Day 1: SOUTHEAST ASIA IN PERÚ
Our flight from Lima to Tarapoto was supposed to be at 8:20pm. After sitting in the Lima International Airport for nearly five hours, we got a bit twitchy and anxious when we didn’t learn which gate we were supposed to wait in until about 7:50pm. It was only at that time did we realize that the flight would probably be delayed.
And pretty much as we had feared, we didn’t board the plane until about 8:45pm and the flight didn’t leave the airport until around 9pm. The flight to Tarapoto was supposed to be 65 minutes, and we pretty much landed shortly after 10pm.
Since dinner was supposed to be included as part of our tour, I wasn’t sure how this was going to happen. We knew Tarapoto was on the doorstep of the Amazon Rainforest so we assumed that everything would be closed by now.
As I waited to collect both of our checked luggages, Julie was looking for our name placards. Things had gone smooth when we got to Lima and then Cusco. However, we worried that things out here would be more ad hoc as they see far fewer tourists.
However, she didn’t find our placards, but she did see some guy representing Río Shilcayo Hotel, which was where were going to stay this night. Unfortunately, our names weren’t on his placard. Julie talked to the guy to explain our situation. When I collected our luggage, we ended up following the Río Shilcayo guy towards his car.
That was when some other Peruvian guy came up to us and asked if we were “Xieu.” With a little bit of relief, it seemed we were now with our tour guide for this part of the trip.
We ended up going into another mini-van while our guide José went in a different car. But before leaving the airport, José warned us that the road to the waterfall near town (called Ahuashiyacu) was closed, and asked if we were ok visiting the indigenous town in Lamas. Not expecting this setback, we looked in our Lonely Planet guide for alternative waterfalls (i.e. Tununtunumba), but they ended up being too far away. Disappointed after settling on the Lamas decision, we followed each other to the Río Shilcayo Hotel.
Julie and I were surprised at how big the town of Tarapoto was. However, unlike the cities and towns we had been used to seeing, this place had more of a southeast Asian feel to it.
After all, it was still warm and humid (by now it was almost 10:30pm) and there were hordes of these motorized scooters pulling rickshaws, which we were told were called “motorcars.” It seemed hard to believe as we both expected some word in spanish, but eventually the words “motocars” or “mototaxis” settled into acceptance. The jungle vegetation and the beat up buildings (further reinforcing our 3rd world observations) also seemed like a scene out of Vietnam or Thailand or some other part of rural southeast Asia.
After roughly 15 minutes of weaving through the narrow streets and hectic jostling for space and advancement with the motocars and other larger vehicles, we finally reached the fairly upscale (compared to the rest of the buildings in town) hotel.
José discussed with us that he’ll let us put our stuff back in our hotel room before taking us out to dinner. I guess the food wouldn’t be at the hotel as we had expected. Plus, I guess we wouldn’t be dealing with vouchers for this part of the trip.
Like I had suspected, pretty ad hoc.
Anyhow, it was after 11pm and both José and the driver Asunción (or Asho for short) took us to downtown Tarapoto. There at the main square in town, we ate at some local dive called Dona Zully’s. Asho stayed in the car. It was a bit strange getting stares from local patrons as I guess tourists don’t seem to come here often.
That was where we got to know José better (who was also fighting off a sore throat). We also had ourselves some Tacacho, which was the Peruvian version of jerky, as well as some delicious deer meat. At the end of the rather large meal, the owner of the hotel came out and insisted that we have some local version of their Pisco sour (except it had a different name, which escapes me right now). The golden colored drink went down smooth and actually tasted pretty good.
During this time, we were also introduced to another group of people who were sitting on a different table. One guy was a jolly guy who we actually recognized on the airplane to Tarapoto. José explained to us that he was a comedian personality in Peru.
Then, we were introduced to another well-dressed guy who was actually the owner of the hotel we were staying in tomorrow (i.e. Puerto Pumas in Pomacochas).
Talk about a small world!
Finally, it was 12:30pm and José paid for the dinner. Asho was waiting outside and took us back to the hotel. That was when José mentioned that we were going to check out and leave for a long day of driving tomorrow morning at 7:30am.