Expedition Trip Report

Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve of Peru

Explorers Club Flag # 75

November, 1999

Deep in the Amazonian jungle of Northern Peru just south of the equator lies a remote national reserve of 5 million acres, practically untouched by humans. The only humans are ~20 rangers living in primitive conditions in a few scattered stations. There are no villages or even isolated residents here. Permission to enter the reserve is by permit only for scientific purposes. This reserve is the largest national reserve in Peru and the government estimates that over 60% of it is completely unexplored. There are no tourism facilities in the reserve. Nearby natives call the reserve "la selva de los espejos" (the jungle of mirrors)

The area is filled with an incredible diversity of exotic birds, huge buttressed trees, colorful bromeliads, as well as jaguar, tapir, and other jungle animals. Pink river dolphin play in the rivers, while monkeys frolic in the tree canopy above. It is fortunate for mankind that the Peruvian government has seen fit to preserve this area for future generations. With luck, it should survive unchanged by humans for centuries to come, thus allowing the study of natural evolution and the effect of global climate changes.

In November 1999 an expedition consisting of 10 Americans explored part of the Rio Samiria in the reserve, carrying Explorerís Club Flag # 75. This report contains observations on this journey into the deep rain forest.

Our general route was west from Iquitos up the Rio Amazonas to Nauta, where we entered the Rio Maranon. From here we proceeded upriver to the mouth of the Rio Samiria, where we registered for entry in the reserve. We motored further up the Rio Samiria to a primitive ranger station called Tacshicocha [Latitude: 4-51-24 S; Longitude: 74-21-38W], where we established our base camp.

Our chief Peruvian guides are Moises Chavez, jungle survivalist and Walter Rios {native of the Maranon area}. We also have an assistant guide, Larissa, drivers [Lino, Aristides, Roberto Arevalo {Rolex}], and a cook [Neidit], all necessary to live in the remote jungle.

The American explorers were Capt. S. Jay Smith [EC, FN], Dr. Robert Kazan, Dr. Manohar Sigamony, Hannalore and Bob Baffico, Deborah and Robert Miller, Siegfried John, Paul

Danahy, and Gerhard Gipner.

The primary purpose of this report is to document wildlife observed in the National Reserve. It should be noted that once out of the reserve, marked human presence begins while much of the wildlife disappears.

November 7

We had a smooth Aerocontinente flight over the Andes and arrived at the Iquitos Airport with its beautiful murals of jungle people and animals by 13:30. It was hot and muggy outside. Having collected our expedition supplies, we proceed by bus to the Rio Amazonas dock where we met Moises, Larissa, and Spencer Beaver. We immediately boarded a rapido {200-hp speedboat} and sped up the wide river toward Nauta. Such a boat is necessary to overcome the strong ~5 m.p.h. current of the Rio Amazonas. Up river we passed many canoes, propelled by oars or motors. There was a combination of isolated thatched houses on stilts and scattered small communities [pueblos]. The whine of the motor, the heat of the equator, and the monotony of the river combined with our long journey made us all drowsy. The driver, however, had to maintain careful lookout for logs and debris in the river.

By 16:50 we passed the junction of the Rio Maranon and arrived at Nauta by 17:30. This is an old town of ~3,000, contemporaneous with Iquitos. It boasts a hostel, police station, high school, and even electricidad. Most streets are of concrete. It also has a picturesque lake with an outdoor theatre. There are many small market tiendas and the obligatory plaza de armas. We checked into the Iran Uka, which despite the lack of amenities of a hotel, was a convenient place to rest, though hot and noisy. The rooms were ~$10 per night. At 18:00 we went to our expedition boat, La Jungla, for a dinner of catfish, arroz [rice], and salad.

