South America

Life in the Amazon Rainforest

Rachel Williams

Rachel Williams  |  10 February 2014

Travelling by river through the immense Amazon Rainforest. 

 There are many ways to travel. By car, plane, bus, bike, but perhaps my greatest travel experience was a two week adventure through the depths of the Amazon travelling by dugout canoe and cargo barge.

Myself and my partner Brendan travelled from Coca in Ecuador along the Rio Napo to Iquitos in Peru, stopping often in small communities to pick up people, animals and an enormous amount of bananas and enjoying a unique opportunity to glimpse the way of life of the people living in one of the world’s largest and most diverse eco-systems, an area of mystery and intrigue – the mighty Amazon Jungle.

There were no cars, no phones, no TV’s and in most communities no electricity.  The people were completely immersed in the jungle, surrounded by dense and endless forests, relying on the land and the river for food, materials and transport, a life that relies on the precious balance of nature and the kindness of mother earth.

We learned quickly that there were no restaurants in the villages but were welcomed to eat in people homes.  We accepted these offers graciously, humbled as always by the kindness of people to welcome us into their homes and share openly what little they have.  

On one section of the journey we travelled in a small dugout canoe and I can surely say that I feared for my life for the entire two hours.  The river was flowing high after recent rain in the highlands, trees twice the size of our canoe streamed past us, collision would certainly have ended badly. We sat unmoving with our back packs in our laps as our pilot Pedro fought to keep his place on the river happy to arrive back on shore safely and awed by the incredible display of power.

For most of the time however we travelled on a large cargo barge and by the time we neared Iquitos, we had amassed around 200 people, 2 cows, 30 pigs, a couple of hundred chickens and a mountain of bananas. The barge was alive and active and space was severely limited.  A trip to the toilet or the canteen where food was served two times a day involved weaving under, over and through a tangled sea of hammocks.  

We watched the river change, widening and then narrowing, carving huge arches through the vast landscape.  The sunsets were spectacular, the sunrises just as beautiful and I spent many hours just looking, trying to comprehend the beauty that lay before my eyes.  We shared stories with the locals, played chase with the kids, and spent long nights playing cards with the crew, none of who had any knowledge of a far away land called New Zealand.

On the 11th day of our journey from we turned a corner onto the mighty Amazon River, and by the end of the day we had arrived to the city of Iquitos.  As the noise of cars and motorbikes engulfed me once again I realised how lucky and how grateful I was to have seen such a special part of world, a world that seems almost unreal as I sit here and type this story today.

Amazon Jungle, Barge

Amazon Jungle, Barge
















Find out more about our tours in the Amazon Rainforest

Learn more about the Amazon Jungle on our blog


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