Waking at five in the morning with the hope that we might find a truck for Tarapoto wasn't easy, but things start happening early in Peru. We loaded up our mototaxi and headed towards the highway and a woman Zaya had met the night before. The woman in turn had contacted a friend that might be able to help. We were settling down to our tasty breakfasts of chicken, rice, plantains, and avocado when a huge 60' white Freightliner pulled. This was our ride. 100 soles to Tarapoto, up front. Seemed about the same as gas money and we'd have a shot at making up some time. The deal was made and along with six other guys we manhandled the mototaxi, luggage and all, into the back end of the truck.
Climbing into the cab we were introduced to Leonardo (Di Caprio) Cesár and Cyrano. Any initial trepidation I had vanished as we moved out. We made the milk run into Tarapoto, via Neuve Caramarca, Rioja, Moyobamba and Morales. A longer stop in Moyobamba had Leo and me mooching around the market while Zaya slept in the cab. A friend of Leo's invited he and Cesár to lunch at home and they pulled me along. Homemade caldo de gallini, chicken broth with leg of chicken, rice and potato. "Picante?", Cesár asked me. "Si, sure.", I replied. He turned around to a bush just behind him and picked off a couple of small ajis, or chilis. As I often do in unfamiliar situations, I waited to see what Cesar would do with the tiny pepper. He carefully cut it in half and then mashed one of the pieces into his soup with his spoon. Following on, I did just as he did and it was plenty spicy enough.
Just as we were finishing our meal Leo got a phone call and made it clear that we had to leave, pronto. Dashing back to the truck depot, it turned out Zaya had woken up and wandered off with her camera. She went exploring all the way to the top of the apartment building next to where the truck was parked. The roof, like so many things in Peru, was only partially finished and she stepped through a skylight and fell about eight feet onto a large bin, smashing a window and scraping her butt along the way. She was very lucky that she wasn't more seriously injured. The landlord demanded 500 soles for the window, but Leo intervened and quickly took Zaya off to find replacement glass at cost - about 200 soles. He then dragged her to the police station for a tetanus injection. What a guy!
Once we arrived in Tarapoto we settled on the Hotel Mirador recommended by the Lonely Planet. We were glad we did. Breakfast in the morning was on the upper verandah and afforded us a spectacular view of the mountains that circle over the city and across the wide valley. 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 were very welcome. But we needed to catch up, we were two days behind and still had 2,000 kilometers to go. We needed to go to Plan B.