Our Expedition on the Restored Rubber Boom Era Boat, the Ayapua

by Captain Bill

Our Expedition on the Restored Rubber Boom Era Boat, the Ayapua

The Ayapua, from the support boat

The Ayapua, from the support boat

On our latest expedition we chartered the Ayapua, a rubber boom era ship that has been restored to her original glory, and then some. Since the Ayapua’s restoration in 2005 she had been used primarily for research and conservation expeditions.

Thank you very much Richard Bodmer and AmazonEco for realizing the historical importance of restoring the Ayapua in the first place, and for allowing Dawn on the Amazon, and our guests, the opportunity to experience your magnificent ship.

Steve and I on the observation deck

Steve and I on the observation deck

The Ayapua is 33 meters long and 6 meters wide. Our 9 guests, two guides, Marmelita and I went aboard and never saw each other again…No just kidding, it’s not that big, but the Dawn on the Amazon group totaled 13 and the crew of the Ayapua totaled 14, including 3 biologists, and a nurse, but we didn’t get in each others way.

The goal of the first day’s cruise was used to get well inside the boundary of Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve. There was a visible improvement in the quality of the rainforest as soon as we entered the reserve, around 5 hours after we cast off.

The first night some of us watched the movie Fitzcarraldo. It was filmed in and around Iquitos. Although I have seen Fitzcarraldo half a dozen times, I enjoyed it again. This time I was struck by the similarity of the Ayapua to the rubber boom era boat in Fitzcarraldo.

The Ayapua on the Nanay River

The Ayapua on the Nanay River

The next morning our guests were given a choice of visiting a village, taking a jungle hike, going fishing, or lounging on the Ayapua. Everyone divided according to they’re interests.

Sampling jungle grapes

Sampling jungle grapes

Unfortunately I was struck down by the Inca Atahuallpa’s revenge and was relegated to hostage status near the fringe of the boat’s toilets for most of the cruise.

Tamarin

Tamarin

Fortunately, Marmelita guided the three village visits and the three jungle hikes, and my fishing guides, Edson and Bernardino lead the fishermen to four lakes, and fishing the river.

Jungle Hike

Jungle Hike

The first hike took 3 hours after a big rain. Our guests learned about medicinal plants, and different types of rainforest. The second hike was to visit a remote community. Our guests bought candy to share, and were surrounded by children. Some bought beers in the local store, some played volleyball with the older kids. I think they loved the children. The third hike was about how the locals plant their gardens and fields, and involved tasting the local produce. The combination of three hikes provided a good opportunity to learn about the ecology of the Amazon, particularly the interaction between the needs of the indigenous people, and the need to protect the rainforest.

Visiting the jungle village of Samito

Visiting the jungle village of Samito

The water level had gone up several meters in the two weeks prior to our expedition, flooding the lakes and rivers into the rainforest, making fishing difficult.

Dave, Edson, Bernadino, and Steve with Peacock Bass

Dave, Edson, Bernardino, and Steve with Peacock Bass

Steve and Dave were our two most serious fishermen, and were rewarded for their hard work, getting up early, making the most good casts, fishing in the rain, and were the only ones to catch peacock bass. Steve caught a giant fresh water stingray.

Steve and Bernadino with a peacock bass

Steve and Bernardino with a peacock bass

Bob caught a large black piranha. Jay caught a few catfish.

Bob and Jay with Black Piranha

Bob and Jay with Black Piranha

Steve is a licensed fishing guide in the States, so when he told me how the process of catching the giant fresh water sting ray was one of the greatest fishing experiences of his fishing career, that meant something special to me, because that is the kind of result we are trying for here beyond the edge of civilization.

Electric eel

Electric eel

When Steve and my guide Bernardino paddled away from the Ayapua, Steve thought they were going peacock bass fishing, but Bernardino had other ideas. Much to Steve’s amusement, Bernie customized a jungle fishing rig out of Steve’s fancy hooks, lures, and braided line, dug some worms, and positioned the canoe over a flooded sand bar. Soon Steve thought he had hooked a log, but the log took off, and Steve had no idea what was fighting him until the ray surfaced. He released the ray, without even taking a photo, probably against Bernardino’s better judgment.

