Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lamas, not llamas

With the decision to head back to Lima on the truck we were preparing for an early start on Sunday, when late on Saturday it turned out our departure was delayed until Monday morning. Suddenly we were on a vacation! The day’s delay would still give us enough time, in theory, to reach the finish line by Saturday and that meant a full, free day in Tarapoto.

Climbing the stairs to the terrace for breakfast, we were presented with a spectacular view of the mountains circling the city. And even though we'd had a big dinner of chorizo and mashed plantain the night before, the eggs and coffee in the bright sun and cool morning air was very welcome. Joey joined us. Joey is loud and in your face in the way that I presume a good-looking Apache helicopter pilot should be. A peripatetic chiropractor, Joey pitched up in Peru seven years ago, married, impregnated and divorced a Peruvian woman (who now lives in Texas with their daughter and her second husband). Heartbroken, Joey found his way to Tarapoto and temporarily into the arms of a woman that convinced him to stay and start his own clinic in the city. Five years on he flies between Isidro, Tarapoto and another town kind of like the Southwest airlines of chiropractors. He has formed partnerships with local doctors and hospitals and the demand for his services is strong. Yet, because there is no formal licensing, he skates somewhat close to the law.

Towards the end of breakfast Leo’s friend Hilda and her little boy Alonso joined us. Together we went off in full tourist mode to see the local sights. Our first stop on our way up to a waterfall came a little sooner than we expected. mototaxis weren’t allowed up to the falls. Cars and motorcycles were okay, but like the Plaza des Armes in town mototaxis were banned. Neither smile, nor moue got us past the strapping, good-looking and uniformed policewoman. Thus spurned, Zaya and I swapped places and she took the controls and steered us back towards town. For the first time in a week she, by her own admission, really seemed to know what she was doing. Shifting gears in anticipation of the traffic, being in the right lane when needed, and most of all enjoying herself.

Zaya, it must be said, is one of life’s enthusiasts. Heading out of Tarapoto on the other side of town towards the quaint village of Lamas, she spontaneously pulled over for a cool, cocoanut refresher. Watching the vendor slice the tops off the cocoanuts with a full sized machete was mesmerizing and we kept our distance. Lamas is found at the top of a long hill about 40 kilometers from Tarapoto. Near the heart of the old town sits a brand new castle, garish as only faux Tudor can be. Entry was five soles each and we climbed to the very top where we contentedly looked out over the valley and an ancient barrio directly below us. On our way back towards Tarapoto we paused at a resort club for lunch and a swim. Eventually, we dropped Hilda and Alfonso back with Hilda’s dad in time for his birthday celebration. In all it was a quiet and rewarding day of touristica. 

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