November 8

We were up by 06:30 to walk around Nauta. School kids were about in their white shirts and brown uniforms; street vendors were setting up their tiendas. Women were cleaning the streets. At 07:30 we had a breakfast of a chicken sandwich and local fruit juice. Afterwards we boarded our boat. It was ~35 feet in length and had a section for passengers, a kitchen {cocina}, a motorroom, and a head. The latter was reached precariously by stepping over the motor. The passenger area was open but it was screened and had a thatched roof, very necessary for the sun and the rain. We also had two smaller aluminum open boats, one with a 55-hp engine and one with a 25-hp engine. These were used as excursion boats into canals and going further up the Samiria.

Sunset over Rio Maranon

Motoring west of Nauta we see a few scattered houses, then nothing but jungle. The slow pace and heat relaxes us and makes us lazy. A couple of us make tea and coffee, we note that it is quite salty and later learn that mistakenly, the cook has placed the leftover boiled saltwater from spaghetti in the hot water bottle! We have a generous supply of food, including a yearís supply of arroz. Then there is frozen food as well as canned food. The plan is to eat the frozen food, then the canned food, and finally jungle food! For lunch we have carne [beef] with french fries, arroz, and a salad. We continue to pass isolated houses and pueblos and by 15:00 we stop at a small village of Miraflores [85 people] on a high riverbank. This location was also referred "Chiggerville" later. We set up our tents as many kids stare at us, hoping for candy. We then go for a refreshing swim by the boat, ignoring any hungry piranhas. The village kids jump in with us and we fight in the water with them to much laughter. We have an 18:30 dinner of pollo [chicken] and arroz. Later, we watch a beautiful sunset over the Rio Maranon before retiring to our tents.

November 9

Last night it rained steadily so we had to pack wet gear this a.m. By 06:30 we were on our boat motoring ever westerly. We entered a small channel, Choroyaku, with banana trees and maize. There were isolated houses and people in canoes moving about. By 07:00 we enter the Rio Maranon in an area with lots of floating debris and muddy waters. Our breakfast consists of fried plantains and boiled eggs. We keep up a steady pace during rain.


By 11:00 we arrive at Prado, another small village. Some of our luggage had been sent ahead in a small aluminum boat with a 55-hp engine. This village has perhaps 30-40 houses and a couple of stores, as well as a school. Walking though the village we see a pet monkey as well as breadfruit and sugar apples. Some of us go fishing while others motor to watch the river dolphin. These surface noisily in the river, sometimes jumping completely out of the water. Our catfish lunch is followed by a demonstration of curing a canoe. Here the bottom of the freshly carved hull is fired and opened. By 20:00 we finished our spaghetti dinner and prepare for bed.

November 10

We arise at 05:00 with pigs and chickens who had camped with us overnight! The chiggers also enjoyed our company. Kids help us take down our soggy tents and we board our boat by 07:30. We arrive shortly thereafter at the ranger station at the mouth of the Rio Samiria. They did not ask for our entry tickets but we all signed their ancient record of entry book. An hour later we have fried sweet potatoes and omelets for breakfast. Finally, they have begun to make toast, also, after noting that we did not eat plain bread.

We proceed down the Rio Samiria, noting the total lack of humans and houses. Those of German heritage on the trip become concerned about running out of cerveza. We are completely out of touch with civilization now. 11:00, our motor is coughing, we barely make progress, 12:00, we limp around a river bend and approach a green building on stilts, high on a river bank. This is the Tachshicocha station, inhabited by 3 rangers. The only amenity is a toilet but you have to go to the river, fetch water, and pour this into it for flushing. The rangers survive from fishing and gathering produce from fruit trees and maize. The building gives them a safe place to stay during floods.

We assemble our tents, have lunch, and prepare to hike or fish. At 14:00, Genaro, our robust guide leads us through the jungle back of the station. We pass huge kapok and capinuri [penis] trees with high buttresses. We observe tapir tracks in the mud of a nearly dried-up stream. Later, we find a 5-foot mound made by leaf cutter ants, which are not harmful, but we also spot an isula ant, one-inch long and poisonous. It is said that its bite will make you sick for a day or more. We also observe white-fronted capuchin monkeys. We arrive back at our base camp by 17:00 and are eating arroz, beans, stuffed cayhua by 18:30. Next, Moises discusses tomorrowís events and we go to bed by 20:30.

