Friday, 29 January 2010


Woke up this morning and thought "maybe I´ll head over the mountains to the Amazon Basin".

What I should have thought was "maybe today I will view beautiful mountains, barf my guts out on a bus, and spend a crappy two hours on a riverboat seeing nothing but farms and the city".

Did I give too much away? Want the details?

Went with Ezra to the bus station, purchased tickets etc., and took our places on the bus. I got the window seat. (insignificant detail) I, and everyone else on the bus, was handed a plastic bag. "Why" I asked Ezra? He opened his bag and made a barfy face, to which I responded, "that´s silly". Silly gringa.

We headed out east, towards the "Hot Mountains", the last barrier to the Amazon Basin proper, and its first city, Yurimaguas. The route took it´s twists and turns, ups and downs. Mostly ups, then mostly downs. The vegetation was wild, green and immense. The shear drops into the river valley below were spectacular. The views seemed to get more magnificent the further we headed inland. As did the frequency and sharpness of the turns. Hairpin mostly. Lonely planet lists this as one of the most beautiful drives in Peru. Believe it.

Now perhaps it was trying to practice writing out spanish verb conjugations, my choice of breakfast, or just travelling in a bus, but the queezies set in. No problem, I will just put my breathing techniques to use and use pressure point therapy. Worked fairly well over most of the mountains.

Then I glanced back and saw people barfing. Well that did it for me. Breakfast was left in a garbage pail outside the rest stop.

We continued on for another hour over mostly flat terrain, until, blessedly, the bus pulled into the station. I pushed my way through a hordes of moto-taxi drivers looking for business and headed into the ladies room. No seat or TP. (another insignificant detail)

When I emerged there was this kind hearted peruvian woman waiting, just to make sure I was ok. I got a hug & cheek buss. That was sweet.

Then came our search for a riverboat ride. Found what seemed like a reputable company and I laid down more than a bit of coin for a couple of hours of sightseeing. Should have gotten very specific. What followed was a nice float on a big river. Not yet the Amazon, but pink. What we didn´t see was more than a handful of birds, water lettuce, farms and cityscape. Or should I say uglyscape. There was simply no comparison to last years Amazon experience. With the exception of the odd tree left standing, the Jungle had been razed for as far as the eye could see. There was no guide provided, just a boat driver sitting in the back taking us from one side of the river to the other. I called it quits after 90 minutes and back we went to shore.

Next stop was the street market, which was closed. Got a couple of photos of the aftermath of a street market. It´s not pretty.

Home James. We found a "car-ra" to make the return trip, as for reasons detailed above I did not wish to take a bus. While we waited for passengers to fill up the vehicle I passed some time giving the food in my backpack to 2 starving dogs, in the hopes that they and their puppies might make it for another day. Physically, the trip was far more enjoyable in a car, and perhaps more importantly, nothing in my stomach.

With that settled tummy my attention was able to turn to the many, many fires burning all around the valley. It took more than an hour to get to the first mountains, yet. save small stands between farms and in steep crevices, every bit of rainforest had been felled to farmland. It boggles the mind. I wonder how many species were wiped out. We´ll never know. The road over the mountains was paved less than 5 years ago. Build a road and man will follow. Farms dotting the mountainside for miles upland.

But what a road. A real beauty, and a symbol of Peru´s determination. This road is carved out of the sheer bedrock and breathtakingly rugged ascents. I am no road engineer, but it looked good water control and culverts, well marked and signed, fairly significant looking barriers. Not much you can do about the rockslides in rainy season, and there was evidence of those. Nothing major, although it would not surprise me if it happened.

Sights seen on the drive home:

A gated style pickup truck filled with standing people in the box, some holding flats of eggs (hundreds) on top if the cab.

People walking along the road side carrying buckets of water to their homesteads. (yes Linda, there really are people who live without running water)

Signs about speckled bears, but alas, no sightings.

Large transport truck broken down on lane just past a hair-pin turn. Accident waiting to happen.

Farm truck laden with goods, people crammed in at the back, and one intrepid (stupid?) man who strapped himself to the outside of the rails. Oh, and some kind of liquid in containers strapped all down the sides. Not even an inch of space left spare.

Policia Ecologica checkpoint, looking for illegal poaching of exotic birds, animals and woods.

Who knew chickens come in so many colours?

Fields and fields of palms grown for palm oil.

Cool looking cows, even though they don´t belong in the jungle.

Trees, trees, tRees, trEes, trEEs, TREES. Twisty, knobly, tall, short... you name it, Ferns, same thing only heights and widths. Palms, same thing.

So does the road to Yurumaguas rate the trip? Only if you go to the rest stop and then turn around and go back over the mountains. Unless you are taking the slow boat to Iquitos. Otherwise do yourself a favor and just fly to Iquitos for the real thing.

A la mañana.


Marion, nice hearing from you! Hope all is well.

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