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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next post: Moyobamba