November 11

It was cold last night. We are quickly becoming aware that it doesnít make a lot of sense to put on fresh clothes every morning because in a few minutes they will be soiled from dirt and perspiration. Deodorant is superfluous here. It is difficult to understand how washing clothes in the muddy river can result in clean clothes but it seems to work.

We had noted a large plot of fenced, raised dirt in front of the station without understanding its purpose. This morning we note that they have buried turtle eggs in this plot and are digging up the hatchlings. They will raise these for a week or so until they have matured sufficiently to care for themselves. Some have reached maturity and the rangers dump them on the bank, letting them scurry to the river.

We marvel at the lack of amenities at the station. It would have been simple to erect a shower, for example. Perhaps the heat and humidity prevent so much exertion.

We breakfast on Krustease pancakes, while the Peruvians dine on sardines and arroz this morning. By 09:15 we head up the Samiria and turn into an inlet toward a lake. Pink river dolphin play in the mouth of the inlet. It was difficult to photograph them, as you could not predict where they would surface. Proceeding down the ~ 40 foot wide channel we spot numerous heron and kingfishers. We also note a 3-toed sloth with white and black spotted markings. The water in this channel is a dark brown, vine from trees come straight down to its surface. We spot hawks, the black-collared variety. Now a strange sound of a very loud bird is heard, this is the horned screamer. These birds are goose-like, but in the order Anhimidae, a different order than ducks. There is virtually no moment when birds are not flying or butterflies are not darting here. As a caiman splashes in the water, a yellow-headed caracara passes overhead. We also spot an iridescent, turquoise-green paradise jackomar, only 4" high in the branches. Approaching the lake we spot striped heron, tiger heron, wattled jacana. The latter have yellow undersides to their wings seen when flying.

Arriving, we note that the lake is huge, perhaps miles long, maybe a half-mile wide, there are no reference points so it's difficult to judge. The water level is low and a lot of grass is seen in areas. The most striking site, though, is the huge numbers of white egrets and heron that occupy the trees along the far-off banks. We also observed capped heron and black cormorants. The cormorants in the water dive below for fish. Later we see an anhenga, black wings with white body. It is drying its wings in the sun because it has no protective oil on its feathers. As we return through the channel, many birds precede us in a parade, presumably to escape the noise of the boat. By 12:45 we are back at base camp, ready for a siesta!

Our other group arrives at 13:30 relating the story of how Moises was stung by wasps. He had hacked a branch with a nest. He yelled to everyone to be still, understanding that the wasps would go after moving targets. No one else was stung. We had catfish, arroz, beets, and cucumbers for lunch.

By this point most of us were suffering from chigger, ant, and mosquito bites. Using DEET seemed to help against mosquitoes but not ants. We have noted that resting against a tree or sitting or lying on the ground is unadvised. This invariably brings pests. The only way to relax is inside a tent or in the river. In the river you only have to deal with piranha or caiman, not insects.

Planted trees yielding limes and cashew nuts surrounded the ranger station. We observed a refrigerator there but as there was no electricity, therefore its purpose was not to keep anything cold. It merely served as a storage device against ants. Also, the Ďkitchení tableís legs were standing in kerosene to keep ants from migrating onto it.

At 16:00 several of us led by Walter and Larissa attempt to circumnavigate a small, heavily weeded lake. The hiking area is spongy and covered inches deep in debris. Trees have fallen due to poor soil stability. We happen across feathers of an egret, said to have been killed by a hawk. Many old vines abound, both horizontal and vertical. Horizontal vines result when trees die and fall, the vines even outlive the trees. We skirted the edge of the lake until we came to a small tributary. This we crossed by putting a series of vertical sticks next to a fallen log. The sticks served as handholds. When the light began to dim we reversed direction and started back for the river. We encountered a beehive high in the knot of a tree but avoided being stung. By 17:45 we were back at base camp. Dinner at 19:00 consisted of arroz and hamburger helper. There was no mas cerveza! We were concerned that those of German heritage would defect back to civilization!


