Moyobamba Easter 2015

P1160493Brightly painted wall outside Orquideas Amazonicas

Moyobamba calls itself the ‘city of orchids’. The area is home to over 3000 species of orchids. The temperatures, the altitude, the soil, the perfect combination of sun and rain all make the Province of San Martin and of the city of Moyobamba the perfect environment for orchids and bromeliads to flourish… and they do.

Below: Short video walking through a small part of the orchid nursery in Moyobamba

Moyobamba is also home to naturally heated hot springs ‘aguas termales’.  The municipality of Moyobamba administers and maintains the baths. The very affordable entrance fee makes it possible for anyone in the area to enjoy the benefits of this place. I was there on ‘Good Friday’.  All during ‘Semana Santa’ (Holy week) families get together there, maybe enjoy a picnic lunch, sit in the pools, swim, and just hang out together.  Grandmas, grandpas, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, teens, tots, and toddlers are seen together, enjoying the company of each other. HotSpringsOfMoyobamba 3April2015Above: Aguas Termales de San Mateo. At Left is a small stream. At right/lower are two different ‘pozzo’s (pools) of hot water. Above the pools are showers to be used before entering pools. Upper level is a medium depth swimming pool and a mini pool for toddlers.

I had been here before and was hoping that the hot springs were open.  Was very happy to learn that they were open. As previous posts have mentioned (and shown) mud slides (huayco) and rock slides (derumbles) are a yearly phenomenon in many parts of Peru during the rainy season.  More rain equals more slides. In November there had been a mud slide that washed right through the above hot springs. The people of Moyobamba are hard working folks. Not sure how long it took, but from the following video you know it required a lot of time and effort to clean the place up and repair the damage.

 Scenic views of the Rio Mayo can be experienced a very short distance from the center of town.  There is a ‘mirador’ (scenic overlook) and a pedestrian only walk along a ridge. One can see miles of the river valley and Puerto Tahuishco below. This area is also where a few late night ‘discotecas’ (bar/dance halls) are located, as well as some great restaurants. Known locally as ‘La Boulevard’… or ‘La mirador de Puerto Tahuishco’.  The stairway from the boulevard down to the port has about 400 steps, I counted.

The port area is brand new, completed in late 2014.  There are docks and there are the same kinds of boats as are common on the Amazon river.

I spoke with the captain of a small boat that let off five passengers. I asked if his vessel was a tourist boat. He, of course said it was. Then, I asked where he would take tourists. He said, upriver to a small bridge that crossed the river. I asked how long a ride. He said about a half hour to the bridge. I asked how much. He said 30 soles (10 bucks). I asked if a person could get out at the bridge and get a taxi to town from there. He said no. I asked how does one get back. He said the boat just turns around at the bridge and comes back to Puerto Tahuishco. I asked how much to return from the bridge. He said 30 soles per passenger. So…if I got it right (maybe he was saying 30 soles round trip) it is an hour long tourist boat ride that might be fun, but goes nowhere, and costs either 10 or possibly 20 bucks depending on the interpretation of the captain’s response to my questions. Then I asked what happens if you go downriver. He said that you hit rapids about an hour downriver.

Bottom line is that the new port is skillfully designed and constructed; is  very beautiful, and was only built as a tourist attraction with very little practical need.

To Tarapoto 3/31/15

P1160346 Pizana Express transport has over ten years experience servicing the route between Tingo and Tarapoto

I thought that ‘Pizana express’ might have had something to do with Italian immigrants… until I learned that there is a small town along the way named Pizana. Still don’t know the origin of the name, maybe Italian immigrants named the town.

I had been on this route twice before. Once heading South on my motorcycle adventure in September 2012 and S. once again last year on, my Amazon adventure heading to Pucallpa to board a cargo vessel on the Ucayali back to Iquitos. (I had come upriver from Iquitos on the Amazon, Maranon, and Huallaga rivers and had disembarked at Yurimaguas)

Last year I spent the night in Tocahe and got  a car service to take me to Tingo Maria. There are ‘gas stations’ along this route. Gas stations with pumps like most Westerners know. The car I was in last year and the van I was this time… both stopped at this odd place with no pumps.

