Boiling River

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Martin Hash
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Boiling River

Post by Martin Hash » Sat Dec 14, 2019 5:28 am

My wife, Gwynne, and I went to Peru to visit my son, Haven, and grandson, Felix, for their day-after-day birthdays. As grandparents, we would have been satisfied just hanging around at their apartment and playing with Felix, but per usual, Haven told us we would be leaving at 3:30 am to fly somewhere else in Peru. I figured because their birthdays were coming up in 2 days that it would limit how much time we would be gone, plus I had a half-healed broken foot, so how long could we be gone? I packed accordingly, not even bringing any shoes, just thin rubber flip-flops I had bought for less than $3 at a gas station.

Haven never tells us where we're going, so I didn't know it would be Pucallpa, Peru until we landed at the airport. It was an entertaining & interesting place, just like everywhere else in Peru we have been, but I certainly wasn't prepared for 6 days and 5 nights there. Turns out there was enough to do, and except for the constant threat of dysentery, bugs & sunburn; not bad. However, because I had packed exceptionally light, I had no change of clothes; still okay, we're used to it.

But by the 6th day, we were exhausted, my clothes were filthy, and Gwynne had a really bad case of diarrhea. Plus, we had to fly out sometime during the day if we were going to make our plane in Lima back to the States. When Haven told us we were going to go on one last excursion, this time to the Boiling River, I reassured Gwynne: “How bad could it be? He knows I've got a broken foot, you've got diarrhea, and we've got to make our plane; so I figure 2 hours driving to a hot springs, 2 hours of laying in the relaxing water, and 2 hours back to town; plenty of time to make the plane.”

It was 2 uncomfortable hours in another beat up old van but as the roads became unpaved, and we were driving through mud because it poured rain all night and was still drizzling, I wondered how many people would come to the hot springs in such conditions. Whatever? Peruvians are a hardy folks, so all this would probably only make it less crowded for us.

We pulled into a small village, and I was limping around on my foot when a guy, turns out to be our guide, asked me in Spanish if I wanted some rubber boots. I said yes, but couldn't believe he'd have my size 12, and he didn't. He looked rather concerned when my foot wouldn't even push past the toes in the largest boots he had me try on. That was a hint but I didn't think I really needed rubber boots in a hot spring anyway. Then he pointed us to one of the long, narrow river boats the fisherman used that would capsize if you weren't careful. I would have thought we would drive right to the hot springs but maybe it was just across the water? All of us: Haven, his wife, Mirian, Felix, Gwynne, me and the guide motored up river for half-an-hour, and when we pulled over to the bank, it wasn't a normal boat landing. In fact, it didn't look like anybody ever landed there because climbing up the muddy embankment on my hands and knees was not a reasonable way to get to a tourist attraction.

It got worse. All I was wearing was the cheap flip-flops; Mirian was carrying Felix, who's a big hunk, and Gwynne was suffering from her affliction so that bugs were buzzing around her. It was dense jungle at the top of the bank: the guide cut 2 branches from a nearby tree, and handed them to me, motioning that I should use them to walk with. I was concerned how far we were going to walk through the muddy jungle on my broken foot; the hot springs better be just a minute away...

5 kilometers I hobbled behind the guide who was hacking through the thick jungle growth with a machete which allowed the mosquitoes a chance to swam around us when we stopped to wait. Mirian had Felix swung in a sheet on her back, and Gwynne couldn't go 100 paces without stopping for a rest. It was hours; my broken foot had gone beyond pain, all the way to numbness. Without those 2 staffs, I would have had to stop; and it was so hot & humid, sweat dripped off my nose and elbows. I threatened to turn around multiple times but Haven kept telling me the guide assured him it was only 10 more minutes. I wondered when the last time the guide had even taken this trail because it was so overgrown. I could think of no way the hot springs could have anybody at all there, let alone tourists.

Finally, we arrived at a tiny, half-a-dozen huts village. There was no hot springs, but indeed there was a boiling river: “Peligro Caliente,” a sign said; danger, hot. In fact, it turned out to be 90 Celsius, 194 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much too hot to touch, let alone soak in. The guide pointed to a place where we could supposedly get in but when Haven cautiously put the tips of his fingers in, he dramatically snatched his hand back.
“Keep Felix away!” he exclaimed, warning Marian to move back.

Haven at Boiling River.JPG

I didn't say anything because it seemed like such an appropriate ending: it was the worst ever day on my foot; I was going to be even slower going back, so there was no way we could make our plane back to Lima; and there wasn't even anyplace to relax. That's when the downpour began.
“Perfect,” I said, laughing.
Haven had brought a beer, only 1, which he gave to me. “Don't you have one for yourself?” I asked.
“You need it a lot worse than I do,” he said, matter-of-factly.
The beer improved my mood immensely. Then, in that teeny, tiny village, the guide brought a pair of size 12 rubber boots for me to wear on the way back. They were brand new. He sold them to me for $3 which he gave to somebody in the village. The boots were a perfect solution: I had to force them on but the swelling in my broken foot fit snugly, making the boot equivalent to a cast; and the rain was cold and refreshing. I took off my shirt so that all I was wearing was my once -dirty nylon shorts and a jungle hat, water pouring off the brim. Actually, I felt great, raring to hike through the jungle now that I knew how far, and wearing real shoes. Plus, the mud was covered in puddles, which changed the viscosity, making it much easier to walk. The village locals and the guide thought I was crazy to go mostly naked, they were all draped in heavy rain ponchos to stay warm and keep the bugs off, but I'm from the Pacific Northwest; this was like paradise, and my Western diet, probably the whiskey tonics, kept the insects away; I didn't even get 1 bite; and I don't sunburn either. I felt totally revitalized; it must of seemed like I had superpowers to the locals.

The hike back was fabulous. We saw a lot wildlife in the jungle that, apparently only came out in heavy rain: birds and monkeys and land crabs. Our guide put the crabs in a plastic sack to take home to eat, I presume. I got the feeling this was the first time he'd done that. There was a giant toad, bigger than a football, on the trail that seem unconcerned of my presence but as I stepped next to him, he startled me by jumping over my boot. We made excellent time, good enough to catch our plane. I gave my new boots to the guide to hopefully give to the next big-footed Westerner who doesn't wear clothes in the jungle. He was very appreciated and I think a little bit in awe.

Boiling River.JPG
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Joined: Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:10 am

Re: Boiling River

Post by Dr.Jack » Sat Dec 14, 2019 5:15 pm

Di and I really enjoyed your post about the "boiling river" - must have been on your last trip. I hope you don't have another "short expedition" like that this trip! At least your foot is not broken now, and I wish you a fun cruise and wonderful Christmas at Mouse Land.