There are an estimated 25,000 black caiman in the reserve, the largest remaining population of these endangered crocodilians in the Amazon. We left for caiman searching at 20:00 in both aluminum boats. Our guides shined lights over the water onto the banks of the river. One could easily see their yellow eyes reflect light. The goal was to catch a small caiman and bring it into the boat for a close look. We motored all the way to the lake, seeing kingfishers, and flycatchers on the way in the canal. Some birds seemed startled by us, others were unconcerned. Caiman usually remained in foliage right by the banks. We could usually maneuver our boat quietly within a few feet. Many slowly sank under water, however, a few thrashed about producing a tremendous noise as we approached. Moises caught a 3 foot long black caiman and brought him into the boat. He was said to be ~3 years in age. The black caiman were endangered outside of the reserve. We passed the caiman around to hold and to photograph. By 21:30, we were back at base camp, ready for bed.

November 12

We split into two groups. Four of us went in the small boat with the objective of motoring as far up the Rio Samiria as possible, while six of us went on a 2-night camping excursion. We four left in a heavy fog in the small aluminum boat at 06:30. Larissa, a driver, and an assistant accompanied us. Proceeding speedily upriver, we startled many egrets and herons, escaping our boat. Their flight paths were varied, some flew across the river, some down the river. As the fog lifted, we observed the remarkable height of many trees. They were very high compared to their diameter, presumable due to the lack of wind and storms that would have downed similar trees elsewhere. While cruising, we spotted a large tree {whistling} duck. We noted a huge black caiman in the middle of the river, we followed it for quite some time through several turns before it slipped below the surface of the water. It did not seem overly concerned by our boat. There was no human presence of any kind here. Trees with bizarre shaped abounded, as did monkeys playing in them. The density and diversity of life was astounding. We motored further, passing a small river on the right that we entered. The environment was pristine, almost primeval. Heron were flying everywhere. Next, we passed a log with branches on which a family of yellow-billed terns was lined up. At 09:00 our motor begins skipping and we change tanks, it is time for breakfast! perhaps there is a Waffle House nearby! By 09:45 we stop at a curved sandbar on the right side of the river. We have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast. River dolphins frolic in front of us. We stay for ~30 minutes and press on, ever deeper into the vast Amazonian jungle.

Minutes later we spot a giant horned screamer, in the pinnacle of a tall tree. It eyed us carefully. At the mouth of the Rio Yanakaku, we observe many macaws above, river dolphins below. Yanayaku (also Yanayacu) means black (yacu) water (yana) in native Indian language. The leaching by water of tannins from decaying leaves causes the blackness (or deep redness). We turn into this river and ride upstream until we spot a 20' channel to the left. Down this channel, we find shallow water teeming with thousands of hatchlings, the water's surface is continuously in motion with them. Fish jump everywhere. We do encounter vertical bamboo sticks partially across the stream, perhaps a sign of poachers at work. Finding logs across the stream, two of us exit the boat and we portage it, going further. Finally we stop and photograph the Explorers Club flag # 75 here, our furthest point on the expedition. It is a perfect spot.

At 12:30 we paddle out of the inlet and prepare to return. Surprise, we can't start the engine, it is flooded. They don't have a spark plug wrench. So, we drift down river accompanied by many pink dolphins. We have a sardine sandwich, while the guide tries to remove the plugs. Finally, using an adjustable wrench and a knife, he removes them by 14:40 and we are off again.

