Middle of the 19th Century..a time shift and my next destination
the middle of the 19th century, all foreign navigation on the River Amazon was
prohibited by the Brazilian Authorities and as a result there were few towns along
the river, only Indian settlements, Even Manaus did not exist. By 1851, the Peruvian
Government was becoming more and more exasperated by the fact that they were unable
to reach the frontier with Brazil except by means of a long and very difficult
journey overland via Moyabamba. Protests were made to the Brazilian Government
and eventually a treaty was signed in October of that year by the two Governments
granting Peru access to their territory via the River Amazon. But there was a
price to pay. Peru had to give up part of her territory, the regions of Caqueta
1863, The President of Peru, Grand Mariscal Ramón Castilla, a great patriot,
decided to test the good faith of the Brazilians by sending 4 gunboats from the
port of Callao around Cape Horn, up the east coast of Brazil and up the Amazon
to a small settlement called San Pablo de los Napeanos de Loreto. This settlement
had been established in 1757 by some missionaries. It was very small having only
81 inhabitants in 1808. The four gunboats arrived at the settlement on 5th January
1864 and the settlement was renamed Iquitos.
1864 the Brazilian Government decreed free navigation for all vessels of foreign
registry. Immediately settlers began to arrive along the Amazon. Two brothers,
Alfred and Charles Booth started a steamship line in Liverpool to carry cargoes
between England and the ports of North Brazil and up the River Amazon to the town
of Manaus which had been founded in 1852. Then in 1869 another Liverpool merchant
called Singlehurst started the Red Cross line running to Iquitos.
- the Black Gold
1880 the rubber boom commenced. There was a rush of settlers to the region. To
Iquitos came Spaniards, Portuguese, French, Germans, Cypriots, Maltese and Tangerians
together with some Englishmen. Although Manaus was the centre of the rubber boom,
Iquitos was also an important centre and soon 20 firms had been established there
all being engaged in some way in the rubber trade.
1901 the Booths took over the Red Cross Steamship Company forming the Booth Steamship
Co. Ltd. There was a rise and fall of the river at Iquitos of some 40 feet. This
caused many problems for the loading and discharge of cargo so the Booths petitioned
the Peruvian Government for permission to construct a floating landing stage similar
to that in Liverpool. Their petition granted, the Iquitos Harbour Company was
formed, A number of English engineers were sent out and a floating landing stage
was constructed at the end of Calle Loreto. Ships could then discharge their cargo
on to the landing stage. From here the cargo was winched up to the top of the
river bank and into Customs Warehouses at the corner of the streets Loreto and
Raymondi. Outward cargo was dealt with in the same way.
has a federal system of States, each State having an elected Governor with power
to raise its own taxes. With money pouring into the State coffers, many improvements
were made to Manaus such as the paving of the streets, the building of many attractive
buildings such as the famous Opera House and Palace of Justice. A water supply,
electricity and a tram system was built. Iquitos, on the other hand, was a Province
and all the money received was sent to Lima.
was the wealthy merchants who built luxurious residences and offices for themselves,
many faced with colourful tiles from Portugal. One merchant, Anselmo del Aquila,
purchased the world's first prefabricated building built by Eiffel and on display
at an exhibition in Paris, shipped it to Iquitos and erected it on the corner
of the Plaza de Armas. The building consists of metal iron plates bolted together.
The upper floor was used as the Iquitos Club whilst on the ground floor was the
grocery store of a Sr Borges.
the collapse of the rubber boom in 1913 Iquitos entered into a gentle decline
although it was still visited by the occasional Booth vessel and river steamers
of the Amazon River Co of Belem do Para. It was to this town that was now to become
home for me for the next couple of years.
revolution in Iquitos and strange money
January 1921, there was a Revolution in Iquitos. The rubber boom had ended and
there was depression. Funds had not been sent from Lima for the wages of the army
and the men were getting upset. A Peruvian Army Captain called Guillermo Cervantes
rose up in arms against the Authorities in the town. They marched on the Municipal
Offices and took all the money they could find amounting to 10,000 Peruvian Pounds.
Then they ransacked the Banco de Peru y Londres taking away 13306 Peruvian Pounds.
