Part 1 Amazon vacation: San Martin – the cloud forest highlands of the Northern Peruvian Amazon Rainforest

This will be the first instalment of a several part post about our 2 week ‘vacation’ to a part of Peru that I had oh so been looking forward to – the one place I had wanted to visit when Peru became a location where I would be doing my 1st international development volunteer gig.  I write vacation in quotes because you know I now need a vacation from the vacation.  We were using up my last 2 weeks of vacation before our impending return to Canada.  And so a dream became a reality.

I never knew that the Amazon tropical rainforest and river were found in more than one country.  For me, the obvious country that comes to mind when thinking about the Amazon is Brazil.  It turns out that the headwaters of the mighty Amazon are in Peru with many smaller but still large river flowing into it, rivers we did end up spending some good quality boat time.  But I have to say I was more interested in the actual rainforest than the river.  This would not be my first foray into a tropical rainforest.  That was in Australia and I will never forget that experience.  I remember it was raining but who cared since it was oh so lovely warm rain.  I do remember that the raindrops at times hurt my eyes and face but that was because the rain would accumulate on these huge leaves of trees and other vegetation in turn falling onto you.

Cuso has a number of Canadian volunteers in the province of San Martin living in the communities of Tarapoto & Lamas, often working with partner organizations that work with producers of coffee & cacao (Oro Verde Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera y de Servicios Oro Verde Ltda) & medicinal plants (Takiwasi, Centro de Rehabilitación de Adicciones y de Investigación de Medicinas Tradicionales). We first flew into Tarapoto for a visit with Spencer and his partner Alex and their young child Max (thanks for the hospitality!).  I will always remember that first time I stepped off of a plane into a tropical warm envelop – I believe it was Florida many many years ago.  And of course I was not disappointed with Tarapoto.  I love heat and in this case it was very bearable thanks to an earlier rain bomb and still lingering cloud cover.

So we headed to downtown Tarapoto to meet Spencer & family at a local coffee shop, experiencing our first mototaxi – essentially a tricycle motorcycle.


When it rains:

Driver’s view:

These are great vehicles with one exception – the noise!  No silencers on these guys.  And this is essentially the main mode of transport – no buses and only a few cars, in addition to plenty of standard motorcycles – of course of the small size, e.g. 125 cc.

After many days and many rides I finally figured out what the sound of these bikes reminded me of – remember go-kart parks?  Did you ever go to these when you were younger?  The noise!!  I guess because you are riding in effect on the back of them the noise is louder than if you are the driver.  The problem is that there are so many of them surrounding you, all jockeying for position on the roads and at the stop lights.  I am amazed that there aren’t many accidents just like I am in Lima with all the car & bus traffic.  These bikes usually don’t have any signal indicators let alone rearview mirrors.  The drivers will put out their arm to turn but I wonder how are you supposed to see their arms when the back of their vehicle extends beyond many a short Peruvian arm (Peruvians are a short people).

After a nice coffee and fresh juice (I will oh so miss fresh juices!!) we went to the local market to pick up some groceries.  I had a lovely fresh coconut drink straight from the coconut, a 2nd time for me.  It was delish but would have been even better if it had been cold.  I will never appreciate drinking warm juice and this is coming from someone who does not want ice water in restaurants in NA or Europe.  But juice – it has to be cold for me to really go yum yum.  I ended up buying 2 pieces of fruit that I had never seen before for later taste tasting.

We then proceeded to Spencer’s rented home.  Alex asked me if I had been forewarned about the place and I was like what is she talking about?  Well they (and the other volunteer family in Lamas (both live in near opulence compared to the majority of folks in these communities.  As Mr. C5 says – let’s take advantage of white privilege!

The place was indeed very nice, with a great garden and view, of course with resident cats, neighbour dogs & chickens, neighbour children hanging out like leeches at times.  It turns out the place had been for sale for some time and otherwise vacant, so the owner accepted a greatly reduced rent in order to be occupied, making it more appealing to possible purchasers.

The house & the view:

The veggie & herb garden that has to have a cover since it is just too hot:

A stunning flower – anyone know what this is?

A penis shaped tree flower seed:

Beers were next in order – I mean common we were on vacation – mixed with good conversation and later good food (vegetarian for since Alex is one too – yeah me!).

The next day Ross was up unusually early and got to see some monkeys eating fruit in the garden trees and a young Toucan – these are rare to see so lucky him.  We then had brunch and eventually made our way to that night’s accommodation. I wasn’t interested in sticking around this place for more than a day or so since I knew it was a larger city and part of the aim of our vacation was to stay far away from any city.  I have been somewhat disappointed to rarely find truly small communities – there are just too many people it seems!!

After we checked in, we decided to go for a walk thinking I would get us eventually to visit this chocolate factory, Orquideas.  Well it didn’t turn out as planned.  We did end up walking a fair ways, saw some rice farming:

Some beautiful trees (sorry 1st photo is a bit blury), and the petals on the ground below – talk about stunning.  On this trip mother nature did not disappoint with her colours:

Some quick fun on an old style slide – where did these go? (too dangerous my ass!):

Next stop Lamas – Part 2.

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