At 16:30 we stop by some hoatzin birds in a bush. Afterwards, we can't start the engine at all. The boatmen give up by 17:30 and we prepare to paddle back to base camp, we have no idea how long it will take but we can't abandon the boat as we have little food and no tents. The boatmen stop and make 4 new paddles, we now have 6 paddles and 8 people. So, through the night, we paddle strongly and silently, not knowing where we are exactly or how long it will take to get back. However, at 20:30 we pass the inlet to the lake among many cheers, base camp is near! By 20:50 we sight the lights on the boat and see flashlights. We have arrived! They thought that we had decided to spend the night in the jungle! It was so good to be back! It was a very dark night so we realized that we would have paddled right by the station if the lights from the boat and weak lights at the station had not been on. This was a sobering thought.

November 13

A typical night here produces a rather specific series of noises from the jungle and the roosters at the station. It seems that around 2-3 a.m. the roosters crow a few times then stop, realizing its too early to wake up. Around 4-5 a.m. the howler monkeys are heard. Finally, the roosters begin crowing again. Then as first light appears, the air becomes alive with sounds of many jungle animals and birds. It would be nearly impossible to sleep through this.

We awake to the sound of someone working on our defective boat, it seems that they have found spark plugs and replaced the old ones. Now they take the motor out for a test drive and it seems to work OK.

This morning we have pancakes for breakfast, the Peruvians put eggs on top of our leftover ones for their meals. At 09:15 we leave for another hike, some of us carrying our new paddles as a point of humor that makes our guides laugh.

We proceed downriver for about 5 minutes and disembark. We pass some particularly large trees, one called a Lupuna tree with buttresses extending some 30í from the base. Next, our ranger spots an anteater called a tamandua high up a tree. The animal is buff-colored with some black. We also find a large catfish [turushuqui] skull on the forest floor with 6" long fins. This find, far from the water, indicates the extent of flooding here. Later we note muddy wallows with tracks from tapir, which like to bathe here. We note bee nests above and fortunately spot a wasp nest on the ground in time to avoid being stung. This may be the one that was found by Moises also!

We return for a lunch of chicken, arroz, potatoes, sliced cucumbers, and tomatoes. Having exhausted our ice supply, it is time to eat chicken as often as possible. We also have juice of farina, made from ground manioc. Also, flour is made from manioc.

Conversations with the rangers reveal that they spend 3 months at their specific station, then they have 10 free days. This station is said to be 49 years old and it looks it. In many places the wood has been consumed by termites or rotted away in high water conditions. The building could use many repairs. For example, the gutters are gone. The green paint has peeled. There are light fixtures that arenít connected, this makes us wonder if they used to have electricity here, perhaps that refrigerator really worked!

We spend the hot afternoon attempting to rest under the trees in front of the station. This proves difficult because when you lay down ants immediately attack you. Also, you canít lean against trees because ants infest them also. So, the only rest is in the river or in a tent. But tents are hot in midday, so that leaves only the river. Just donít think of the piranha and the caiman, enjoy yourself!

At dinner we have shredded beef, arroz con ham and turkey, and boiled breadfruit nuts. The latter tasted like a combination of peanuts and potatoes.

At 19:30 we proceed up river with our lights searching for caiman again. While we note several along the riverbanks, even more are sighted at the entrance to the canal leading to the large lake. Perhaps they, as well as the dolphin, wait here for fish. Just up the canal from the entrance we spot a brown tree rat about 6" long. It scurries over the branches of a tree that has fallen in the river. It is easy to guess that it would be a good meal for a caiman if it fell into the canal. We continued to locate and approach caiman until 21:30 and returned to base camp.

November 14

For breakfast we had fried eggs and sweet potatoes as well as ham. We began purifying our water as some curious moving organisms were seen in the large plastic bottles. So far, though, no one had been really sick.