However, this sum was insufficient for their needs so they made an arrangement
with a local printer to design and print their own notes, the low value notes
on wrapping paper and the higher denominations on lining paper. They decreed that
these notes, known as Cervanteros, were now the only legal tender. At first the
business houses refused to accept them but due to the lack of other money, they
eventually accepted them. However, members of the Chinese Colony who were mostly
small-shop owners stated that they would not accept such notes. Therefore, they
were rounded up and placed on an island in the middle of the River Amazon and
left there without food or drink. A few days was sufficient and they decided it
was better to accept than starve. Meanwhile, troops had been sent from Lima to
putdown the Revolution and finally, after several small battles, the ringleaders
escaped to Ecuador. These Cervanteros Notes are sought after by collectors.
Trevor arrives in Iquitos
to continue with myself, on the morning of 18th June 1945, the Panair do Brasil
single engined Sikorski hydroplane left Belem on route to Manaus. We flew at around
1000 metres following the mighty Amazon river. This afforded me much satisfaction
for I thought that if we had to make a forced landing, at least there would be
a chance of swimming ashore always provided that alligators and other nasty animals
didn't eat me first.
out of the window, all I could see was a green mantle of the forest with the Amazon
winding its way down to the ocean. Occasionally a small settlement could be seen
or a straw roofed hut and some naked children waving as we passed overhead. Sometimes
flocks of green parrots flew below us. Now and then a small river boat could be
seen. Then at midday we stopped at the river port of Santarém for lunch
which consisted of a sort of fishy soup, boiled fish with plenty of bones, rice
and farofa [a seasoned manioc /cassava flour] followed by goiabada
and a banana.
took off again stopping briefly at Parintins, Obidos and Itacoatiara before reaching
Manaus. After a short stop, we left for Iquitos stopping at various small river
ports, rather like a milk run, I thought, before coming down at the frontier port
of Benjamin Constant where everyone had to disembark to have their passports stamped.
Back on board again, the plane taxied across to the opposite bank to Leticia in
Colombia where a passenger disembarked. Then on to Iquitos flying over Peruvian
we went straight into the worst tropical storm which I have ever experienced.
The plane was shaken from side to side. We suddenly dropped earthwards, then we
were lifted up as though by some giant's hand. At times the plane was thrown on
to it's side. I noticed that none of the other passengers seemed very happy and
I can't say that I was particularly. Nothing could be seen out of the windows
as everything was white. Then just as suddenly, the plane righted itself, the
sun shone and there below us was the metal roofed town of Iquitos. As we circled
round ready to land, I could see the floating houses and houses on stilts in the
district of Belém.
up some muddy steps cut into the bank of the river, I entered the wooden airport
building where a tired looking Customs man waved my baggage through and an equally
tired Immigration man stamped my passport. There were no tourists in those days
to liven things up.
A Portuguese man approached me and, having ascertained
my name, informed me that he had been detailed to convey me to the Chalet Booth.
I was duly impressed with this VIP treatment.
a Ford V8
the airport building stood a 1939 Ford V8 touring car looking the worse for wear.
Untying a piece of string, the driver removed a couple of nails and lifted the
door off its hinges. Bowing slightly, he bid me enter which I did with care for
the floor was about two inches deep in water with a film of oil on top. Then I
sat down on the springless seat.
we set off, I realised that Iquitos did not possess paved roads, only large potholes
joined by short stretches of earth. As we progressed some of the larger potholes
almost covered the street and were full of muddy water as it had recently poured
with rain. The driver manoeuvred the car with great dexterity around these potholes
although on occasion we were so deep in the water that it came into the car under
noticed that each house had its own pavement outside the front door. Some were
of bricks, some of cement whilst others had just earth raised above the level
of the roadway and banked by pieces of timber.
we came to the Plazuela 28 de Julio, a large square with a tall flag pole in the
centre of a small mound of earth and surrounded by bushes.
right, we entered the main street, Jiron Lima, which although made of earth was
more or less devoid of pools of water and had few bunches of grass or weeds. Many
of the main business houses were sited here such as Toledano, Morey, Power &
Co and Garcia, the baker. Further along we came to the Plaza de Armas with a bandstand
in the centre surrounded by plenty of weeds. On one side was the main church and
on the corner the only decent café and bar in town, On the opposite side
was the Alambra Cinema and the Municipalidad. On another side was the Circulo
Militar and opposite that the general store of Borges and the famous prefabricated
iron Eiffel building, brought from France, with the Iquitos Club on the first
floor, The main street now changed name to Calle Raimondi. Along one side were
two lines of bricks where the tram lines used to be. As the road was full of potholes,
the buses, taxis and the few cars in Iquitos ran along these lines of bricks.
