Rio Ucayali: Rio Pacaya
There are certain places on the planet that never disappoint, and the Pacaya River is one of them. We spent the whole day here, exploring and discovering what it might offer. Our morning began a bit differently than other mornings aboard the Delfin II: earlier for some, later for others. We all set out at 6:30 to enjoy the morning on the river.
One of the true surprises of the morning was a night or owl monkey out and about in broad daylight. We’d seen them in their little hollow, of course, but here the big-eyed thing was near a group of squirrel monkeys! What prompted it to venture forth and why, we did not know. But it was wonderful to see the whole body of the creature that had so charmed us at Yanallpa with just its face.
Our skiffs tunneled through dense vegetation to emerge in a field of Victoria lilies—complete with blooms in various gradations from white (new) to purple (done). It’s not often that a plant feels stately, but these lilies feel stately. They ride the still waters of the Amazon, offering their huge discs to jacanas and frogs. They begin as tight balls of thorn and become a lacy latticework of vegetation before they decay.
At a certain point, all of us met at a bend in the river. The three skiffs became a floating café, and the guides, drivers and bartender pulled out bin after bin of cutlery, cups, and food. We dined in the cool morning air, listening to pink river dolphins chuff around us. Not bad. Not bad at all.
The sun began breaking through the clouds in mid-morning, and we were glad to retreat to the cool of the Delfin’s shade. There, our guides generously fielded questions about life along the river, traditional medicines, and the voting process in Peru. Across the river, our attention was drawn by a huge load of logs: three barges full. Some said that it was being held up because of lack of paperwork, and some of the timber may have been illegally harvested. Some thought it was a more benign rest. But our curiosity was drawn.
We jumped in skiffs and headed across to look more closely at the shores of Britania. It’s a big town, and a ferry was pulled into the bank. People jumped aboard, loaded fruit for trade, and waited to continue upriver to Pucalpa. We waved to the people aboard, they waved to us, and then we even stepped ashore to see the inside of a convenience store, Amazonian style.
The afternoon drew us deep into the Rio Pacaya in search of red howler monkeys. Success! The voyage into the Pacaya, it should be mentioned, is worthwhile on its own. We coursed through floating meadows, dodged drowned trees, and watched the beautiful shoreside vegetation reflect into the black waters. Once we passed Lake Pacaya, our eyes were doubly sharp… and we saw them! Big, burnished bodies in the trees. The howlers, despite their size, are skittish. All the same, to see that color, hear that call and observe the beast in its habitat is a privilege to hold dear.