Day 1: Got off the boat at noon. Met the German for his last day in the Amazon. We went out to eat; walked past all the restaurants in town. The German said they were too expensive. They cost six soles, maybe one euro and a half. Found a street vendor on a sidewalk between the street and the river. It was too dark to see the food. We ate eggs and onions over rice. Spices were chopped peppers in vinegar. Cost two soles. Really pennies. I said goodbye to the German and went back to the house.
Day 2: Staying with a Peruvian woman, Mora. Very friendly, she has a motorbike and took me through the city. She wants me to stay a few days, but I have to get to the farm. We ate together in a nice restaurant. She showed me the city. Small, crowded. Mora knew everyone on the street. Only a few garbage cans in the city. Garbage all over the streets. We drove past a naked man crossing the street. She said he’s the only one. She wanted to go out but I felt sick and went to sleep early.
2nd Night: I woke up in the middle of the night with a headache, itchy skin, red welts on my body. Took a shower, it didn’t help. Stomach pains. Afraid it’s malaria. Emailed dad in the USA, asked him what Malaria looks like. He said he’d ask Susan. Susan said it’s not Malaria . . . . Couldn’t sleep. Throwing up. Mora gave me a pill. Threw that up. Afraid she’d make me take it again. I took a new pill and stopped throwing up. Finally fell asleep.
Day 3: Mora’s friend came to check on me. Says he’s a doctor. He looked at my eyes and my skin, said I’m fine. He told me to cheer up, if you get sick, there’s a hospital. If you die, there’s the cemetery. I slept the rest of the day.
Day 4: Woke up. Went to the bathroom and it was not great. Bored. Raining. Sat on the balcony watching the rain. It came down heavily and loudly for a half an hour. Motorbikes stopped and waited under the roofs. Some didn’t wait very long. A family of four on a bike waited until the rain stopped and the bike was dry. Mora’s dad came home. He saw me on the balcony and waved.
Day 5: Left for the jungle today! My backpack is full! The island is 100 kms long, Iquitos at km 1, Nauta at km 100. I told the driver to stop at km 52. I saw a house on the right side of the road. My directions said to walk to the left of the house; follow the path for two hours; you'll see a blue Evangelical Church on the path; turn left. Follow that path for thirty minutes, at the clearing turn right; walk ten minutes and you’ll be there.
I followed the path for two hours. It rained and soaked everything in five minutes. My feet sank to my ankles. Everything soaked. The rain stopped after ten minutes. I found the church. Nobody was there. It was as big as a living room with plastic lawn chairs inside. I don’t remember seeing a door. I turned left, followed the path. I doubted the directions even though I saw the church. It all just looked like a jungle.
I saw a man on the path with a machete. I stopped and asked where the farm was. He led me off the path to a wall of trees and pointed with the machete through the trees. He said to follow the path. Not many other options. I followed the path until it branched into three paths. I didn’t know which to take, took them all, turned back, finally went right. I found a house but it didn't have any walls. It looked like a playground, two levels with stairs and a roof. Man and a woman said hello. I tried telling them about the farm. They gave me some water. Really sweet. I just drank a sip so I wouldn’t get sick.
Found the farm: three gazebos, one is a kitchen, the other two are for sleeping. I found a naked man in the kitchen. He showed me where the sleeping gazebo was. I hung up my hammock and slept.
Day 6: Farm. Hippies everywhere. The naked guy put on a loin cloth. He climbed up a tree during breakfast with some girl’s camera and took pictures of us. It looked like a monkey found a camera. We had some kind of cocoa for breakfast. It tasted brown. I asked what kind of work we had to do, the hippie in charge said there was a lot. Garden, clear the paths, get wood. She showed me the garden but nothing was growing. Said they bought the food from the city. Asked if I’d brought something. The girl went off to wander around. The guys played guitars and smoked. I asked where the water came from and they said the river. A new girl took off her dress and bathed in the river. Naked Tarzan went and peed in the river. He said you have to pee on the south side of the river because it was flowing south. So I guess the drinking water comes from the north. It’s a big jungle so I just peed on the path.
Afternoon. I realized it was just hippies. Packed my stuff to leave and left. Got to the path and saw it was flooded. I thought the rain flooded the only path and that I'd have to swim. I took off my shoes but remembered the electric fish. I climbed under the trees and the brush instead and made it to the path. Walked two hours back to the road, no problems, no machetes. Got a bus back to Iquitos. I told Mora about the hippies and she said I could stay at her house, no problem.
Day 7-8: I got a job at the Peruvian Navy! I work from 8-4, or 9-4, or 8-3 depending on who I talk to and when I eat lunch. I couldn’t eat today. My stomach was really unhappy. I just ate some french fries. Took a motor taxi home and threw up as soon as I got on the sidewalk. I couldn’t eat dinner and I couldn’t drink anything. I slept a lot. Diarrhea. I have to try to eat something solid. Mora says we’ll go to the hospital tomorrow.
Day 9: We went to the hospital. It was roofless with tile floors. Some rooms were covered. There were maybe ten rooms inside. We talked to a Peruvian doctor, talked to an American intern. I told them I lost a lot of weight, couldn’t eat, disaster when I went to the bathroom. Doctor said I had salmonella and gave me the medicine. He knew Mora so I just payed for the medicine. I emailed Dad, told him Susan was right, I didn’t have Malaria.
Day 10: Feeling better, ate a lot. Normal bowel movement. The German texted me and said he had an emergency, he was on the boat back to Iquitos. He said he was sick and the boat ride was a disaster and he thought he was dying. Wanted to go to the hospital and back to Lima to go to a hospital or Germany. I told him he was fine, that it was salmonella. He still wanted the hospital in Lima so I just told him to go. That's the last time I write the German in Peru.
For more jungle stories, visit this website: Gone with the Backpack.
Kristyn Bacon is twenty-two years old living in Berlin, Germany while working, writing, and learning the German language. Her stories have been published by literary journals such as MOOKYCHICK and DEW ON THE KUDZU and are included in anthologies by BOOKIMBO and SWYERS PUBLISHING. Her sports writing has been published by INSIDE DIRT and DAN HOLLOWAY, EIGHT CUTS. An architect read her work and compared it to George Saunders.