One of my most memorable trips was a week spent aboard a floating houseboat on one of the tributaries of the Amazon River. It was the Rio Oroso in Peru, about a 6 hour boat ride from Iquitos. While the Amazon itself is massive, several miles wide even more than a thousand miles from it’s mouth, you need to head into its tributaries to find the Amazon jungle.
The houseboat was primitive, a building made of logs and thatched roof, floating in a river, kept in place by ties to the bank. No electricity, although river water was pumped into a tank in the ceiling so we were able to shower and such (although you couldn’t drink it). The sun set at about 6 pm and rose at 6 am, and people generally went to bed shortly after sunset and rose at the crack of dawn. A simple life.
There are several intense memories I have of this time, one of these being the noise of the jungle. As dusk settled, the jungle came to life and grew very loud. There were so many insects, frogs, birds and animals screaming it was hard to sleep, not that the humidity and heat would let you.
Another memory is of all the piranha, whose spiky teeth are hard to forget. All of the Peruvian natives spent most of the day fishing for piranha during the time when the river is low, smoking and drying the fish. When the rainy season arrives and the jungle floods, the fish swim out of the river’s channel to eat what they can and are hard to catch. Piranha were plentiful during our visit, most being quite small (less than a pound), although some species weigh several pounds. The natives swam and bathed in the river, without difficulty (although I was told menstruating women don’t go in the water).
I had the chance to see these fish in action. Our guide had bought several delicious peacock bass from a fisherman and was cleaning and gutting them for dinner on the deck of our houseboat. He threw the guts into the water and immediately the water churned and seemed to boil for about 15 seconds, then went quiet. This was repeated several times and the guide smiled and looked at me, his English poor and my Spanish even worse. “Piranha”, he said. Clearly understood in any language.