Several of us had expressed an interest in seeing boas and eels, so at 09:30, we left to go back to the small overgrown lake to see if we could find these. Reaching the lake our guides lowered hooks in the water to catch eel. They got a lot of bites but no eel. Larissa pointed out the tangarana trees with their deadly poison ants. If you touch such a tree, these ants will immediately attack you. Larissa said that Ďbad peopleí were sometimes tied to a tangarana tree as punishment. Wow! What a severe punishment! Returning, Hernadoís son, one of our guides nearly stepped on a 10í poisonous bushmaster. The snake stayed still for a while as we backed off, then it took off in an impressive display of speed. Bob K yelled "Mama Mia" that produced many laughs from the guides. Arriving back at base camp, we found that the campers had come 29 November, 1999home and were explaining the merits of camping without roosters. They had killed a caiman and smoked it, saving some meat for us also.

By 13:00 we were having a delicious lunch of catfish, salad, arroz, and beans. We were ready for a swim and a siesta. Not having seen a jaguar, we devised a plan to entice one. We would stake the rangerís roosters in the jungle and wait in a blind until a cat came! We would photograph the ensuing struggle! This would accomplish two goals!

Around 16:00 we boated down the canal toward the big lake to search for more wildlife. Along the way we spotted white fronted capuchin monkeys and a large sloth resting peacefully in a leafless tree. The sloth was white with black spots, perhaps resembling those of a leopard. Its body was ~3í long. One of our guides shook the tree but this produced no noticeable effect on the sloth. We also observed black nunbirds, these travel in groups along the river banks, preferring to hide in the bushes. We heard the loud distinguished cry of the horned screamer. Approaching the lake, wattled jacana flew by the dozens. Entering the lake we found the usual complement of white egrets below and brown tree {whistling} ducks flying overhead.

At dinner we had roast caiman, arroz, and a salad. We drank the last of the soft drinks. Our ice was gone. We were all tired so we went to bed early.

November 15

Today we spit into two groups: one for hiking and one for more bird observations. The hikers left at 05:00 while the observers left at 06:00. Down our now-familiar canal, the bird watchers observed a pair of beautiful black-collared hawks, in addition to kingfishers and herons. We also spotted 2 red-capped cardinals. There were many black nunbirds, which flew in front of our boat, escaping the noise. We heard but did not see a strange bird sounding like the ringing of a telephone! Or, was this really a telephone used by jungle poachers? The sloth was up the same tree in the same branch we observed yesterday!

We returned to base camp for an 08:00 breakfast. Later, after a short hike, we were surprised to find a sloth in the lime tree at the station! Moises had climbed a tree and retrieved it. The sloth eventually made its way to other trees and disappeared into the jungle over a period of about an hour.

Everyone was tired and bitten by many bugs so we rested this afternoon. We had chicken and arroz for dinner. Moises was eager to do a night excursion, so we put on long pants and sleeves to search for tarantula and boas in the jungle. We applied as much DEET as possible and also used mosquito netting. We had not been gone long when ants began to torment us, even climbing under the netting. We spotted a 6" palm spider and a giant tree frog, also ~6". Returning to camp, Moises spotted a tarantula on a tree just in front of the station, merely a few feet from our tents. He put it in a plastic ziplock bag for safekeeping!

November 16

For breakfast we had eggs scrambled with tomatoes and fried bananas. We are running out of food, except for arroz! Today we plan to speed upriver again, all the way to the Rio Yanayaku if possible. It is said that Walter knows a place where many hoatzin birds live.

