Rio Zapote and Rio Tapiche

Everyone was an early-bird today! The skiffs left in the fresh air of the morning, the smell of the rainforest coming to us in waves of green. We soon reached the mouth of the Zapote River which lies on the south bank of the Puinahua Canal – a name given to a stretch of the Ucayali River. At some point in the past, the river split, then joined downstream, leaving a 100-mile long island in the middle. The northern route has now become the principal route for vessels plying the river. This means those communities who established themselves on the southern stretch now have to travel great distances to catch the ferries going by.

The Zapote River originates in the interior of this immense island, and the entrance was another adventure that needs to be seen to be believed! Like a couple days ago, the low river levels typical of this time of year have reduced the mouth of the Zapote River to a narrow, fast-flowing almost-rapid (not enough elevation gain to be a real rapid). After an exciting entrance with our expert drivers at the helm, we made it safely inside a delightful narrow river with birds calling on all sides. Masked crimson tanagers, cream-colored woodpeckers, little-billed cuckoos, tanagers, squirrel monkeys, various hawks (a great black-hawk attempted many times to snag a sungrebe, but the grebe managed its escape again and again). A long-nosed bat was discovered inside the skiff under the slats, and a tiny frog hoped onto a lifejacket from who-knows-where. This was discovered because we had stopped…for breakfast! Out in the skiffs, the staff and crew pulled out the stops and served us breakfast out on the river. Juices, coffee and teas, breads and eggs with silverware and ceramic plates...what a treat! Afterwards we moved up a bit to try our hand at fishing, which was somewhat successful if catfish were the targets. Two piranha were caught (one each boat), and sufficed for the photographers.

The afternoon was spent traveling up the Trapiche River by skiff. We reached a small town where locals paddled quickly to offer us the use of their dugout canoes. What a hoot! No-one fell in, many paddled, some in circles. The sunset was one of the most spectacular we have seen this week. As we skimmed the water on our way home, large flocks of egrets flew in formation; dugouts were coming home loaded with produce and people. One largish canoe with thatch called us over to ask for a few gallons of gasoline. They had been coming down river for six hours, and had one more to go before reaching the larger town of Requena, but were running low. Of course we helped them out, and meanwhile conversed with some of the curious folk inside (mostly children, it seemed like). Our contacts with the locals this week have all been of a very positive nature. All the “riberenos” have been welcoming and friendly – everyone on board unanimously agreed with that.

So with this ending, our week has come to a close. We've had some amazing times, and eyes have been opened to the marvels that exist here. Surprises were had as well; how large the rivers are, how immense some of the trees, how warm, yet not too. How “fat” the rain, how quick it passes; how noisy the insects, how beautiful the calls of birds. How chittery the voices of monkeys; how clean and rich the air. How variable the river levels; how fragile the banks of clay. How temporary the course of the river, how powerful the flow.

So many new sights, sounds, smells and friends. So much more still out there to find!