There were no motorcycles in those days.
Chalet Booth was situated on Calle Loreto, leading off Calle Raimondi close to
the Custom House. This street had an open ditch running along the centre on either
side of which was a muddy track. Into the ditch flowed or was dumped all the refuse
from the houses. The smell was quite overpowering and I never did get used to
it though I had to walk down the street every day to and from the office. In the
ditch were several pigs enjoying themselves. Wandering about in the street were
cows, chickens and mules A thin wooden plank was placed at intervals to enable
people to cross from one side of the road to the other. Quite a feat and one which
I never attempted.
one corner of the street was\a large wooden house in the doorway of which sat
two women, both nursing babies. One woman was about thirty whilst the other could
not have been more than fifteen. The driver informed me that both babies had the
same father. I spent the rest of the journey to the Chalet trying to work out
the relationship of each baby to the other!
we came to the Chalet Booth, an imposing building standing in its own grounds
full of fruit trees and palms. The building was raised above the ground. I was
greeted by TG Parsons who, after introducing me to his wife and 12 year old daughter,
Eileen, took me on a tour of the premises. There were five bedrooms, all leading
off the main room. Each bedroom in its turn had doors opening out on to a wide
veranda. On the outside of the veranda was mosquito netting. The main room had
a full sized billiard table at one end. At the other end was a dining table with
8 chairs. There was space for several wicker chairs and a small table where one
could sit and have before-dinner drinks. The best part was the bathroom. There
was the shower and WC and then a swimming pool. This was supplied with rainwater
for the roof was built in such a way that when the rain fell, the water collected
above the pool and could be emptied into the pool or out into the garden as required.
I made a point of having a swim in the pool every morning after my shower.
morning, Parsons took me to the office where he introduced me to the Staff. As
the purpose of my stay in Iquitos was to examine the books and put things right,
I took no part in the running of the business which was left to TG Parsons.
Cash was being run by a Miss Aurora, late cook at the Staff House. The Cash was
in order so she continued to look after it until one day she resigned. The next
I heard about her was that she had married a Booth Line captain and was living
fired the accountant
Accounts were in a mess so I fired the accountant and took over the books myself.
There were a number of peculiar items such as 'Old Bottles Account.'The Manager,
JW Massey, heard that as the river was lower than usual, new bottles for the local
beer factory were unable to be brought overland from Lima to Yurimaguas and then
by river steamer to Iquitos. Thinking to take advantage of this and earn a fortune
for the firm, he encouraged all the little boys in town to bring him all the empty
beer bottles they could find for which he paid them a few centavos a bottle. Then
when the shed in the garden was full of these old bottles, a ship arrived bringing
a consignment of new beer bottles. The old bottles Massey then had thrown into
the river but numbers floated and little boys continued to fish them out and bring
them to the office and demand payment.
were also large stocks of things like Nails, Screws and Washers. I sold these
as quickly as I could.
Iquitos at the time was the American Rubber Development Corporation engaged in
collecting rubber which they shipped out in Catalina flying boats to Lima run
by the American Air Force. Booths were Agents for the Cia de Petroleo Ganso Azul
which had oil fields in Aguas Calientes. The petroleum products were shipped in
barges to Iquitos pushed by tugs in the command of Peruvian Naval Officers. Upon
arrival in Iquitos, the oil was pumped into large tanks at Punchana. Booths were
in charge of registering the amount of oil received into the tanks. We sold the
aviation petroleum to the American Air Force for their Catalina flying boats.
Kerosene was sold either in cans or empty coca cola bottles. These latter were
used by the local Chinese merchants who on-sold them to housewives.
