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From Casa Gregorio, with love - Amazon Colombia

After all that hard work in the jungle it is now time to relax during my third and last mini-break in the Colombian Amazon. So in Leticia, I get into the ‘Rapido’ (express boat) that takes me to the mouth of the Amacayacu River, about two hours up the Amazon river. Here a smaller boat of Casa Gregorio is already waiting to pick me up. Before we go ‘home’ we first visit Lago Tarapota, home of the most magical animal of the Amazon, the pink dolphin. Unfortunately, there seems to be nobody today, although on the way back we do see something jumping out of the water in the distance.

Off we go to San Martin, a small community of about 500 Tikuna indians situated at the Amacayacu river. Here you will find the hostel Casa Gregorio, home and mini-hotel of Heike and José. The Dutch Heike travelled halfway around the world during her biology studies before ending up, by a twist of fate, in the Colombian Amazon to study leaf cutter ants. It was love at first sight when she met José. For ten years now she has been living in San Martin, and since four years they are running a small hotel at home. So far my stay in the Amazon was fairly basic, and I can’t believe my eyes when Heike shows me my room for the next two nights.

It looks like a princess room, with a huge bed and gorgeous wooden accents!

Many activities can be organized from Casa Gregorio, like (night)walks into the jungle, but I decide to take advantage of the high water level and the flooded jungle and go by canoe.

At five o’clock in the morning I get out of my giant bed to paddle through the awakening jungle by full moon, with José’s brother Robinson. Such peacefulness! Slowly the birds wake up and start singing their song.

Then the Titi monkeys join in, and mark their territory with their complex calls. But just as during my previous jungle trips, there is life everywhere, but it doesn’t show itself easily.

The famous Victoria regia (Victoria amazonica) water-lilies on the other hand, with leaves up to three meters in diameter and large spines on the underside, cannot go anywhere and are easy to photograph.

After about four hours of paddling it is time for breakfast and we head back to the village. This day there appears to be a lot of commotion in San Martin. The priest is in town and that means that children can be baptized. All dressed up the villagers head to church. Afterwards there is a party. Because of the baptisms, because of a birthday, because it is Easter, or just because? I honestly don’t know, but it will take some time before it is quiet again in town…

I decide to decline the offer to join the party and turn in early again (can’t get enough of that amazing bed). The next morning I head out early again with the canoe and paddle till there are blisters on my hands. After all that nature it is time for some culture and I sign up for a handicraft workshop; making bracelets out of fibers of the Chambira palm.

The fibers are dyed using the bark, roots, leaves or fruits of plants, and my teacher Leonora twists them into cord by rolling them along her thigh.

It seems so easy, but on my legs it doesn’t seem to work! Then she weaves a bracelet in no time, including some beautiful seeds. I follow her instructions and, slightly slower, actually manage to make two bracelets, with only a few minor flaws.

In between all the activities I enjoy all the delicious local fruits, such as super sweet papaya, granadilla, banana and wild cocoa. Too soon it is time to leave, to get into the boat that will take me to the express boat to Leticia. Casa Gregorio is a place where you immediately feel at home, and where you are part of the family.

You can fill your days with activities, but it is definitely worthwhile to just hang around the kitchen,

where relatives and villagers come and go, and listen to stories about the past and present, from confrontations with jaguars and secret mystical lakes full of dolphins, to the political situation of the moment, the efforts to establish an independent reserve, and the work of the Small World Foundation. Thanks for the amazing hospitality Heike and José, hope to see you again someday!

Feel like going here? The express boat from Leticia to Bocana Amacayacu leaves Leticia at 8am, 10am and 1.30pm and the trip takes about 2 hours. Please be on the floating dock half an hour earlier! When you get to Bocana Amacayacu, Casa Gregorio will pick you up for another 20 minute boat trip to San Martin de Amacayacu, so it´s important to contact them before you travel. The cost of the express boat is included in the Casa Gregorio package. The express boat goes back to Leticia at 7.30am, 11am and 3.30pm daily; Casa Gregorio will take you to the Bocana Amacayacu stop on time!

Written by Colombia Fácil Researcher Susan. Read here Dutch Travel Story "From Casa Gregorio with Love" about the Colombian Amazon here.