Feature, Free As A Bird, Photography, South America, Travel
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Sailing the Amazon River – Peru to Columbia

Sailing the Amazon River

The only reason we were sailing the Amazon river was because we missed our flight to Columbia then randomly met a Dutch man staying at our hostel who told us about the river.  I don’t even remember his name but I can see his face perfectly, he was an older man probably in his 60’s.  He was well travelled with many romantic stories about the women he’d encountered along the way.   He had lots of energy and was very white, its an odd comment I know.  If you’d seen the area we were staying in you’d see why it was strange to come across him.  I guess the universe wanted us to miss our flight, meet this one guy who insisted we sail up the Amazon river, cross the Columbian boarder and have a once in a lifetime experience… it was meant to be!

We said goodbye to our new Dutch friend and parted ways, we will probably never see him again.  Life is so bizarre sometimes.


There are many travel agents near Lima’s airport so we booked a cheapish flight to Iquitos for $110USD ($167NZD).  Iquitos is a large city in the jungle and its hot, a huge contrast from Lima.

We arrived late at night and finding a place wasn’t easy, we had to settle for a hotel $25USD ($38NZD).  It was 3 stars, most of our places were either 1 or 2 star… or no star.  3 star gets you a decent shower with fresh soap, in the unopened pack.   For a short moment we felt upper class.

We’d become friends with our taxi driver, he helped us find a hammock and took us to the boat dock.  There were several boats docked and we forgot which boat our Dutch friend told us to get on.  So we had to trust that our taxi driver was putting us on the right boat, it was a little scary because we didn’t know if we were being set up for something more sinister.


There are many things to consider while travelling, you have to quickly suss your surroundings and be decisive.   We were the only women at this stage and that was intimidating, there were no Gringos either.  But you can’t live in fear of the unknown so we agreed to board.  The Spanish men treated us well, the skipper and his crew looked after us.  Before the boat sailed more women arrived, and their children.  We were the only Gringos and loved it.


We paid 100s ($29USD – $44NZD) for a 3 day boat ride to Leticia – the boarder to Columbia.  We later found out we paid 10S more than others but hey that’s only $2.9USD extra we paid.  Our boat was called La Gran Loretana – it transports goods and livestock to villages on the river.  There are two decks for passengers where you can hang your hammock, first in first served.  Our taxi driver said to take the top level because its open so the breeze comes through.  He was right plus the view was amazing.


We were one of the first ones so we picked a good spot (two grey hammocks).  The skipper allowed us to put our backpacks in the crew cabin for safe keeping.  Food is supplied but the water is straight from the river so best you bring your own food.  Each port usually includes local opportunist selling their home cooked meals or chips etc.  There are toilets which were cleaned everyday.  You can’t flush paper down any toilet so it goes into a waste basket next to it, twice a day the cleaner throws this over board… into the river!


By the time we were sailing both upper and lower deck were filled with passengers and their hammocks.  At night more would come on and hammocks were strung up all over the place.  It became very cosy with strangers but we made friends with our closest neighbours.  Our light was left on at night and it attracted all of the Amazon’s bugs.  It wasn’t until the next night I asked the boson if he could switch it off and it turns out the light switch was on the light… I could have turned it off myself.   I had a good sleep, as the boat steams up the river all of the hammocks gently sway… often swaying us to sleep during the day too.


Its a slow journey, we stop many times and each time we experience life on the river.






Many of the village homes are on stilts for the rainy season.



Its disgusting how Coca Cola can distribute all of their sweets to these remote places and not be responsible for the pollution.   Fizzy and sweets being delivered to poorer communities.  They are uneducated about the destructive impact rubbish has on the planet.  I couldn’t believe how polluted the Amazon was, its filthy.  People throw anything into the river without knowing how much damage they are doing.  Big companies should take responsibilities.  The local governments should educate their people.  I could easily write about the impacts of western culture in remote Amazon areas.  This was the only downer on our journey, the rest of it was amazing


I watched these guys for ages, its a fax machine, retro!  It was stuck on the deck for at least an hour.  Although I’ve just been going on about western influence in these remote areas I did think a crane would have been handy for unloading.  But team work proved to be just as effective.


I envy the life style.  I’d like to build a sustainable home with waterfront views…. reality is, my house will look similar to this one.  I’d still be very happy.




That is a house on the river and this picture shows just how wide some parts are.


Its a huge river but in some places its so narrow only our boat could get through. We were fortunate enough to see the pink dolphins in this area, they don’t surface often but it was great to see them.


Our last stop was Santa Rosa.  This is where you get your exit stamp before heading across the river to the border – Leticia, Columbia.

This was an amazing journey, if you miss a flight on your travels don’t be too concerned.  Its probably a sign you need to meet a Dutch man and sail the Amazon river!


Flights and accommodation to Iquitos

  • We went to a travel agent close to the airport, $110USD ($200NZD) for our ticket.
  • Iquitos is a large city in the jungle, there are many hostels but it pays to book via Trip Advisor before getting there.  A lot of the hostels close to central were fully booked when we arrived in late.

The boat – La Gran Loretana

  • Get to the boat early, they sail at night.  Set your hammock up towards the bow on the top deck.  The views are grand from your hammock and the breeze is nice during the day.
  • Take your repellent, at night the bugs are busy.  If you are sleeping under a light turn it off as soon as you can – don’t attract more insects.
  • Talk to the skipper about leaving your backpack in his cabin, or he will give to the crew to put in their cabins.
  • You need to buy your hammock beforehand!! There was a guy who turned up selling them but you can get them anywhere in Iquitos before you leave.
  • The boats transport goods, livestock and pretty much anything they can get on board.
  • The boat is kept Peruvian clean, toilets usually have water thrown over them twice a day.  There are showers but we didn’t shower, the water is from the Amazon.

Crossing the border into Columbia

  • This port is heavily guarded due to drug trafficking but if you’re not guilty then you should be good.
  • Your last stop is Santa Rosa if heading over to Columbia.  Get your passport stamped in the little village of Santa Rosa, then jump on a boat taxi to Leticia.
  • Take a road taxi to the airport to get your entry stamp to Columbia… then you are good to stay in Columbia.

Safe travels 🙂





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