- Written by Tom Miles Tom Miles
- Created: 01 August 2014 01 August 2014
Are we there yet? We've been motoring up the Ucayali River for a few hours now. It's the dry season, so the water is low and full of sandbars. We will make our way for a good while, until whatever channel we are floating through gets too shallow. Several times the boat has had to turn around, go a few hundred yards back down the river, and try to find another way.
This turn is particularly tight. In fact, we just ground to a stop against the sandy shore. … Is that the captain? The man who has been driving the boat is now either going out to see things for himself or abandoning ship ...
As this drama sorts itself out, let's go back to the beginning. We left Saint John's at 3:30 Saturday morning so that we could catch a 6:45 AM flight to Houston. Sixteen hours later, we finally touched down in Lima, Peru. (That includes a five-hour layover in Houston and a six-hour flight to South America. Janet made it the whole flight without having to use the “scary” airplane bathroom.)
We finally made it through immigration, got our bags, exchanged our money and checked through customs by about 11:30 PM. Thankfully, the hotel we were staying in was across the street from the hotel, so we were able to head straight to bed. The hotel was quite nice—it was great to take a hot shower and wash off the grime of travel in comfortable accommodations before beginning the work week!
This morning we took another early flight, this one from Lima over the mountains to Pucallpa, the main port along the Ucayali River. We were joined by fellow adventurers from Nebraska and Kentucky; with the five of us, the group is about thirty people. Tim tells us the flight over the mountains was quite beautiful. We trust him, but the rest of us were sleeping a little too deeply to notice.
The atmosphere in Pucallpa was very different from urban Lima. The airport was small. There was a lot of smoke in the air. On the drive to the market and port, we saw a small city full of people poor but thriving. The taxi drivers were especially industrious. They drove little motokars: vehicles made up of the front half and engine of a motorcycle and a two-person sitting area. Tom briefly considered a career change when we stopped at the market.
The market was full of vendors selling fresh vegetables, used electronics, clothes, fried plantains and all sorts of other items. It was a brief stop to provision up on snacks and other items before we left commercial society behind.
The bus delivered us the rest of the way to the port. Now, "port" is a rather generous term for what was really just a dirt embankment down into the river. But the area was busy with longboats docking to unload cargoes of plantains and fish that the crews had gotten from up the river. We loaded our luggage onto El Evangelista, crossing into the boat over a narrow gangplank.
We split the men to the right and the women to the left to find our bunks in small cabins. There are more women than men, so the ladies are quite crowded in their room. Kimberly and Janet have side-by-side top bunks right under the air conditioning, so we'll see how that goes! It may be all our blankets end up with the two of them.
Once we moved in, we had time to go up to the upper deck and enjoy the cruise to the village we will be working in. The river is wide, shallow and muddy. There are sand banks on either side that constantly slough off into the water. Past the sand bars is thick jungle. Tropical plants, including what Sam claims are banana trees, grow so close together that it is hard to imagine walking through them without a machete.
We have another couple of hours to our destination. Well, it's supposed to be a couple more hours. But between the back and forth up and down the river and now having the captain out on an excursion of his own, it may be a little longer!
“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness”, “mercy”, “loyalty”, “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself”, active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?