American Air Force personnel were also engaged in building an airport so that
land planes could be used in the future. However on VJ day,[Victory over Japan]
orders were received that the personnel were to return to the States immediately.
Although the runway was not complete, a thin layer of cement was laid down on
the uncompleted part and the Americans departed. Immediately afterwards a Catalina
flew in to Iquitos with Elmer Faucett, head of the company which had been servicing
the planes for account of the Americans, Messrs Truslow and Hess of the Rubber
Development Corporation, Mr Clayton of Ganso Azul and a few others plus JW Massey.
In a Peruvian Air Force plane arrived General Melgar of the Peruvian Air Force
and sundry officials. Everyone lined up on the air field and the local army band
played several tunes.
Mr Truslow made a speech after which General Melgar handed over a One Silver Dollar
coin after which Mr Truslow solemnly handed the airport to the Peruvian Government.
Then there was a short ceremony and General Melgar announced that the airport
would be handled by Booth & Co (London) Ltd as Agents for the Government airport
the Catalina flying boats were either loaned or sold to the Faucett Company. The
owner, Elmer Faucett, informed us that henceforth Booths could sell passages from
Iquitos to Lima. There was an immediate rush of requests for passages and as the
Catalina flying boats only had 6 seats we asked Lima what we were to do. The reply
was that we could load the planes up to such and such a weight, whether freight
or passengers. We decided that we would only sell passages at the airport. Once
we knew the total weight of the cargo, then we knew how many kilos we had left.
Then first come, first served, passengers and their baggage was weighed and passages
issued until we reached the maximum weight. When word was given to board, there
was a wild rush to get on board and secure a seat so we agreed that only the first
6 passengers to be ticketed could board first. All the others entered by the cargo
hatch and had to make themselves comfortable on the floor. In spite of this we
always had far more requests for passages than we could accept. Faucett adopted
a similar plan for passages from Lima to Iquitos. When a plane arrived from Lima,
6 passengers would emerge. Then the cargo hatch would be raised and we could see
passengers huddled on the floor of the plane too frozen to get up for several
day I saw a number of Amazonian Indian [forest tribe] boys and girls being herded
through the main street by a number of men. I have an idea that they were all
naked. I asked someone who was passing who and what they were " A group of
men have been up-river and attacked an Indian tribe.. They killed most of the
men and captured all the youngsters. They are going to be sold." He
continued "The average price, boy or girl is S/.60.00 But if the men can
get them over to Lima , there people will pay S/.500.00"
were the agents for Faucett airline. That same afternoon we receiced advice from
the Captain of the Port that no child under the age of 18 was allowed to travel
by 'plane unless accompanied by a written permit signed by the Captain of the
Port. 'Just as well as that same afternoon a man entered our office with a request
for a passage for himself and three child passsages.
Assistant Manager I had to tell the man that I waS sorry but unless he produced
written permission from the Captain of the Port, I was unable to let him have
them. I do not remember whether any of the children were bought in Iquitos though
it is quite possible as several families had child servants.
of the Agencies obtained by Massey was Ventura Wines who also sold soft drinks
though these were not very popular. A bottle of their Cola would sell for S/1.50
and when the purchaser returned the bottle he received S/0.50 back. It was very
warm at the airport so Booths brought a large tin container filled with cracked
ice and bottles of Cola. We sold these to those at the airport for S/,2.00 and
the empty bottles had to be placed in a bin but there was no refund of any money!
At the same time, the water supply was shut off! We made a nice profit.
day a young lad approached me at the airport asking that I speak to the Captain
for his permission to go into the cockpit whilst flying over the mountains so
that he could take some pictures. I spoke to the Captain who was adamant that
no passenger could enter the cockpit. I conveyed this to the young lad and thought
no more of it until, on the plane's return to Iquitos two days later, the Captain
took me to one side.
