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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Utuquinia.... Jungle Cache

I had a great time taking a trip down the Ucayali River and then up the Utuquinia River in the central Peruvian Jungle. Why do it? Me and some friends wanted to check out the possibilities for tourism in the area, particularly tourism revolving around eco-tourism and geo-tourism. We departed at sunrise from the jungle city of Pucallpa
Logging
Leaping fish
in a boat capable of carrying eleven of us and all our camping gear. It's amazing how wide the Ucayali is five days upriver from Iquitos, Peru. Iquitos is where it joins what becomes the Amazon River and from there flows easterly into Brazil. We traveled downstream making good time. In about 1.5 hours we were at the
Our first camp site
mouth of the Utuquinia River. Suddenly we were in a river 25 times smaller than where we'd been.
Crossing a small stream on the trail
As we traveled easterly up that river we noticed that the fish were jumping into our boat at the rate of one every five minutes. We had to be careful picking them up and throwing them back. Even though they rarely exceeded six inches in length they had some pretty long and sharp teeth ready to snag a finger. I don't know what kind of fish this was. They weren't piranha. A little further up the river we ran into a logging affair. A large tug boat with a barge. The barge had a large crane and was loading huge cut logs to be taken back up river to Pucallpa where they would be sold. Logging is a big industry here. Our trip took us past many Shipibo villages with children stopping to see who was coming by. Our peque peque motor labored on getting us to our first campsite by mid-afternoon. A Mestizo family was willing to allow us to camp by the river on a clearing they owned. We were also able to leave our peque motor with them when we took off on our jungle hike. Before taking off into the jungle we oriented five year old Kevin, the landowner's son, to the sport of geocaching. Together with him we hid Utuquinia (GC3K1PD). How long until someone finds this one? We spent a night underneath what we later learned was a supper moon. Luckily we had our tents up before dark to avoid moon burn. Early the next morning we broke camp, poled across the river and set off on our hike. We were following animal and human trails used by the local Shipibo people as well as hacking our way through some thick jungle. What an experience! We crossed through swamps, up and down creek embankments, across streams by wading or across logs, all the time sweating profusely. At lunch we stopped to filter water and replenish our bottles. The one thing we couldn't do without was water. It took us most of the day of hard hiking once we hit a clear stretch of trail to make it eight kilometers through the jungle where we found a nice campsite for the night. We were beside a nice cool stream. It was great relaxing in the cool water after an intense hike under the jungle canopy. Once again we found the moon to be extremely bright that night. The next day we pushed on a little deeper into the jungle. We saw monkey, all classes of birds, we smelled where a pack of huangana (a small, wild pig) had passed by within half an hour leaving an incredibly foul smell and we got to meet all the world's biting insects on this trip. At about the 10 kilometer point we decided to return to our camp for the evening. Early the next morning we began our hike back to the boat. We were really moving and this 56 year old found it a challenge to keep up with the younger men. We made the hike of 8 kilometers in under three hours and we were dripping wet with sweat. After a short rest we loaded the boat and were on our way with thoughts of Pucallpa and a ice cold Coke Zero waiting there. As we traveled down stream our guide told us about a nature canal that is open and navigable during rainy season. We were at the end of rainy season so he decided to try it. We were traveling upstream again, towards the waters of the Ucayali River as they flowed down this canal. After about an hour we came out into a large lake formed by the Ucayali River waters flowing towards the canal. We
crossed the lake, full of fisherman in their canoes, and through a narrow channel, entered the Ucayali River current. We could see Pucallpa eight miles away but against the current we were looking at almost two hours to get there. Together with my friends I was able to determine that this would be a great tourist location. It might possibly be a great geo-tourism option too. The big drawback being the distance from Pucallpa. It all depends on who is willing to travel this far. Did I enjoy it? You bet! Would others want to do it? I don't know. I think I'll wait and see if there is any interested, interest enough for someone to go after the geocache I placed along the river. If there is a turn out, it might be worth working with a local guide to set up a geocaching tour along the river. If you are coming to Peru why don't you check out my cache up the Utuquinia. You can rent a boat and a guide and make it in a day. Be sure to check the local travel agencies to find a knowledgable guide who can take you on the trails. You'll see the real jungle and be glad you did!
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