PERU
2003


"Amazon Snake Mystery"

Iquitos to Andoas, Loreto

The flight from Iquitos to Andoas
click to enlarge

Our journey to Alianza Cristiana began with a flight to Andoas, while Captain Jose Cisneros took his river boat, the Nenita, the long way around, via the Rios Marañón, Pastaza and Huasaga.

We were due to fly to Andoas on the upper Pastaza, the only upstream airstrip that could take a fixed-wing aircraft, aboard a Peruvian Air Force de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter its base in Iquitos.

We waited for the aircraft to arrive and loaded all our kit and personnel on board*: Mark (camera), Terry (sound), Ann (associate producer), Lutz (contributor), Deborah (location manager), Alex (doctor) and the Peruvian Air Force four-man crew.

* Director Jon Stephens was already at Alianza Cristiana, remaining there after his recce.

We took off at 16:00 and flew for 15-20 minutes over the Amazon jungle before being told there was an instrument problem, and an engine problem, and the weather at Andoas was too bad to land, so if we flew any further we would not have sufficient fuel to get back to Iquitos safely. We turned back, landed, unloaded and decamped to the hotel, ready to try again the next day.

The following day the flight was relatively uneventful, Mark Stokes had the door off the aircraft to film aerial shots of the jungle, I was trying to work out from the map which rivers were which in the carpet of green and everyone was trying to make themselves as comfortable as possible in the fairly cramped conditions.

 

The crew of the de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter. Where is that refreshment trolley?
Views of the Amazon Basin enroute to Andoas.

 

Mark filming aerials.

 

Arriving at Andoas (L-R) Alex Sandoval (doctor), Mark Stokes (camera), airport staff, Ann Breeze (AP), Terry Meadowcroft (sound), Lutz Dirksen (herper) and 2 airport staff.

After two hours we landed at Andoas, an airstrip built to supply the oil industry.

We were to stay the night in a compound belonging to Plus Petroleum where we slept in small, converted containers and ate in a well equipped (but dry) refrectory. The big screen in the dining hall was showing Manchester United beating the hell out of my home town team, Wolverhampton Wanders, but I was confident none of the Peruvian oil workers getting excited over the game would recognise my accent.

Unfortunately nobody was allowed out of the gated compound, a disappointment given the close proximity of suitable herping habitat.

Through the chain-link fencing we could see a large Black and white tegu (Tupinambis teguixin) and unidentified frogs of the genus Leptodactylus, but could not get any closer. Lutz did manage to catch a Northern Peruvian worm-teiid (Bachia trisanale trisanale), a curious elongate lizard with tiny limbs that saltates (jumps) across the ground, when exposed.

Northern Peruvian worm-teiid, Bachia trisanale trisanale

 

The next morning we departed by river for Alianza Cristiana, reportedly a good day-long journey.