Boating up the Amazon River

3°44”53’ S / 73°14”49’ W

amazon, Iquitos, La Belen, Peru, boating

Our filming started out with a very visual scene of locals unloading scrap metal and lumber from the ferry sized boat we were about to embark on. The morning was spent filming the locals in their labours and snapping off a few photos before we set off. It wasn’t 40 minutes in and we managed to get lodged on top of a sandbar in the shallow Amazon River. Not until early morning the following were we free and on our way again after several attempts of other boats, roping on and trying to pull us off. In one instance the boat trying to help pushed right on top of ours and rammed into the bus on deck.

I had heard a story from a friend, Adam, who had traveled to Iquitos by boat before; he explained to me that while sleeping in his hammock he counted seven people touching him and going to the bathroom in the middle of the night was a serious challenge due to the maze of hammocks and people. Thankfully, this was not our situation and we found ourselves with lots of room to set up our hammocks on the second deck. As well we payed for a small dorm cellar style room for storing the twelve thousand dollars worth of camera gear I was carrying to shoot the film.

Our days on the boat started off slow and in no time we all found ourselves enjoying the daily motions of being forced to relax after some heavy travel prior to this unique boatride. Morning breakfast consisted of few pieces of bread with a small hot yogurt-type drink with lunch and dinner consisting of white rice and mystery meat. Needless to say I added a few notches to my belt and when the rare opportunity to buy from the locals selling Pirhana, coconuts and rice mixes at different villages came about I couldn’t resist.

The boat seemed to have divided it self into two sections being that the locals were on the first floor and the gringos on the second. Tamo and I made an effort to spend some time down on the first floor getting to know the locals and ended up with a few great shots for the film. After being inspired by the surfing film “Sipping Jetstreams” I started a video portrait series of the people we began to meet along the way. I am filming with DSLR’s which has given me the opportunity to blend the way I would compose a photo but adding motion this time. It took me a little while to get used to thinking in movement, but found myself getting really into the new possibilities this affords.

It came time to leave the boat as we floated into a massive port along the river and Tamo and I had finished writing up the portion of the storyboard and interviews we would be shooting in the next month.

After a good and much needed meal we met up with team in a community center called La Restinga which would be the organization we would be working with in the Belen slums. I had only met everyone for a few hours back in Canada at a silent art auction fundraiser, but right away I could tell I had joined a great group of people.

After sitting down over a presentation with La Rastinga we soon learnt that building the floating garden rafts to aid the lack of agricultural space was only a small chunk of the problems and solutions being put in place by this program. Some of the major problems being faced in this community of Belen are literacy levels in the education system for children, emergency aid needed after the worst floods in forty years, lack of medical aid, and sexually and physical abuse among family’s and the community. This was very hard hitting to hear and suddenly my thoughts really began to run with how many problems are seeking attention. One really cool thing about La Rastinga is their approach to so many different problems. In my experience back home it seems that groups can become too specialized and as a result may block out easy solutions because they don’t fit their mold of how to help. La Restinga’s approach is tackling everything and wants to make problem prevention more of a community lifestyle. It was inspiring to hear all of the ways they have come up with for tackling each problem and are always coming up with new solutions to improve the community of Belen, Iquitos and the surrounding villages.

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