Anne van Kesteren

The Cargo Ships

While in theory one can write about anything, it supposedly takes inspiration to get somewhere. And currently inspiration is lost. Far gone, removed. In a different world, Murakami might write. Somehow prolonged traveling took the passion away. There was still joy, amazement, desire, anger, about every day traveling life. Eating Japanese sashimi and nigiri while sipping soft cold sake still gave a sense of fulfilment. The local ceviche and lomo saltado were great too. Nevertheless, inspiration to create original content was gone. A soft mellow feeling had taken its place. Life became simplified. Days evolved around drinking tea from Starbucks, eating decent food, and finding a bar or club in the evening. Sports too, in the park nearby. Running around and doing push-ups late afternoon; lovely sunset.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly when it started, but anecdotal evidence points towards inspiration being left in the jungle. The last bits were written somewhere between Tarapoto and Chachapoyas, just after having left the Amazon. There a total of six days on cargo ships were spent. With a stop in Iquitos inbetween, the jungle capital of Peru.

A small taxiboat takes you from Leticia in Colombia to Santa Rosa in Peru. From there you take a cargo ship to Iquitos. It will stop at random places. A farm to drop off squealing pigs; loud they were and hard to carry. A house for the fisherman who came back from selling their stock in the “big” city; brought home supplies. A village in the middle of nowhere where if you got off you might be left behind if you not paid sufficient attention. Cheap cake, fruit, bread, were in abundant supply. The movie Anaconda was played in the evening, which is also the time people were charging their phone. Electricity during the day is non-existent on the boat, clean toilets rare. More movies about the Amazon followed. People dozed off in their hammocks and others retreated to their huts. At the sole table money and cards exchanged hands. Hands belonging to grim faces trying to make a quick buck with a card game based mostly on luck. Ecuadorian beer flowed royally. Bottle, glass, mouth. Bottle, glass, mouth. Bottle, mouth. Until these people too got tired and went to sleep. Then still there was the captain. And the boy holding the light. Making sure we would keep moving and not get stuck, respectively.

With the only light pollution coming from the boy and his lamp not always being on, the cloud-free sky showed off all its wondrous stars. The moon seemed gigantic. You could almost touch it. Then everything faded.

First the yell of a chicken. Second the yell of a person. Close by; as suspected a chicken had escaped from a cabin, sleeping there together with her owners. She was caught quickly and returned to the cabin. Time to wake up. A thin mist surrounded the boat, but soon cleared due to the sun. The bell. People got their pans and cups and made a long line on one of the lower decks, all waiting for the kitchen to start handing out food. If you account for the weather and harsher circumstances, Siberia camps must not have been much different. When it was your turn a smack of food was put in your pan and you were hurried off. Next!

Iquitos was lovely with its floating village with streets of water, deteriorating churches, youth partying illegally through election weekend. Venice compares poorly. The market offers fresh crocodile for lunch, machetes Robert Rodriguez would respect, and a patented seven-day-erection bottle. Or would you rather have dragon blood? Email spam has a real life counterpart. Who knew? Auto rickshaws (mototaxis sayeth the locals) dominate the streets. Bring you anywhere for next to nothing. Honda manufactures them in Iquitos and as later turned out exports them to the rest of Peru from there. A few older American expat guys own a couple of restaurants. Feed beer to their grandchildren hardly a year old in the afternoon while talking to tourists. One of them married a Peruvian who makes a mean hamburger. Yum! An asshole from the United Kingdom tries to get money from tourists saying he needs to get to the hospital and survive until his embassy opens on Monday. His photo features in the local English paper.

The second and last cargo ship went from Iquitos to Yurimaguas. Another three days, pretty much the same deal with different people, movies, animals, and what was generally considered to be worse food. But fuck, the Amazon is cool.