P1020429View from front door of hostel

Decided to take a short break from the lowland river area.

There is a combi/van service that serves the travelling public from Yurimaguas  inbound on terra firma. I hopped aboard one that was enroute to Tarapoto.

I skipped making a blog entry devoted to Tarapoto because I found the place to be somehow much less interesting to me. Tarapoto is two hours by van from Yurimaguas.  I found a small hostel about eight blocks from the city center for my night’s stay.  Visited the center and went to the bus station.

What I learned was that the bus service is only very slightly less than the combi (15 passenger van) service to anywhere from Tarapoto.  Prices of everything are higher in Tarapoto than Yurimaguas. Probably because the increased population… more soles (Peruvian currency) changing hands.  The people are friendly, but seem to be more interested in commercial things than in the Natural settings that surround them.

Interesting phenomenon isn’t it?  How people who live in ‘the country’ come to want to leave it for the ‘excitement’ and for improved economic ‘opportunity’.  Probably true everywhere in the world.  Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ song comes to mind:  ‘…they pave paradise to put up a parking lot…’

So, after spending only one night there, I departed Tarapoto and got another combi ride to Moyobamba.

Moyobamba calls itself the ‘city of orchids’. There is an orchid festival once a year, in October.  The ride from Tarapoto to Moyobamba is through some beautiful low mountain scenery.  Always, in these parts, the road runs mostly parallel to a river. No exception here. I was surprised to learn that the Rio Huallaga… the same river that Yurimaguas is on is quite near Moyobamba and runs through these low mountains for quite a long distance. The Huallaga  flows from and though Tingo Maria… many kms and hours to the South and East of Moyobamba, and continues all the way to Yurimaguas on a very meandering course.

Went to the San Mateo Aguas Termales. I love to go to naturally heated (geothermal) hot springs when I find them. This one is a gem. Not loaded with minerals as is the case with many hot springs.


Two of the different Pozos

There are six different ‘pozos’… pools, each one with a different temperature. It is the Goldilocks version of hot springs. You can find one that is ‘just right’.  All temperatures are given on the Centigrade scale. Pozo 1 = 43 degrees, Pozzo 2 = 42 degrees, 3 = 37 degrees, 4 = 39 degrees, 5 = 40 degrees, 6 = 41 degrees.

There are rooms where you can change and there is a small locker facility for you to secure your gear if you choose. There are  three areas where water of  varying temperatures comes out of pipes at above head level. The rules are that everyone must first wash at these natural ‘showers’ prior to entering the hot pools.  Signage includes instruction to not urinate in the pools… obvious, sensible, polite instructions.

There is a small natural stream that runs through the facility. Three  foot bridges span the stream. There is an Olympic sized swimming pool that was used mostly by the younger folks. There were concrete built in ‘bleachers’ on one side of it and there were pedestals on one end giving the appearance that the designers made a place for those who wished to engage in competitive swimming events. There are also two smaller and shallower pools (not hot water) for the kiddies.

It is clear that the San Mateo Aguas Termales facility is a family place. It is managed by the municipality of Moyobamba.  They have done a great community service and it is certainly a worthy tourist destination. I get the sense that it is widely known and used by many Peruvians.  It is only a 15 minute mototaxi ride away from the center of town.

I am enjoying the break from the heat and humidity of the lowland Amazon river towns.  Moyobamba is about 800 meters elevation. It clearly is consistently a bit cooler than either Tarapoto or Yurimaguas.

Have been in Moyobamba now for over a week.  I really like it here. Nauta and Yurimaguas were hard to leave. Moyobamba is even harder.  Have a great hostel with an incredibly convenient location.

My morning routine:

1. Step out the front door and in 50 paces I am sitting in my favorite breakfast place of the journey.  They now know me and exactly what I want. My three scrambled eggs, big cup of coffee, and bun are served with smiles are perfectly prepared, placed  in front of me within 5 minutes of sitting down.

P1020476Incredible variety of fresh fruits, veggies and food of all sorts

2.  Wander through the market past stall after stall of fresh fruits and vegetables, narrow, tall  bags filled to the brim with 25 or so different varieties of beans, rice. Stalls with 10 or so varieties of river fish on display, some dried, some fresh. Chickens, live, and/or dressed out, plump whole or pieces.  Cuts of beef, (no blood) lie on tiled surfaces in open display.  Mangoes, Avacados, Noni, 5 varieties of grapes, oranges, limes, lemons, pineapples, coconuts, jacon (a local tuber that is sweet), beets, 4 varieties of apples, peaches, apricots, leaf lettuce, cabbage, green beans, peas, lentils, carrots, lettuce, barrels filled with 4 different varieties of olives… for as far as the eye can see. All fresh and locally grown and brought to the market each and every morning.

The people of Moyobamba are active and hardy.  The majority of faces are between 16 and 50. There are a few older folks but most are young. Everyone is shiny clean, well groomed and their clothing is nearly always faultless.  This is the rule. There are rare exceptions. The shopkeepers and restaurateurs are mostly women.  Beautiful, strong, smart, healthy.  That is how I would describe the locals of Moyobamba.

The exterior sights of the buildings vary from appearing old and in need of attention… not ‘run down’… to ‘in the process of being fixed up’.  It seems people pay much more attention (and time/money) on their personal grooming/appearance than they do on their exterior environment. The emphasis is on looking great and on putting a best foot forward in the hopes of attracting a customer to enter your shop/stall/restaurant/hotel/casino.  Yes, there are a couple very small casinos… mostly slot machines. I did not see any poker, black jack, or roulette.

It is an undeniably ‘agricultural’ town. There are support  and ancillary business, but the obvious core is agriculture.  A few dentists. A few lawyers. A few churches. Several hardware stores. Places that sell fishing nets, and ropes and simple hand made horse/burro tack. A small university or two. A museum. Several ‘combi/van’ transportation stations (did not see a ‘bus station’).  Hundreds of mototaxis.

Visited two small villages nearby on dirt roads. About a half hour from Moyo proper…  Jepelacio and Yantalo.  Van was stopped by a roadside, self styled  armed ‘security’ group on the way to Jepelacio.  The revolutionary force known as Shining Path was once very strong in these parts  a decade or so ago.  I think that the local roadside ‘polite shakedown’… (they stop all traffic, carry guns, look in the cars, and ask for money… not demand) may be a remnant of  those guys.  Think of them as armed beggars. I’m sure the locals don’t want to get on the ‘wrong side’ of these fellows but I’m also pretty sure the local cops know who’s who around here. Some people in the van coughed up a peso, so I did too.

On the return trip…. back to Moyo… same stop, same guys. I was in a different car this time. I  recognized the fellow at my window. I had given him a peso inbound. No one in this vehicle offered money this time. The guy peered into the car with his rifle cradled in his arms and acted like he was really doing a ‘security’ check. His facial expression and body language were not menacing. He saw that no coins were forthcoming and he indicated we were OK to move on.  Everybody seems to be OK with this arrangement.

Moyobamba possesses a wonderful charm for people who are impressed by an abundance of fresh local food and with a hard working common folk who have a strong sense of family and community.

Like I said… hard to leave.

Photos to be posted when internet speeds improve.