daily rain.

© Dominik Weber, 2010
You are here : Overview The Americas Colombia 6 April Leticia
The trip
 
Description:
After working for too long without a real break, I decided to go on a long planned backpack trip. After changing the departure date and the destination several times, I decided to go to South America. Starting in Colombia, then Peru and finishing in Bolivia. At least, this was the plan but once on tour, you never know what to expect. This report is for all people asking how I am doing, but also for those who are thinking about doing something similar. I hope I can inspire them.
Details:
Start of journey: Mar 19, 2010
Duration: 13 weeks
End of journey: Jun 15, 2010
Travelled countries: Colombia
Peru
Bolivia
The Author
 
Dominik Weber is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 11 years.
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