San Francisco, The Amazon River & Yarapa River
We awoke this morning with our ship tied up to a tree at the village of San Francisco just up river from the confluence of the Ucayali and Maranon, the beginning of Amazon proper. As we opened our curtains lots of little kids were sitting on the bank watching us fascinated by everything we were doing in our rooms. We boarded the skiffs for our 6:00 a.m., pre-breakfast, morning exploration. We attempted to navigate up a small tributary but the water was too low so we returned to the Maranon River. The waters have been dropping all week. On the Maranon, a lone wood stork was sitting in a tree. These storks are abundant in the low water when they come to fish in the Amazon Rivers. Since this is the end of the low water season, we were lucky to see this late season straggler. After being thoroughly photographed, it spread its giant wings and soared off, a spectacular sight to see.
After breakfast we went into the secondary forest that surrounds San Francisco. This forest has been disturbed by both the river meandering across its flood plain and by the slash and burn agriculture practiced here. We wandered through some planted areas where we found squash, tomato, bean, and manioc plants growing in with a profusion of jungle plants. Our guide harvested a manioc plant showing us the edible tubers and describing how it is prepared. Our path joined up with the sidewalk through town and we strolled down this main street learning about village life.
A woman who was selling rolls invited us into her house and her kitchen. She was busy cooking an armadillo they had caught in the forest over an open fire. On the floor was a basket of very colorful chicken eggs including some blue eggs. She told us her husband was in the forest and her two kids were in school.
The primary school was our next stop. The concrete building had several rooms and catered to 53 kids. The kids and their teacher greeted us in their schoolroom and sang us a couple of songs including their national anthem. We reciprocated with a three-part round of row, row, row your boat. The kids were much better singers than we were!
As we exited the village there was a handicraft market of course! A few of us bought some of the local handicrafts and visited with the locals. The heat of the day was oppressive so we retreated to the boat and our showers, a welcome respite before lunch.
Reni, one of our local guides, gave us a great demonstration about the local fruits we have been eating every day. The ship purchases these fruits locally as we are sailing these rivers and makes them into fresh juices or ice cream or jam for us. We, however, didn’t recognize any of the fruits that Ronny showed us. The fruits had unfamiliar names like cocona, camu camu, and aguaje. After learning how the locals use them, we got to taste them all and decide for ourselves our favorites.
After lunch we had a lesson on how to make pisco sours in anticipation of our arrival at the junction of the Ucayali and Maranon Rivers signaling the start of the Amazon proper. Pisco sours in hand; we made our way to the bridge and watched our entrance into the mighty Amazon!
In the late afternoon some of us went for a skiff in the Yarapa River while others ventured out in kayaks. The river was busy as there are several lodges upriver and continuous stream of boats passed us kayaking. Village kids were playing in the river and several other people were taking a bath as we passed, washing off a hard day of work. We paddled and floated enjoying immersing ourselves in all this activity. One of us was fishing from a kayak but unfortunately she wasn’t able to catch our dinner. Finally the skies became dusky and we headed back to our ship concluding another wonderful day in the Amazon.