The driver got out and I heard him order ‘cuatro’. What he meant was ‘4’ of something. The ‘something’ turned out to be four 5 gallon buckets of gasoline… poured into the tank through a funnel by hand. I have no idea why they do this. It is obviously some kind of a business arrangement. Must be cheaper somehow. I don’t know the particulars.

P1160364Photo taken through my van window

The van ride from Tingo Maria to Tarapota took eight hours, actual on the road driving time. The route is through low jungle scenery.  It gently wends it’s way through rolling tropical foliage laden hill country, passing through the medium sized towns of Tocache and Juanjui and many other smaller villages.

This area is well off the established ‘gringo trail’… meaning that there are few Anglo types seen in these parts.

There seems to be a remnant of the ‘shining path’ revolutionary group that was known to rob and kidnap travelers as few as twelve years ago. Times have changed. They now call themselves ‘local security’ force(s). Different ‘stops’ are an hour or so from one another… and they all have different arms and different dress… leading one to suspect that there probably is no ‘central command’. It is very possible that none of the separate groups are even acquainted with one another.

The ‘remnant’ of uniformed young men with open weaponry now does its best to get all passing traffic to stop. Sometimes they stand directly in the road, other times they simply show their weapons and use hand signals. Sometimes the driver stops, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the passengers in the vehicle offer money, sometimes they don’t. My policy is ‘when in Rome…’ in other words, if other passengers offer money I’ll cough up a coin or two.

A local 'security force' member asking for donationsAbove: Taken a few miles North of Tocahe

I motioned to my camera and gestured to see if this fellow had any problem with me taking his picture through the van window. He grinned and nodded.

P1160369Road side pineapple vendor (two different species) near the town of Aucuyacu

Actual time in the van was over nine hours, which includes the stops to let some passengers out and others on… and the lunch stop an hour or so North of Tocache.

Roadside cafe meal of wild deer, yucca,potato,beans,and riceRoadside cafe meal: wild deer, yucca, potato, rice, beans, lettuce, hot aji sauce

P1160406Finally arrived Tarapoto… I let the mototaxi driver wheel my gear over to his rig

The name of my hospedaje in Tarapoto was La Siesta. I stayed there based on a recommendation from the mototaxi driver I used upon arriving from Tingo Maria. I was tired and in no mood to shop around for a place to stay. I had checked online for Tarapoto hostels: ‘La Posada’… as the name I first gave to the moto taxi driver. He said it was overpriced and so I took his word for it.

Hospedaje La Siesta was about seven blocks from the ‘plaza de armas’… which is (are) invariably considered to be the center of town.  The mototaxi driver was correct. I checked out a few places near the center and they were all double what I was paying… and many also did not offer ‘hot’ water.  Tarapoto is a tropical town, and most of the time one would be happy to have a cool shower.

There is not much to interest a traveler in Tarapoto proper. There are many tour agencies that offer tours of the area, but most destinations are some distance from town.

I lost my bearings walking around town on my first night there and had to get a mototaxi to return me to La Siesta. Next morning I got up and familiarized myself with the neighborhood I was in and it’s relation to the center.  There are many very nice restaurants and panaderias (bakeries) in town.

I had not seen a movie at a proper movie theater in a while. I like to see films on the ‘big screen’. I learned online that Tarapoto has a new cinema. I learned from a mototaxi driver that there are two. I had him take me to the nearest one. It was packed. Looked like it would have taken an hour just to get to the ticket counter. I opted to not go.

Instead, I walked around the neighborhood where the cinema was located(fifteen minutes from hospedaje La Siesta).  I found a nice looking ‘chifa’ (Chinese restaurant).  Advertising banners that were still up indicated it had opened around Christmas.  I ordered roasted chicken…  they serve it with a generous portion of ‘papas fritas’ (french fries) and several sauces: ketchup, aji, red sauce, and mayonnaise. Mmmmm… good!

Spent three nights at La Siesta before deciding that I really missed the luxury of feeling warmer water for my showers. I also knew that I could immerse myself in naturally heated pools of water… hot springs in Moyobamba.

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