The jungle can be overwhelming, and is a lot to get used to. The thought about so many animals that live there can make you scared. But should it? The jungle is beautiful and once experienced with local guides and through a local persons eyes, even more so. They know so many interesting things about their home, and are in tune with the nature surrounding them. They will show you how to walk in the jungle and how they make use of all the goods provided by it. After my first visit to the jungle I cannot help myself, I have to go back. Not just touristy areas, but off the beaten track as well. I will tell you about part of Pucallpa and Contamana regions, the pearls of the Ucayali jungle.
Pucallpa is the tenth largest city in Peru. Located at the banks of Ucayali river, which is one of the tributaries of the Amazon. The city is growing very fast but it is still very limited with tourist sights. Yet, it is worth to feel the atmosphere, to sit in the harbor, walk around the center, and to taste local food.
Definitely you need to go outside the city. Pucallpa area is much more interesting. Small villages where Shipibo tribes live are the first options for your second day. You can walk for hours there or ride a bicycle. There is also time for chatting with locals, which is my most favorite activity.
While staying in the villages, it is worth it to visit the two local lakes: Yarinacocha and Cashivococha. Local people are always surprised that I am taking long walks by myself to go to places such as these. “What for?” they always ask. “It is several kilometers, it is far away”. My response is always, “No worries, take me to the street and afterwards I will find my way”. I take tuk tuks (moto taxi) to the roads, and start my long walk in nature. Taxi drivers are always nervous to drop me off by myself on the road, 10 km away from the lake. ? This is my way of relaxing in nature. One of my ideal treks is from/to Cashivococha lake, which is the best before sunset.
The most interesting spots are a few hours outside the city. One of my favorite places is in the Honoria region, which is very close to the boiling rivers. Yes! Boiling rivers exist they are worth seeing, they are very impressive natural wonders.
The first boiling river we visited – Rzeka Mayantuyacu, can be reached from Honoria village within 1 hour. This is an amazing part of the jungle, with unique landscapes and interesting views of the steam floating above the water. The view of the steam is best in the morning and at night. There are a few spots where Ayahuasca sessions can be taken in this area. In my opinion it is not the safest place for such activities. There is a risk of accidents (we have heard about such). Unfortunately, there have been cases where people on Ayahuasca fell into the water ( which is around 100º). This resulted in very bad burns and sometimes death. In the video below you can see the boiling river and the steam that wafts through the trees during the day.
But this is not the only hot river which can be visited in this region. The next one is located in Contamana, often called “the pearl” of Ucayala. This is a charming town, well kept, truly amazing. This is a perfect starting point to meet local communities like the Shipibo. It is also close to lakes and to the next hot river, Aguas Calientes, located in the middle of the jungle.
How to do you get there? First, you need to spend around 6-7 hours on a fast boat, which leaves Pucallpa each morning. Another option is taking a small flight (around 20 minutes). The pricing and experience of course will be different on a flight. You can also take a slow boat, but then the trip will take around 24 hours. This is an option only for the patient ones. There is no way to get there by car (and I hope it will stay like this). As the local people say, “evil and dangers will come with the road”. I think there’s something to that. Right now the city is very safe and welcoming, I hope it will stay like this as long as possible.
After arriving in Contamana, you need to catch a moto taxi and drive 25 minutes to the trail. From here it will take you 45 minutes to the hot waters of Aguas Calientes. Trees, humidity, warm climate, this area is perfect for the natural baths, especially in the morning.
In Contamana people are very nice, not yet spoiled by tourism, since it is not popular destination. They are very positive, curious about different skin colors, the adults and kids are willing to talk, and to meet. Here, like anywhere else, you can enter a local house and talk with people about life while drinking coco juice. Afterwards they do not expect payment, it is just a nice gesture. It is like being invited to tea, but the tea is being replaced by coco juice.
The pace of life here is much different. Slower, and more relaxed. There are opportunities for many beautiful adventures, a lot of medical plants around and it’s a fruit paradise wherever you go…
In Contamana there are plenty of options to eat cheap and fresh food. My favorite was the fish, juanes, yuca – so delicious! For a lunch you will pay 4 – 7 soles.
For 30 – 35 soles you can have good accommodations with standard living spaces, but due to the heat I recommend a double room in a hotel for 80 soles, because it has AC. Without AC it is hard, but possible, especially if you are a budget traveller.
Evening street food in Contamana
It is worth to go off the beaten track, get to know local places, people. All this, which is not spoiled by mass tourism, is often more beautiful, deeper, more natural.