By 08:30 we are on the Rio Samiria in both aluminum boats. Most birds have already begun to rest by this hour. The diversity of trees here is astounding. Some trees have broad spherical canopies, while others are spindly. One species has a high, narrow trunk with a deep green bush at the top. By 11:00 we reach the Yanayaku and motor up it speedily. This river is narrower and even wilder than the Samiria. Here much more vegetation drapes into the river. At noon we turn left into a long canal and are proceeded by perhaps hundreds of white egrets. They fly just in front of our boat, as if on parade. We turn around and by 12:45 arrive back at the mouth of the Rio Yanayaku for lunch. Here we have beef and arroz for lunch. We take photos with the EC flag for those who did not get the chance previously. By 13:20 we speed down the Rio Samiria toward base camp. We stop at a sandy beach at 14:00 for a refreshing swim. It threatens rain so we make haste toward camp. The afternoon run on the river is refreshingly cool due to the clouds. It is easy to lazily gaze at the sky and jungle from our speeding boats. The jungle looks so inviting and benign from this perspective. It is easy to reflect on the trip.

Our expedition into the lowland jungle has quite different from one into high jungle or cloudforest. Here, the hiking is easy, the difficulty is to adjust to the heat and the insects. There is no escape from ants, chiggers, and mosquitoes. In the high jungle, insects are not a problem but the hiking is much more rigorous.

We arrive at base camp at 15:30 in a joyful mood. It is relatively cool as compared to our previous nights and days. Only one more night amongst the insects awaits us! We spend the afternoon packing and resting as much as we can. At 19:00 we have a dinner of chicken, arroz, and beets. We discuss a one-day run to Nauta and then Iquitos the next day. Lino, el Capitan, believes this possible. Breakfast is schedule for 07:30, departure at 09:30.

November 17

Everyone arises early to move our gear to the Jungla. Lino tests our 100-hp engine to his satisfaction. We breakfast on arroz and fried eggs. Walter leaves in the other boat with our orders for cokes, cervezas, and gasolina! By 09:40 we shove off, happy to leave the bugs of Tacshicocha to the rangers. By 11:20 we stop at the ranger station, sign out, and press on down the Rio Maranon. At 13:30 we are low on gas, we stop at a village to see if the other boat has come. No luck here! We disembark at a sugar-cane processing plant {do not imagine a modern, efficient operation} and marvel at them adding water to gasoline to run a diesel engine! Now we start toward yet another village rumored to have gas. No luck again! Now we spot a barge and ask them for a fill-up, but they have none either. At 15:00 we spot the other boat, they have gas and warm cerveza! We continue toward Nauta even into the dark with no running lights on the boat. By ~19:00 we pull ashore, anticipating our stay at the Nauta Hilton with hot water, Jacuzzis, and a swimming pool. Alas! They had not built such a place yet! We check into our familiar hostel.

November 18

We are up early, the staff transfers our food supplies to the large aluminum boat which is going to the lodge. Bob and Hannalore go on this boat at 08:30. Later we cast off, making 17 miles per hour by GPS down the fast current of the Rio Amazonas. By 12:30 we stop at Tamshiyaku, a town of ~3,000 people with a hospital, school, radio station, and many stores. Approaching Iquitos, we pass many more boats, barges, and houses on the river. By 15:30 we dock! Our luggage is offloaded, and we go the Ambassador Hostel in a phalanx of rented motorkars, essentially motorcycles with 3 wheels. We have dinner at the Meson on the Maldonado, later we go to the Noa Noa disco.

November 19

This morning we go to the Iquitos Indian Market by motorkar. There is a lot of competition driving these 3-wheeled vehicles and every second counts. There are no rules of the road, it is everyone for himself here! We sample the Indian souvenirs, bargaining skillfully for the lowest prices. Next, we visit the Belen Market, with agricultural and meat goods. We spend time at the jungle pharmacies, looking for various remedies for bug bites, elixirs, and aphrodisiacs! We sample several of these alcoholic drinks.

Lunch is at Ariís Hamburgers, which is much better with more variety than our US versions. For example, you can get ceviche, the 'Peruvian national dish' also. This consists of raw fish marinated in limejuice and it is quite delicious. Then we proceed to a dock to obtain transportation to the Bora Indian village. Amongst much haggling, we board a fine boat, only to discover that its engine will not start. We next transfer to another 85-hp boat and speed down the narrow canal, passing many fishnets. Arriving at the village, we join the Boras for dancing and later trading, then return down the river to our hotel by 16:00 hours. Everyone but the Millerís and Jay Smith was leaving so we said our good-byes as the group leaving for the airport drove away at 17:30 hours.

