The Plane from Iquitos [1959-Part One]

Iquitos & the Amazon Part One

It was December 2, l959, I was sitting on a small prop-plane leaving Iquitos, Peru for a trip down the Amazon toward the opening, the mouth of the mighty Amazon,--to Manaus. As we flew low one could see the waters of the Amazon, the city always impressed me, but more from this birds-eye view, you could see the mighty river in its squid like form, with all it tentacles [contributories: waters linking to the river]. It would get smaller, and then wider as you flew along it's stretched out body, it was four miles wide at one point, and that was nothing compared to other spots of the Amazon? In the jungle area, it was a sea of green, nothing but towering green. It was said it could produce as much water flow as the any seven other largest rivers in the world. It was they said the longest river in the world, seemingly always debating it with the length of Nile. There were eight passengers to include me, the pilot and co-pilot, making us ten in all.

I liked Iquitos, especially the Iron House, the very one made by none other then Mr. Eiffel, the one who made the tower in Paris. I had eaten for the first time Pirana Roia, it was delicious, except for the many bones, and the fish wasn't all the big once you cut the head off, although the teeth looked like a baby sharks, dead and unpleasing. I had caught a few fishing, it there was a secret to that. I used a stick for a fishing rod, and tied a string on it with a semi-big hook, and put a big piece of meat on it. Then when the fish took hold of it, the Pirana that is, he doesn't chew it, or even bit into it like other fish, he rips it outward, and so at first touch, the fisher man has to yank it upward to hook the fish right under his upper teeth. He had a big low jaw, but a small upper portion to his head so if you do not do this he will not be hooked. Actually you may hook his upper teeth for they extend out as does the lower one.

As we continued to fly down the river about 125-miles we started to go inland form the river, t he view was tremendous, the height of the trees. With my binoculars I could see what the co-pilot called the big lazy bird up in the trees; we were less then 100-feet over the top of the trees, and some of the monkeys. Then all of a sudden I heard a shot, it hit the wing, and then another. The co-pilot, Henry, looked out my window didn't see anything unusual, then Captain Derry, came in,

"We've been hit by something, we're loosing fuel, not sure exactly where we can land but I'll see," then he went back to his cock-pit. All eight of us now were looking out the window. There was Mary and John, from Hong Kong, both spoke good English, and then there was Lora from someplace in Florida, she was an accountant on a single trip, leaving her boyfriend and women friend who both did not want to come on the trip for personal reasons, thus, she said if they didn't want to come it shouldn't stop her from doing what she wanted, and it didn't. There was the man from Budapest of all places a professor of some kind, I just called him Professor, he also was alone. Then there was the three women from some place in the South West, they were on a world tour of sorts, and had left Barrow, Alaska. Martha, the elder of the three elder women was most chatty, and talked about her walking 500-feet out onto the ice, and standing on a frozen wave. She was courageous for sure. I never did get the other two women's names.

And now the plane started to lower itself, I seen an opening, several huts, one big one was below us. The pilot circled the area. In the center was room like a ball park, or simply a wife open space, he was going to try and land it there. It wasn't all that big, but big enough.

Twenty Minutes Later

The Village

Somehow we hand landed, but the front end of the plane went head first into one of the several huts, one wheel broke off and now way would we be able to use this as a runway to escape, if we could. We were all shook up a bit, but no one was hurt.

As we all stepped out of the plane, it looked like a village, yet no one seemed to be around. As we all started going our own ways kind of walking in shock, we found ourselves in two groups of five, and the Captain's group were headed toward the big wooden hut of sorts, to see if he could talk to any of the tribes people. I was walking with the other five to the smaller huts. As we went from one hut to the next, it seemed there might have been several families to a hut, I noticed sleeping rugs, made out of sticks on the floor. Then on tables I noticed cameras of all kinds, watches, rings, jewelry.

Then being more curious I made my way with the following five, the tree woman from Barrow, and the Professor. The others were with the Captain and co-pilot; --we went into three more huts, they all had these little treasures of sorts, cameras, rings and watches, etc. It was as if they were prizes, or for that matter, trophies of sorts.

Then I got thinking we needed to catch up with the Captain, so I directed the people with me to the big hutch. There was a basement section to the hutch, and I noticed the others were down in it. It was much cooler in the lower section, and the square feet to the upper was the same as to the lower section, quite big I thought, compared to the other huts, maybe 1600-square feet.

"Troy," said the Captain to me, "It looks like these inhabitants are not friendly creatures." Three hours hand gone by for him to have figured that out I thought.

He added, "Let's take our jewelry off and leave it down here so when they come they will realize we are friendly." Everyone looked at him, and then started taking it off but me.

"Troy," the Captain said, "You going along with this or what?"

"No, sorry Captain, but you're not the Captain any more, only while I'm on that flying ship or yours." I was an old soldier, and I didn't stay alive by giving up. I was 39-years old, the Korean War; this was not the way things were done.

"Listen," I said, I am not going to leave them anything for a trophy, and I do not see any live people looking like me walking around. Matter of fact, I see a hole in the wing by a gun, and it is most likely theirs. Second, they are most likely looking or us, and went farther East thinking that is where the plane went down, because that is the direction you went in to circle around. Third I suggest we go west 150-miles back to Iquitos. It should take 15-days, at 10-miles per day in the jungle. We should also burn this village so to let them know we are not going to be easy pickings, plus they will need to re-supply, and this will damage some of that. And we may need our jewelry to keep us alive, if we find some nice natives in this beastly jungle.

