October 14-22, 2021
Welcome to Pucallpa, the largest city and also the capitol of the Ucayali Region of Peru’s Amazon jungle. In our quest to study the different geographical zones of Peru, we learned that the low jungle is called the Omagua, and is known for the rivers and tropical rainforests of the Amazon. The word Omagua comes from one of the many indigenous languages of the area and means “region of freshwater fish.” The boys also added a note to our list of toponyms, as the name of the capital city Pucallpa comes from two Quechua words, puca & allpa, which mean “red earth.”
The Omagua, or low jungle, sits between 80-400 meters above sea level, and since this is a tropical region far away from the ocean breezes, it is VERY hot, especially for our family of serranos (mountain people)! And before you scroll down any farther, hoping to see pictures of jaguars and read stories of adventures in the deepest rain forest… you won’t be seeing that in this post. Pucallpa was founded in the mid 1800’s on the banks of the Ucayali River, and most of the surrounding jungle was cleared many years ago by the logging trade, and more recently by the huge palm oil plantations. (NOTE: I’m adding links to a few interesting articles about this below my post.)
So while our adventure led us into the Amazon region, we didn’t actually spend any time in the deep jungle. (Maybe we’ll do that on a subsequent trip.) Besides, our main reason to travel to this jungle city was to visit some friends, and to give the boys a chance to see where William Cameron Townsend, the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, began the translation and Scripture engagement work in Peru that Ade and I are privileged to continue doing today.
Top left: Celia, Maritza & Claudia are SIL colleagues who were facilitating a writers’ workshop for several of our national partners. Our boys have always enjoyed listening to the great stories that these ladies tell!
Bottom left: The Murphree family used to work in our area, and our kids enjoyed some fun adventures. It was fun to reconnect with them over lunch at a restaraunt that served amazing steaks from locally raised beef.
Right: Carolyn Fowler is an SIL colleague and a dear friend. She and her husband Kim (now in heaven) have spent many years working on a translation for the Yora / Nahua people.
Pucallpa is located on the Ucayali River, a headwater of the Amazon River. We went down to the port one rainy afternoon and saw lanchas filling up with passengers taking the equivalent of a several-hours-long bus ride to towns up and down the river.
After snapping a few pictures of this important mode of jungle transportation, the boys and I took a stroll down the alameda (walkway) along the bank of the river, where we appreciated the local “wildlife.” I’ll admit that I was a bit shocked to see these tattoo artists plying their trade in a not-so-hygienic environment. We quickly left the alameda when I noticed the long-haired, nose-ringed man showing Luis his book of tattoo designs! (I’m not quite sure what would have happened if I hadn’t stepped in to that situation!)
On our last morning in Pucallpa, we drove down to Laguna Yarinacocha, an oxbow lake on the Ucayali River, where we took a ride in a peque-peque boat. The onomatopoeic name comes from the distinctive sound that the motors make as these boats cross the lake.
Our peque boat captain/tour guide for the morning was named Luis, and he was proud to have an English-speaking Luis help him run the boat!
I was excited to see bufeos (pinkish colored river dolphins) jumping in the lake, and I took several pictures, but my well-used DSLR camera chose that moment to finally give up the ghost. The egret above is the last great picture I shot on that camera, and for once I was thankful for Ade’s iPhone so we were able to take pretty nice pictures during the rest of our trip. I do want to post a picture of a bufeo, however, so I found one on the internet that looks pretty close to the pictures I was trying to take. These creatures are so majestic!
Wycliffe Bible Translator’s founder, William Cameron Townsend, came to Peru in 1946 and opened a Bible translation center on Lake Yarinacocha in 1949. This center was donated to the Peruvian government for a bilingual university in the early 2000’s when the majority of the Bible translation work in the jungle was finished, so we weren’t able to visit the actual center. We did see it from our peque-peque, however, giving us the chance to follow David’s advice in Psalm 71:15 by telling our boys of God’s “righteous acts and his deeds of salvation” that had their roots in that center.
After motoring past the old Wycliffe center, our guide Luis told us that his tour offered a choice of stopping at a mariposario (butterfly house) on the western side of the lake, or a camu-camu grove on the eastern shore. He highly suggested the camu-camu grove because he said that our Luis would just love to see the “MOAN-keys,” so we disembarked on that side of the lake and this is what we found:
I’m not sure how impressed the boys were at being tricked into visiting a sloth! And to be honest, the camu-camu trees weren’t that interesting either; maybe we should have gone to see the butterflies. (Camu-camu is a cherry-like fruit that is made into juice.) But the people managing this “tourist trap” did have some really gorgeous guacamayos that we enjoyed.
You can tell from the pictures that Ade wasn’t too interested in letting a big bird sit on his head or his shoulder, or bite his ear like it did to Danny! But since we were using his phone for a camera now, Ade was content to stay behind the scenes taking picture.
After meeting friends for lunch, we were ready to leave Pucallpa (it’s SO hot there!) and drive south to our next destination, but first we had to stop at a vulcanizador where Ade had dropped off a flat tire that needed to be fixed. I’ve always been fascinated by the word vulcanizador and have thought out doing a bit of research on its etymology, but today I was just grateful that the repair man pulled some chunks of a broken ceramic mug out of the tire, patched it up, put it back on the truck and sent us on our way before it started raining too hard.
Goodbye, Pucallpa. We enjoyed passing through so we could visit our friends, marvel at the beauty of the flora and fauna in your zone, and remember some of the amazing things that God has done out here in the jungle. But we won’t miss your heat and humidity!
Here are a few interesting articles about some of the topics that I mentioned in this post. And be sure to check back soon for the next entry in our cross-country trip diary.
- Amazon Waters: Ucayali
- Combatting Illegal Timber Trade in Peru: Views from Ucayali – from the Office of the US Trade Representative
- Sustainable Palm Oil Production in Peru
- World Wildlife Federation: What is Palm Oil?
- COVER STORY: SEVEN DECADES OF GOD’S MIGHTY WORKS – the story of Cameron Townsend founding Wycliffe Bible Translators