The Mysterious Boiling River of the Amazon
It was a typical Amazon morning in the city of Iquitos, it was suffocating heat and really sunny. A friend of mine had arrived in the city and we met at the Nanay market well-known for its typical meals prepared on various barbecues.
In a well-known restaurant we order several fish from the area and a cold beer. We had a very nice conversation and we remembered our childhood friendship, we laughed out loud and at one point he told me that he would have liked to visit the boiling river. She was amazed by my reaction! She did not conceive my ignorance since I lived in the jungle! I was stunned because although there are boiling rivers in other latitudes, they are usually associated with volcanoes, since an immense source of heat is required to produce such a massive geothermal manifestation. The problem is that there are no volcanoes in the Amazon, nor in most of Peru.
We finished the cold beer – in these parts I can assure you that they are of vital necessity to resist the high tropical temperatures – and she went to the same port to board a boat that would take her to the Marañon river to enjoy the charms of the jungle.
I got on the motocarro and headed to the Plaza de Armas and all the way I couldn’t get out of my head what the place and the river would be like. As soon as I got home I went straight to the computer and started looking for information. I discovered that a young scientist and geologist named Andrés Ruzo had set out to “discover it” and wrote a book called “The Boling River”. As I could read its course it flows for more than 6.25 kilometres and reaches up to 25 meters wide and at its deepest point, it touches 5 meters. And the most amazing thing is that on average it reaches a temperature of 94 degrees. Something unusual in a river that flows through the Amazon
Arrival at Pucallpa city
After a few days I flew to the city of Pucallpa. This city is of great economic importance since there is a motorway that leads to Lima. It is the largest jungle city connected to the Peruvian capital and they supply each other, one with Amazon products and the other with products from the rest of the country and the world.
I chose a hotel in the Plaza de Armas. In Peru, all the central and most important squares in cities and towns are called that way, therefore, given my lack of knowledge about the city, I wanted to stay in this plaza. And I was right! You never fail if you stay in the Plaza de Armas in Peru, you will always be in the most connected and central area.
The truth is that I did not have a great interest in knowing Pucallpa, they had already told me that it did not shine for its beauty and that it is basically a commercial city. I had read about the boiling river, but honestly the information was scarce in reference to how to get there. The first thing I did was walk around the hotel surroundings and ask the people who were in the street shops that sell the typical souvenirs. No person explained exactly how to get there. So I decided to look for very numerous people from the Shipibo-Konibo ethnic group in this area of the Amazon jungle.
The Shipibo-Konibo Tribe
The Shipibo-Konibo constitute the third most numerous indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon. They are distributed along the banks of the Ucayali river, although with the Pucallpa urbanization process in the mid-1960s it had a strong impact on Shipibo society. A significant number of families settled on the outskirts of that city and in surrounding cities and towns, looking for new options to improve their levels of education and access health services. Currently, there are hundreds of indigenous families established in the urban environment, although without losing their link with their communities of origin. They are well known for their weaving crafts, painted pottery, wooden statuettes, and body ornaments. This handicraft has made them highly in demand among tourists and has even been exported in considerable quantities. I must also highlight the importance of Ayahuasca in the Shipibo culture. This sacred plant becomes an interlocutor for men with the world of the jungle spirits. These beliefs are perfectly reflected in the cultural expressions of this group, where Ayahuasca remains the main element of their crafts.
It was not difficult for me to find them since they were everywhere and wore their typical costumes. They explained how to get there, but the river was not easily accessible and promised to be an odyssey. It was clear that doing it alone was foolhardy and I didn’t feel like getting lost in the jungle.
Thanks to the hotel receptionist she introduced me to a guide. He was a young guy and he was very excited. He really wanted to work and we stayed the next day to finally take me to the boiling river.
Way to the Boiling River
I woke up very early very excited. I went to have breakfast at the market next door and to try the typical food of the area. I never eat breakfast in hotels because I prefer to gobble up the local markets, see the products, soak up the atmosphere and interact with local people. That is why I am looking to sit in any street stall and enjoy local dishes, prepared at the moment and in the simplest way. I admit that I love being the only “gringo” in the place and being surrounded by people from the area.