Good friends with the Boras

Good friends with the Boras

Over all I think this is the story of 9 good friends from Cincinnati Ohio that have traveled together to Costa Rica, and other destinations, coming to the Peruvian Amazon looking for a little adventure and something different. They brought their own fishing gear, 120 cigars, a couple of bottles of scotch, and a good attitude. We liked these guys. We can’t script these adventures. It is too wild here, things happen. We did the best we could, and they made the best of what they could, and I think we were all fairly happy with the results.

Big caterpillar

Big caterpillar

Ed wrote a journal of his expedition. I hope he lets me use it on this blog. All of them are articulate. I hope they leave comments telling their version of the events of our expedition.

Another amazing beetle

Another amazing beetle

Thanks to Pablo Puertas the Iquitos representative of the World Wildlife Organization who accompanied us. Pablo took most of the photos for this article. All of my cameras are kaput.

Captain Bill

Captain Bill

Our Expedition on the Restored Rubber Boom Era Boat, the Ayapua

Bill Grimes, Dawn on the Amazon

Read a first hand account from Jay Ingram and his friends at; Our Trip to Iquitos Peru.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dottie Bonnett February 8, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Wow – looks like an absolutely wonderful trip. The grandsons should love it! Dottie

2 Mike February 8, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Nice photos of a fun trip! I love the lush greenery!

3 Bill Watson February 9, 2009 at 9:57 am

Hi, Bill,
It looks grand!
Do you think that you will continue to borrow the Ayapua for your future monthly tours of the PSNR? I am actively trying to convince Abbe to join me in returning to you and Iquitos to finally see the PSNR. We will probably go first to Machu Picchu, which Abbe has never visited.
Good luck

4 springs February 11, 2009 at 6:29 am

Photos are revealing that you guys had great time over their. Would you like to post more photos at flickr so that we can enjoy it more.

5 Jay Ingram February 14, 2009 at 8:24 am

This was the most exciting adventure we have made to date. Bill and Marmelita are two of the most wonderful people I have met. They were all about making our expierence the best. It all starts with 9 people that get along. Some were more interested in fishing than jungle hikes, but that is what made this trip special. You could do whatever interested you the most. I balanced jungle hikes with fishing. I was more suscessful at catching catfish, which promply ended up on our dinner plate. The fishing guides were fantastic, Edson and Bernardino. Steve and Dave were pleased with a prize of a Peakock Bass. One evening, after dark, we took a support boat through the jungle. What an experience!!! During the high water season the river flows into the jungle. That allowed us to enter the jungle by boat. That same evening, we were amazed by the amout of stars we could see. Pablo, one of the biologist, fit in with our group. He is a wonderful person and is just a pleasure to have around. Thanks to Richard Bodmer for allowing us to explore on the Ayapua! I sincerly hope that the report from his crew was that we were all gentleman.

6 Bob Wahlke February 14, 2009 at 11:18 am

What a special treat to spend five days on a classic “rubber era” boat – The Ayapua. Bill, Marmelita, Pablo and the entire crew were wonderful and made us feel like royalty! A Personal thanks to Richard Bodmer for allowing 9 good friends from midwestern USA experience the amazing Amazon rain forest and Iquitos. These will be memories that will last a lifetime.

7 steve shepherd February 14, 2009 at 2:46 pm

the trip of a lifetime!!!
our diverse group clicked from the start and melded perfectly with bill/marmelita/and the boat crew. the jungle experience is one i shall never forget and the new friends are priceless. senor edson & senor bernardino’s knowlegde of the water was spectacular. the bio-diversity of the rainforest was even more impressive than i had hoped. cudos to cathia, vikki, and iresema for the touch of class. muchas gracias to pablo and claudia for the facts & figures.

ps-my peacock was bigger than dave’s

8 コンタクトレンズ March 14, 2009 at 3:00 am

Certainly you guys had great time. I saw you guys in some dance sequence. Are those women were top less.

Looking forward for more posts from you guys.

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