"Remember that lad that wanted to take pictures
from the cockpit? Well, shortly after we left Iquitos, he had the cheek to tap
me on the shoulder and repeat his request. Do you know what I did? I opened the
little door to the hatch in the nose of the plane where the co-pilot stands when
we land in the river to grab the mooring rope and told him he could go there and
obtain magnificent pictures of the mountains. I shut the door and locked it. Then
I took the plane up to 20,000 feet and he froze! When we arrived in Lima they
had to take him out by crane. I guess that is the last time he will want to take
pictures of mountains."
another occasion, some time after the Catalina plane had left for Lima, we received
urgent messages enquiring the whereabouts of the plane. We had no idea. It later
turned out that the plane had landed at Pucallpa. The Captain told the passengers
that he was going fishing and to return to the airport next day. Next\day he sent
word that as he had caught nothing, he was going to try again and to return the
following day! Because it was so difficult to find pilots capable of flying these
Catalina flying boats over the mountains, the Captain got off with a simple warning.
professional driving licence
supplied us with a lorry to transport freight and a Ford Station Wagon to take
the Authorities and ourselves to and from the airport. We only had one driver
so I decided to obtain my driving licence. Then I could pick up the Authorities
and take them to the airport thus leaving the driver to handle the lorry. I still
had my English driving licence of 1938 which I presented to the Authorities but
they told me that as I would be
carrying passengers, I had to have a professional licence. Accordingly, one afternoon
I picked up the Driving Inspector and drove to the airport. He made me drive along
the runway and reverse which I did without too much trouble. Then he said he wanted
to test me on the mechanics of the motor. I opened the bonnet . He pointed to
a certain part and wanted me to say what it was and did. I had no idea so I told
him that I knew the word in English but that my Spanish was not good enough to
say what it was in that language. He said "Carburador?" "Aha! Yes
that's it", I replied. Then he pointed to something else. Again I said that
I only knew the part in English. He said the word in Spanish which didn't mean
anything to me but I still said "Oh Yes that's it" He must have felt
this was getting nowhere so he told me to drive him back to the Police Station.
Twenty minutes later I was given a lovely blue and silver Professional Driving
Licence. Years later, this licence enabled me to obtain an ordinary driving licence
when I came to live in Lima without having to undergo any driving test!
were also Agents for Panamerican, Braniff, Panair do Brasil and Transportes Militares.
The last named line ran sea-planes to several towns in the interior of Peru. I
recall one occasion when the plane made several unsuccessful attempts to take
off, Then the plane taxied to the landing stage, a member of the crew threw several
suitcases on shore, then the pilot made another attempt which was successful.
It was several weeks before the owner of the suitcases returned to Iquitos to
reclaim them. Faucett soon handed back to the American Air Force the Catalina
planes replacing them with DC3s
after the handing over of the airport, my three months came up and I prepared
to return to Brazil when suddenly word came from Para that I was to remain and
Parsons would go to Para. Massey had brought back with him from Lima, Agencies
for Venturo Wines, Fenix Insurance and some small ones which I cannot remember.
Having put the Accounts in order, it was now left to me to handle almost all the
work of despatching planes, looking after the Ganso Azul business and the despatch
of tugs and lighters to Pará. I saw that it would be too much so I requested
that young Sidney Reade be allowed to come and help me. He was young and a bit
wild but I had confidence in him and knew that he would be a good right- hand
man for me. Accordingly, he arrived and the two of us made a good team. Aside
from work, Sidney liked to drink on his own and would go to the Restaurant at
the corner of the Plaza de Armas and sit at a table drinking. All went well until
one day he got the idea of having a cocktail made from all the bottles on the
shelf. Unfortunately one of the bottles contained Flit [Ed: insecticide]
to kill the flies!
death threat and some ants
was a bit of a lad with the girls. One day he made love to the girl friend of
General Morla. A few days later, we had a visit from an army sergeant to say that
the next time Sidney even spoke to the General's girl friend, he would be shot!
day after a heavy rain storm, I noticed some little boys picking things up from
the road and popping them into tin cans. I was intrigued. "What are you doing?"
I asked them. "We are picking up some ants." "And what are you
going to do with them". :We are going to sell them in the market." "
What for?" "Because people here love to eat them roasted." I promptly
bought a tin full. Back at the Chalet I gave them to the cook who said she would
roast them for me. When they were ready she told me to pick each ant up by the
wings, dip them in salt and eat them. They were quite large ants about a centimetre
in length. She said I would find them delicious. She was quite right!