Already with a full stomach and having satiated my appetite we started the adventure. From the hotel we went on a noisy motorbike to the bus station. Once again in these parts the driver drove in a chaotic and reckless manner, avoiding at high speed any obstacle that stood in front of him. We arrived safe and sound. I still do not understand how I have practically never witnessed accidents despite their risky and fearless driving.
We got into a ramshackle car that served as a taxi, but the difference is that it is shared with more unknown people and until all the seats are occupied, they do not move from the place. Of course, they did not carry any movement or permission signs. You recognize them because they are neatly parked in line at the bus station. We left the city and after about 30 minutes we entered bumpy and unpaved roads. To think that spending two hours in a dishevelled car with worn shock absorbers constantly bouncing is not very accommodating. Finally, we reach our destination. It was a cozy little town.
In the village we made a brief break for lunch. There was only one restaurant open. We get closer and look at the menu. First, Inchicapi, which is a kind of chicken soup, peanuts, boiled yucca and other ingredients. As a second course they served us a sajino stew with a large amount of white rice as a garnish. The sajino is the equivalent of a wild boar. It was a hearty meal and it fulfilled its function of satisfying our hunger and refuelling energy to continue the journey.
We went to the port to call it in a way since you only deduce it because several boats are moored. We boarded a motorized canoe and I could appreciate stretched out, the splendour of the jungle with the tranquility it deserves.
After 20 minutes we had to walk an hour on a path where the mosquitoes had no mercy on us. Finally, we went up a small not very steep hill and from the height we could see the river. Finally! I couldn’t believe it. We go down as fast as when a child wakes up on Christmas day to see the gifts that Santa Claus has brought him. I had read about this famous river for a long time and my emotion was huge.
As we got closer I could see how smoke came out of the bushes, it was the water steam. I couldn’t believe it! He could feel the heat and there was a sound of boiling water. A very pleasant feeling came over me. The river flowed fast and hot. And the most spectacular thing was how the water extracted the burning, but in a warm way. It was a magical situation. I decided to sit on the edge of the river and just enjoy the moment. The impression I had was wonderful. The landscape, the situation and the sound of the water going down, really caused a great general well-being. To my surprise the water was clean and transparent, you could see the bottom. I remained motionless for about twenty minutes and let myself go for the moment in silence listening to the sound of the jungle and the river.
After a while the person in charge of the camp appeared and I explained that I had come to witness such beauty. He smiled and nodded accepting my presence. I took the opportunity to talk with him and he explained that this area of the river is sacred. The river is born with cold water and right in this place the water is hot and then it is cold again. Its name is Shanay-Timpishka which means boiled in the heat of the sun. And it is the house of the Yacumama “the mother of the water” in Quechua. According to the mythology of the Amazonian indigenous people, it is a snake similar to the anaconda, but much larger and with an overwhelming force that lives in the water that acts as protector of the Amazon water sources. The habitants drink their water, cook and even use it to prepare their plant medicines.
Chat with the Shaman`s River
We walked for a while and he introduced me to teacher Juan Flores. He is the shaman who belongs to the Ashaninka indigenous tribe and spiritually guards the river. In his grandparents’ time, only the most powerful shamans came to the river to communicate with spirits. Most people did not dare to enter for fear of jaguars and powerful river and jungle spirits. He is in charge of healing people with Amazonian medicinal plants and building deeper connections between humanity and nature.
I loved talking to him, but it was getting dark and we had to go back to the city and it was not recommended to do the tour at night. I would have spent hours talking to them, but we had to leave. I said goodbye and appreciated your hospitality.
On my return I was meditating on the conversation I had with them and it was difficult for me to understand how it was possible that a unique place like the boiling river was threatened by illegal loggers, ranchers and that from their perspective it was only another resource to exploit. As such a spiritual place for local authorities it was another unprotected area ready for development. What had we human beings become? How could our greed have no limits? How was it possible that our desire to consume had no end? It is in our hands to conserve the environment and our planet. We must know and understand that everything has its meaning and uniqueness because that is the question. And we define the meaning. It is we who have the power to draw the line between the sacred and the trivial. We live in a world where everything is measured and computerized and we forget the essential. Our connection with nature and that we are part of it. Personal relationships and those of our loved ones. Those of us who love nature must not cease our efforts to continue feeling its essence. Let’s continue being curious. We live in an amazing and uniqueworld. In a world where even shamans still sing to the jungle spirits. Where rivers boil and where legends come to life.
Share this with your friends!