The Final Stretch
In the morning I returned the mosquito net to the villager, we said our good byes and pushed off. A majority of the locals were still sleeping when we left. I guess I assumed that rural people always wake up at the crack of dawn.
In the morning we drifted well. I had finally figured out the pattern of the weather. The mornings were usually calm and clear while the afternoons were breezy and would often get cloudy. We only had to row hard a few times to break away from the shore. I was actually getting a bit bored of sitting on the raft and just floating along.
During the middle of the day I took a nap. I asked Pali to keep an eye out and make sure that we stayed on the main river course and did not diverge on to one of the slow flowing channels. Pali was tired too and she took a brief nap. During that time the river forked and we drifted to the smaller channel. I awoke and realized that the raft had reached stagnant water. We could not rely on the current to carry us so we had to paddle to make any headway. I was mad at Pali. I think my tiredness, the mosquito bites and the constant fight against the river and winds had taken their toll on me. Unfortunately, I vented my frustration on her. We yelled for awhile as we paddled until I did not feel like talking at all. We reached a point along the channel where we met fishermen. We asked the fishermen about the closest town. They told us that there was a large town called Contamana about eight hours down river. By their estimates, we would not make it until midnight.
We finally reached the main river and its strong current. We decided that we would try and make it to Contamana. The river moved fast, there was no wind and we made good time. As we floated along I inspected the logs that made up the base of the raft. The bark lashings keeping the logs together were slowly breaking apart. We had lost two logs already. Other logs were barely held together. The raft was falling apart. We still had a good amount of supplies, plenty of dried fish for example.
The only thing we really lacked was motivation. The mosquitoes had taken their toll on my psyche. I dreaded the thought of spending another night in a sleeping bag, covered with clothes during a hot tropical night.
The river was getting wider and I knew that if the raft did break apart it would be difficult to swim to shore. As the river widened, the riverboat traffic increased. We could barely paddle out of the path of a few riverboats. Some riverboats seemed to head purposely towards us. Maybe they were trying to frighten us or could not see the low profile raft. We also had no idea how many days it would take to reach our anticipated destination, Iquitos. All of these factors added up to make us decide to make Contamana our final destination. We knew that the town was a stop for riverboats and we could catch one for the final leg of the journey.
In the evening I made a fire in the cooking pot and set it at the bow of the raft. My hope was that it would allow other boats to see us once it got dark. I did not want to camp another night. Once we decided that Contamana was going to be the final destination, we were going to float all night until we arrived.
The low winds and strong current allowed us to make very good time. Fortunately, the fishermen were hours off on their estimated time of arrival. We arrived around 7pm at Contamana, just as the sun was about to set. We had to row frantically one more time to make it to the port area. We were on the far side of the river when we saw the town and had to row across the fast flowing, wide stretch.
We reached the shore and people helped us tie up. The smells and bustle of your typical jungle town were inviting. It was good to be around such development again. We left the raft and found a cafÃƒÂ© owned by a very pleasant lady who sold us a good meal and beers. The next item I bought was a mosquito net. We returned back to the raft where we spent the night for the last time.