Saturday and Sunday afternoons, a popular pastime was to ride round and round
the town inside the buses which each had a small band of musicians playing popular
music as loud as they could.
my first Carnaval in Iquitos, I was invited by the head of the Navy to attend
a luncheon party aboard the navel vessel Amazonas. A large table on deck
was filled with sandwiches and sweets. Jugs of fruit juices and Pisco [a Peruvian
alcohol] were served. There was a small group of ladies in their very best chatting
by the side of the table and drinking fruit juice. Suddenly one of the ladies
turned to speak to another lady and her elbow knocked the arm of another lady
causing her glass of juice to spill over her dress. Without a moment's hesitation,
the lady grabbed a jug of juice from the table. Pulling the front of the other's
dress, she poured the whole jug full down the front. Then battle commenced. Drinks
were hurled in people's faces, over their coats or dresses. Cakes were squashed
in people's faces. Then the sailors opened the valves and squirted water from
the fire hoses over everyone. The event was declared a fantastic success!
day we received advice from Head Office that some influential persons from Standard
Oil of New Jersey were coming to Iquitos to find and appoint an Agent. We were
recommended to do everything possible to obtain the Agency. Two officials together
with their wives arrived. Massey had a long talk with the two men, later taking
them round the town and to the Oil Tanks in Punchana. Meanwhile I was detailed
to show the two wives the main street with the stores and the main square. Massey
invited them all to dinner at the Chalet. He was determined to put on a good show
and he, Sidney and myself dressed in our clean white suits with black bow tie.
After drinks, we sat down to dinner. First course was turtle soup which they seemed
to like. Then in came the maid Exilda bearing a large dish covered with a silver
dish cover. Massey stood up carving knife in one hand, a carving fork in the other.
As Exilda whipped off the cover, Massey asked one of the ladies "Do you prefer
an arm, leg or breast?" There was a sudden silence, then both ladies followed
by the husbands stood up. Apologizing that they were all on a diet and saying
goodbye they left. On the dish was a roasted monkey, a delicacy in Iquitos, lying
on it s back with its two arms crossed over its breast. Just like a little roasted
baby! Strangely, Massey did not seem to understand why they had left. Needless
to say Booths did not get the Agency.
was quite a large Chinese Colony, mostly from Shanghai, who possessed British
passports and were duly registered at the Consulate.
One of these by name of
Jose K Wong had a small shop above which he lived with his Peruvian wife. Most
Sunday afternoons there was a dance at the local club to which, in spite of the
terrible heat, I used to go. One day Wong asked me if I would mind dancing with
his wife as he did not dance. Naturally I obliged and she turned out to be a lovely
dancer. I danced with her on several occasions. One day she confided to me that
she was Wong s 20th wife. I asked her about the other wives. " Oh they are
all in Shanghai and he considers me to be his first and best wife"
colourful character was Victor Israel from Tangiers who was also the Chinese Consul.
Victor owned a large building on the Malecon overlooking the river. On the first
floor was the so-called luxurious Hotel Palace whilst on the ground floor was
Victor's general store. One day Victor's partner caught Victor's son stealing
some watches from the counter. He immediately complained to Victor who asked his
son why he was taking the watches and what he was doing with them. The son replied
that he was selling them on the street. "For how much?" Victor wanted
to know. When the son told him that he was selling them for S/20.oo each, Victor
replied "Son. Go and take some more. I sell them in my store for S/ 15.00.
We will split the difference."
another occasion, the head of the Dutch Oil Co, El Oriente, came to the Consulate
to complain that the water had been cut off at the Hotel and guests were only
allowed one bucket of river water. We immediately demanded an explanation from
Victor Israel who told us that he had received an urgent request from Sr Chenivesse,
owner of a large saw mill, for a powerful pump. He explained that the last one
had been sold some months previously. Chenivesse implored him to find one urgently
as he had a large consignment to fulfil. Victor then remembered that he had a
similar pump used by the Hotel. "I sold him the pump as he offered me three
times what a new pump costs. I could not resist!"
