Thursday, 12 February 2009

Around Tarapoto

The weather has been somewhat changeable and we have had rain on and off the last few days. I have been ticking off my list of places to see around Tarapoto and the day before yesterday Marcelino took me to Lamas. He is 70 but quite fit and a real character, engaging in conversations with everyone and commenting on everything.
We hopped a motor taxi to the place from where cars leave for the town of Lamas 14 miles northwest of Tarapoto. This visit was a little disappointing as it is advertised as founded in 1656 and one of the oldest towns in the Peruvian jungle. It is about 1000 metres high so somewhat fresher in climate and there are some good views from the top of the hill. There are 2 museums and the more modern one is quite interesting although don't expect the guides to speak any English. The new museum is well presented with quite a few artifacts connected to local customs and nature. Please don't go to the second, older museum. The guide smelt of alcohol, stumbled through a presentation. Most of the rooms comprised models of local people/life which were disintegrating with age and lack of care.

Walking around, and from observation, it wasn't totally clear how the town differed from others and, although the square had some models of people in local costume I only saw one old lady wearing anything like it. There were a couple of shops selling locally made jewelery and cotton goods and I bought a couple of items which were reasonably priced. Further into town we saw a castle being constructed, maybe as a hotel or house. It looked out of character with the rest of the town and nobody seemed to know why was being built; it seemingly belonged to an American.

The next morning it was raining again and I chatted with Sergi and Daniel who work for an NGO connected to the hotel. It is dedicated to Re-forestation projects and has funding from the Balearic Islands in Spain. Sergi is from Barcelona and is working on a marketing strategy whilst Daniel is on a University placement and knows about forests and trees. They invited me to visit a remote community with whom they are contracting services to plant 30 acres of new trees. The path which is a 2,400 feet climb to and altitude of almost 3,000 feet begins a Pumarinri, which is a of lodge owned by the hotel where I am staying. It is set in a stunning location by Rio Huallga.

We traveled the 30 or so Km in a van and the journey was difficult owing to the recent rain. I thought that a 4 wheel drive would be more suitable as we got stuck and had to push the van to get back onto a more even and less muddy surface. On arrival at the Lodge we were greeted by others and provided with a meal. I have decided to stay at the lodge for a couple of days so will write about it further in due course.

After lunch were Joined by Miguel a technical assistant and began our climb. It was steep and muddy and thus quite arduous, but the effort was well worth it owing to the excellent views of the river and mountains and the enjoyment of passing through the forest. In places one could see tracts of hillside where, after deforestation the quality of the soil had been exhausted by 2 seasons of crop growth and then left infertile. It was in places like this that the reforestation is planned.

On reaching the community we were warmly greeted by the villagers. It is a community of about 80 people called Nueva Lamas and their thatched dwellings were dispersed around the hillside. Unexpectedly they had arranged a meeting for our arrival and we gathered in a wooden hut where the the locals asked questions to satisfy themselves about the viability of the project and its benefits. It was quite a complicated discussion and we were offered chincha locally produced from maize with one bowl and a plastic bucket for all to share. The meeting was made more interesting by the occasional entry of tiny chicks, the pigs grunting outside and children playing; but by the conclusion all was well and Sergi and myself descended the mountain leaving the other 2 to progress the planting of seeds.

After showering we returned to the hotel in the dark – this was a brilliant and informative experience and although I ached a bit the following day a really memorable trip.


Anonymous said...

Enjoy the jungle trip and do not misss to eat anitcuchos at Barranco

eleena said...

You are truly traveling the way a lot of people imagine traveling should be...meeting fascinating people, getting way off the beaten path. Just one question...are you using your Spanish the majority of the time or do your new acquaintances like Sergi and Daniel pull you into using English? Yield not to temptation! :)

malarkey said...

I am in Spanish mode most of the time and sometimes go a few days without the benefit of English. Thanks for your lovely comments.