Part 1: Pucallpa Land

Posted on May 10, 2010


Part 1: Pucallpa Land

“Just take my word- we were eaten alive”

Boat ride on the Ucayali River

It was a beautiful day and I was relieved to be back in Pucallpa, a city in Eastern Peru . Don’t get me wrong—this city is one of my least favorite I’ve visited. Besides the bit of traditional Shipibo culture that remains, it has little to offer.

So why was I was happy to be in Pucallpa? Very simple- there was a bathroom. I wouldn’t consider myself that pampered but I still think being clean is a wonderful state to be in. Where we came from was a small village five hours by boat from Pucallpa called Nueva Batania. I was tired of eating white rice and eggs. I wanted to shower and use a toilet. The jungle floor is bearable for peeing but it takes some getting used to using for other purposes.

How could I forget the most horrific part… the mosquitoes. They were pure physical torture. We were in Nueva Batania in the worst months for mosquitos (Feb/Mar). I don’t know if there is a comparison to the kind of force they exert in the lowland Amazon. Just take my word- we were eaten alive.

Mayra (the mother of my, who was then still unborn, niece Atma) and I left the village after 2 nights, 3 days. We returned to Pucallpa and my brother stayed in the village with our friend Luz to perform a ceremony. You should check out his blog (  if you want details on that.

Flower from Nueva Batania

The following day I ventured out with our friend James. We left Mayra at the hostel all day, which was desirable because she was almost 8 months pregnant and needed rest. When we returned, around 7 o’clock, our taxi pulled up at the exact moment Mayra was about to leave. She was hysterically crying and carrying the few baby items we had, a onesie and pack of diapers.  It turns out she was having strong contraction pains and went to a clinic. The doctor told her they needed to do a C-section. At least, that’s what I understood. She speaks only Spanish and I understand only ½ of what she says and speak only ½ of what I understand. It’s a guessing game most the time.

Me, James, and Mayra got a taxi and went to the clinic. They hit me with the bill up front. The doctor needed 1,000 soles. That is around $350. Not bad for a C-section! I frantically get a taxi with James to the ATM and withdraw the soles, knowing there was no one else around who could pay it. We head right back to the clinic. James leaves for the hostel because we hoped that Eric and Luz would return around 8:30 pm. There was no guarantee but we knew that is when some of the boats coming from the village returned.

It was Mayra, the clinic doctor, a nurse, and I. Somewhere, completely lost in translation, the doctor told Mayra they couldn’t perform the C-section at the clinic. The baby would be born premature at 7 ½  months and would need a respirator, something they didn’t have. We all shuffled to the hospital, which Mayra didn’t go to in the first place because it is less clean than the clinic. I was a little concerned when I saw a stray dog strolling down the hall that leads to the ER but traveling teaches you to roll with the punches.

Posted in: Uncategorized