November 20

The three remaining adventurers went to the Quistococha Lake in the morning. The entrance to the lake was down an avenue that had stories painted on long concrete walls. These stories were about jungle legends with figures representing animals like snakes, mermaids, and river beasts. Each story had a picture of the beast along with a narrative in Spanish. At the zoo, we saw beautiful jaguar, puma, tapir, capybara, as well as many birds and monkeys. We remarked on the excellent care that these animals received. Later, some of us went swimming in the lake, which was quite warm and said to be free of caiman and piranhas! How novel!

Lunch was at Ariís Hamburgers. The Millerís departed in the late afternoon, so Spencer Beaver accompanied the remaining adventurer to an evening at the Maldonado for a long lesson en Espanol!


November 21

Today it rained quite a bit, Spencer Beaver and Jay Smith visited all areas of the Belen market, practiced Espanol, and left for the airport in the late afternoon. By 20:00 all of us had departed Iquitos.


During our journey into the remote Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve of Peru we acquired many fond memories of the rainforest and its wildlife, and not-so-fond memories of its large population of ants, chiggers, and mosquitoes! We developed an appreciation about the large negative impact of humans on animal and plant life. This was quickly noticed upon leaving the reserve. We observed the incredible diversity of life that occurs when the equatorial rainforest is allowed to flourish undisturbed. This was especially true for birds that were easily seen. Some wildlife such as jaguar, peccary, and tapir are mostly nocturnal and we were not able to observe them in the wild.

We traveled as far up the Samiria as was possible, considering the availability of resources and the questions about the extent of our permit. Although we would have liked to have reached the headwaters of this river, we felt that the remainder of the river would have been much the same in appearance.

We came away with a healthy respect for the difficulty of survival in the jungle, one certainly needs protection against insects. We did not feel the jungle was inherently dangerous but that surviving it in an emergency with limited supplies and appropriate gear would not be easy. We also learned to respect the talents of our guides and staff who had much knowledge about jungle survival that they shared with us. For example, they demonstrated the use of sap from certain trees and even termite nests as aids for diarrhea, insect bites, and insect repellent. There were many edible foods as well as water-bearing vines. Thus, the survival talents of our knowledgeable jungle guides were demonstrated to be quite remarkable and impressive.

CAPT S. Jay Smith

29 November, 1999

All images by S. Jay Smith


Deborah & Bob Miller compiled the following list of animals & plants seen on our trip.



jaribu stork

black capped heron


white necked heron

belted king fisher

Amazon king fisher

wattled jacana

white earred jacima

yellow headed caracara

black collared hawk

puff bird

greater ani

grey/black wren

yellow ridged toucan


yellow rumped cacique(sp)

red capped cardinal

tiger heron


horned screamer

paradise jacomar



yellow billed tern

tree duck


blue and gold macaw

slate colored hawk

black ibis

white breasted hawk

lesser kiskadee

Amazon parrot

short tailed parrot


red throated hawk


common black hawk

turkey vulture

green ibis

blue headed parrot




night jar-ladder tailed





masaba ant

walking catfish


black caiman

white caiman

three toed sloth

brown capuchin monkey

red howler monkey

spider monkey

bonita fish

arapaima - fish

jaguar- in zoo

tayra(bush dog)

blue morpho butterfly


cecropia butterfly

pink toed tarantula

palm spider

tree rat

yellow bellied viper

several frog species

long nosed bat

sting ray

pink and grey dolphin


mango - fruit

ratana(mimosa family)

bread fruit

poma rosa

katoua tree - boat

various palms - heart

guava - fruit

kokona - fruit

sugar cane

sacha mangua - fruit




behow - leaves for cooking







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