The Natives Are Restless
Trip Start Nov 10, 2007
134Trip End Nov 15, 2009
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Where I stayed
Another factor in deciding to stay in Tarapoto is that I lost my ATM card! Dang! This could be a problem! I called my bank and I'll have a card pretty soon. Meanwhile I could get cash from a credit card. The only problem is that I don't know my PIN Numbers for those cards because I don't use them for cash. Fortunately, I found a bank where I could get cash without using the PIN. Back in business!
Once I had secured some cash, Ronal & I went to the Cataratas de Ahuashiyaco. We hired a motocarro to take us there and back with an hour at the falls. This a favorite spot for locals to swim in the very cool waters below the falls. It's also a good place to spot the Cock of the Rock - a bird I'd like to see - but we had no luck with that. It was a nice hike to the falls and a refreshing break from the sweltering heat of the city.
The following day I wanted to go to Lamas - a native town. However, the road was closed by striking natives so that was out of the question. Second choice was Laguna Azul. This involved a motocarro ride to a collectivo stop. Collectivos are cars that have regular routes but the schedule is totally dependent on the car filling up. They don't leave with less than 4 passengers. We only had about a 5 minute wait for this one before we were on our way. The lake is about 45 Km from Tarapoto, but since it's mostly dirt road it takes a while to get there. There is also a very cool ferry that crosses the Rio Huallaga - it is powered purely by the current in the river. There is a cable strung across the river that attaches to the ferry. Once pushed off the shore, the current grabs the ferry and the cable keeps it from just drifting downstream.
The car dropped us in Sauce where we walked to a restaurant and drank juice with the owner, Elizabeth, who was a friend of Ronal's. I felt so lucky to be there and experience Peru in a way that I wouldn't on my own. People are always friendly and kind, but with Ronal I was able to get a more intimate glimpse because he knows these people. Elizabeth called a friend who took us around the lake in his boat. The scenery was stunning and it was a beautiful day. We stopped at a spot where a couple lives and they welcomed us to their very simple home and offered us masato de yucca which we drank from a gourd. I can't say it was delicious and I was nervous about the water it was made from...but I couldn't refuse and didn't notice any repercussions later. Whew!
We got back to town at about 5 pm and headed straight for the collectivos which only leave until 6. Unfortunately, we just missed one that was full so we had to wait. After half an hour there still were no others wanting to go...what now?
Spend the night? Okay, except we didn't have enough money with us to pay for a hotel and the trip back to Tarapoto. Finally we worked out a deal with a driver and paid extra for him to take just us all the way to my hotel. Alli's well that ends well.
By now I had figured out my money situation and seen everything I wanted to see in Tarapoto so I wanted to move on. However, the strike was still going on and roads were still closed. Tourists were being told the only way to leave town was by plane. I didn't want to do that for two reasons: no planes fly to where I wanted to go and I wanted to see the scenery along the way. Ronal wasn't scheduled to be in Cajamarca until the end of the month but he was also concerned about the strike and being able to leave later so we decided to go together.
The following morning we went to where the road was closed at the bridge leaving the city. We asked around about the situation and learned that they were letting people walk across the bridge at noon and that there were collectivos to take us to Moyobamba on the other side. From that city we would be able to get a bus for the trip to Chachapoyas. We were also told that there was a meeting be ween representatives of the government and the native tribes scheduled for 11 am. If there were an agreement at that time everything would be fine. Nice positive thinking but both of us felt that an agreement was unlikely and that things would escalate without an agreement. Time to get out of Dodge.
I returned to the hotel to check out and Ronal went home to pack and say goodbye to his mom. We headed out from my hotel at about 9:30 in a motocarro to the bridge. However, this driver knew a way around the blockade and took us a spot where we could cross the river on foot. We lucked out when we got there however, because there was a farmer with a tractor and cart just getting ready to cross and agreed to take us for a sol (25 cents). Perfect! The motocarro crossed the river behind us - the water reached above the floorboards but he made it! From there we continued on for a couple of miles until we got to a roundabout on the main highway where there was another blockade. We said goodbye to our intrepid driver and walked to the other side of the roundabout where a collectivo took us to the next blockade about 10 miles down the road. We got there at 10:45 and were told we could walk across at noon. Unlike the other blockades that involved walks of 50 meters or so, this one was about 5 km. The day was already scorching hot and we searched for a bit of shade where we could wait. At about 11:40 we walked to the barricade to be first in line to cross and by noon we were hiking on the asphalt. Talk about sweating! There was a line of trucks parked o the side of the road - they'd been there for days already awaiting an end to the strike. One thing is for sure: this simple peaceful protest by natives is wreaking havoc with business and commerce.
We reached the other side of the blockade and were met by spear wielding natives saying that we couldn't cross! Oh no! Not after all that walking! One man ahead of us gently asked if we could please pass as we were instructed at the other end that this would be allowed and, fortunately, we were able to pass and found a collectivo going to Moyabamba where we would catch a bus to Pedro Ruiz. I was looking forward to being on a bus without interruptions but it was not to be.
Arriving at the bus station we were approached by the usual touts asking where we were going...Pedro Ruiz. Yes, yes, this bus leaves at 4, 20 soles. I hesitated because it was a funky bus and I wanted a more luxurious ride. Good thing. We went to another bus company and were told that there were no buses going because there was another blockade further west. This is what I mean about not knowing who to trust. The first guy was happy to sell us a ticket for a bus that probably wouldn't make our destination. What now? We were told we could take a collectivo to another town where we would change to another collectivo which would drop us at the blockade and we could, once again, walk across and catch another collectivo...are you keeping count? Decision time. We could stay in Moyabamba and maybe get a bus tomorrow...maybe. But it was only 2 o'clock so we decided to move on. So, two collectivos later we were at the blockade and these natives were even fiercer looking the rest: clad in fur around their heads to appear like wild animals, spears, war paint...wow! I'm sorry I don't have any pictures to share but it just felt a bit tense and I didn't want to draw any attention to us. As it was, I was the only gringo along the entire way so obviously stood out. I was glad I was with Ronal because the whole thing would've been incredibly intimidating on my own. At this blockade we also saw the bus that left at 4- unable to pass the blockade. Good thing we didn't take it a pay a bunch of money for nothing.
We found another collectivo which took us to Pedro Ruiz where we arrived at about 7 p.m. We were still 2 hours from our destination, Chachapoyas, but we decided to rest after the long and somewhat arduous day. We inquired about road conditions from here out and were assured there were no further blockades. As I'm writing this, the strike is increasing in severity and we've heard that you can no longer walk across the blockades so I'm glad we left when we did.