Said the Captain,

"It sounds better than my plan I have to admit, and so, where do we go from here?"

Having said that, we put torches to the rest of the village, grabbed some meat that was hanging in one of the huts, I grabbed a gun from the plane, the Captain said he never shot one. It had six bullets in its revolving chambers; it was worth its weight to carry it. Then with some skins tied to our backs, we found in the big hutch, to use for sleeping, and some skins filled with water, we headed west.

The New Journey-the Amazon

The five that were with me seemed to want to say with me, and so we both already hand our teams figured out. And so into the wild we went the deep rooted jungle. If anything we got sore feet the first six hours of walking through the jungle, trying to get to the Amazon which would be easier to follow, and we could find a boat somehow, and possible someone to help us on our trip back to Iquitos. I hand already broke a toe-nail to my big toe as I had fallen a few times, water getting into my shoes. I had taken them off for awhile, and waked bare food over the mucky slimy patches of and pools of water as we hiked through the jungle. To roots pulled my toe nail out more, and it was bleeding. The Professor fell and broke his nose trying to climb an embankment, over roots, roots and more roots. The three older women were quite tired, and so we stopped to make camp, and I tried to make a fire but everything seemed damp. After an hour I did succeed.

Then about 10:00 PM, a native came walking into our camp, I pulled my revolver out,

"No want trouble," said the native, He was almost completely naked. He had explained he had never seen a white person before, but heard of them and that the natives I had burnt their village down were looking for me. That we were brave to that, and he added, they [his band of people] hand thought many times on doing just such a thing, when they were gone, but they had no place to go but here, and somehow it would come back to haunt them. And so that evening we were invited to their village as guests, and it couldn't have happen at a better time.

When we got situated at the village he gave me save for my toe, and reset the Professors nose some how. The women were given hammocks to rest. And as I looked about the five huts, I noticed on top of a tree there was a man looking about, as if in a canopy that circled his village for any trouble.

"My name Mana," he explained.

The Tarantula Hunt

Mana was very kind; we expected to stay there two day, so he would not get in trouble with the other tribe. The only problem was his tribe took a profound interest in us, and at time allowed the guards, or the one guard to get involved with the celebration, and festivities. Matter of fact, Mana, and one of main guards, Kim, or so it sounded like Kim, took me Tarantula Hunting. Well, we didn't kill any, just went into the depths of the jungle and he took [Kim] a long stick, and found holes by some big trees and poked it down into them, waking up the tarantula's. He did this several times, most were larger then my hand. I stepped back a bit, but not too far from Kim, and minimized his character. They, if anything seem to be a little sleepy. Yet, as we'd walk away, they'd stare and watch us, not go back into their hole until all was safe. Interesting how we all protect our property.

The Attack and the Painted Man

It was morning on the third day, we had outstayed our privilege, yet it seemed Mana didn't want to let us go. The three older women got along well with helping the youth of the camp, and the Professor was as happy as a baby duck just walking around trying to learn their language and customs. I was more into the adventure part, and took a few walks with Mana, and a night hunt on one of the tributaries from the Amazon, looking or antecedes in a dug out boat. Man was going to point the way for us this morning. Actually he drew a map last night, and we expected to be on our way soon. As we all gathered into the center of the camp, Mana looked up in the tree at the spot Kim was suppose to be guarding, and he wasn't there. He then looked at me, he looked a little ill, then looked about, into other areas of the high trees, some reaching over 115-feet high, but Kim was no where to be found.

It seemed out of nowhere all the birds in the trees left, Mana and I looked into each others eyes, it was as if death hit both of us at once, and at that moment, a spear went through his back, piercing his heart, and right on through him coming out and almost hitting my waist. He dropped to his knees, then several spears more came, all hitting the men first, then the women and kids. I shot three of them in the trees, but it seemed no one else hand a chance to get to a weapon, and no one else could see where the enemy was. I simply sprayed the area with bullets that the spears were coming out of. Out of six shots, I got three of the enemy. And I stood there, just stood there with bodies all around. I saw from a distance a tall, very tall lean man, with a painted face. He didn't come close to me, he kept his distance, possible for two reasons I thought, one I hand the gun, and he didn't know how many bullets it hand, and two, he wanted to show me what my presence created. The professor and the three women were dead, Mana, Kim, wherever he may be, and the twenty or so tribe's people. It was a hell of a day.

The painted man, walked away, as did every one else. And then I seen a spear coming towards me, I knew I was dead [I wanted him to turn around but he didn't]??????????????.dead.

Dennis' first story [part one] of the now, ongoing drama of "The Plane from Iquitos," was origianlly done in 2003, and published in the book, "Draculas's Ghost," and then part two was done in 2004, and now part three. The forth part is in draft from, and part one has not yet made it to the Spanish side of town, but I am hoping it will soon; although part two and three have. Dennis lives in Lima, Peru, and has been in Iquitos, and down the Amazon, so it is a little like his backyard. Rosa Penaloza

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