extraordinary character was an American lay preacher called Pent. He ran a small
brick factory and at the same time he would evangelise the people of Iquitos,
One day he invited me to attend one of his church services held in a partly built
church. After the sermon, he sent round the collecting bag. When it came back,
he counted out the money. Then he announced that he was very disappointed with
the result which was composed mostly of small value coins, and that at this rate
the church would never be built. He said that he was going to send round the bag
once more and this time only paper notes, preferably of high denominations, would
be accepted. The money he raised he used to buy the bricks from his own factory!
were two markets in town. One was in a purpose built construction with a metal
roof where fruit, vegetables, fish and meat was sold. The other was an open air
market in the Belem district consisting of numbers of stalls. I enjoyed wandering
around these seeing all the peculiar items being sold such as Monkey Meat, Turtle
and pieces of Palm tree known as Chonta. The heart of the palm was pulled into
thin strips and eaten raw. It was also very nice as a souffle. There were also
bottles of coloured liquids, some herbal and some alcoholic, as well as many handmade
items. There was also Paiche, a delicious very large river fish. At the Chalet
we ate Paiche at least three times a week. There was of course plenty oi pork
but after seeing them wallowing in the sewers and ditches, I lost my desire to
eat pork. The chickens were plentiful but as they seemed to spend most of their
time leaping into the air to catch midges, their legs became very stringy.
district of Belem was the poor part of town and many of the houses were of wood
built either overhanging the river bank or floating. These floating houses consisted
of a wooden platform built on logs with three walls of cloth and open in front.
All the children from a very early age could swim which was just as well.
arrived the time of my leave. As it was still difficult to get to England, the
firm recommended that we spend our leave in South America. As I had a full three
months, I decided to travel around South America. A CPV vessel, the Ucayali, was
leaving Iquitos for Belem do Para so I reserved my passage as soon as possible
as she only had one cabin, a four berth one. As I was friendly with the local
Agent, I arranged with him that no other passenger could use the cabin unless
I agreed. About a week before sailing date, a Peruvian lad whom I knew, asked
if he could share the cabin with me. Naturally I agreed adding that we would not
allow the other two berths to be used by anyone else.
I received a visit from a messenger from the Captain of the Port who, after paying
his respects, said that a Naval Officer and his wife would be travelling to Callao
and would I kindly give up my cabin to them. I told the messenger to tell the
Captain of the Port that I had reserved the cabin as soon as the ship arrived
at Iquitos and that I had no intention of giving it up. Three days later I received
another visit this time from the Air Force. This time it was an Air Force Officer
travelling with his pregnant wife. Again I said No. On the day of sailing, after
saying all my good-byes, I went aboard and placed my luggage in the cabin and
went up on deck. There was some other luggage in the cabin . A man approached
me and after a few pleasantries, told me that his daughter had just got married
and was travelling to Callao with her husband on their honeymoon. I immediately
stopped him saying "You want me to give up my cabin so your daughter and
" He cut me short. "Oh no. Of course I do not
want you to give up your cabin but you will understand that being just married,
the happy couple would like a little time to be alone. Perhaps you could arrange
for them to have say a couple of hours alone in the cabin." I thought this
over. It seemed reasonable so I replied "Well dinner is at 6 pm so how about
if they use the cabin from 7 pm till 9 pm? But after 9 pm I will probably wish
to go to bed" "Excellent", he replied "I will tell them accordingly.
Thank you so much." And so we travelled to Belem, my friend and I sleeping
in the bunks by the port hole and the bridal couple having the bunks opposite.
My friend and I got up first in the morning leaving the couple to get dressed
afterwards. It all worked out very well and we became very good friends of the
my leave during which I travelled all round South America, I returned by one of
Faucetts' DC4s. The Captain was called Reeves and an Australian like Biggs I believe.
He invited me into the cockpit. The sky was a bright blue. Then straight ahead
was a large white billowy cloud. Reeves told me that normally he would fly either
round it, above or below it. " However, the passengers have just been served
coffee so this time I am going to fly straight into it. You are going to roar
with laughter", he said. The plane suddenly dropped towards the earth, There
were screams from the passengers. Their coffee had spilt all over them. Some had
coffee streaming down their faces!