Tarapoto - End of Festival

Tarapoto Travel Blog

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The jungle is so fascinating!  Coming east out of the sierra from Chachapoyas the hills get lower and greener and the vegetation begins to change.  Even though the bus I was traveling in had tinted windows I could make out more extensive plaintain trees, different types of palms, and a swarm of plants and trees that I didn't recognize.  The hills dropped away entirely and we were on flat land and the villages were different too.  It's hard to explain all the images but this was a completely different landscape than what I had been used to so far in Peru.  And of course, the heat.  By evening we pulled in to Tarapoto and because of the difficulty of seeing really where I was, I didn't get to see that there were many hills around us until daylight in the morning.  I stayed in a ratty hotel my first night because it was late and the mototaxi just took me to this place.  I knew I would change in the morning.  But after dropping my things and taking a cold shower (the only kind here), I went back to near the bus station where I had seen a festival going on.  There were rides and games and food cooking everywhere, and of course music.  I assumed it was the end of the festival of Tarapoto, to celebrate their independence, but I think my guidebook had it wrong because it was the festival of St. Rose of Lima, patroness of the Americas and Peru. 

I got some grilled chicken and potatoes at a corner "ambulante" as the streetfood is called here.  Just a grill, and a table where you can sit and eat.  I got a cold beer from another place and they were hesitant to sell it to me because of the bottle refund, but I told them I was just around the corner and that I'd bring the bottle back when I was through.  When I came back the guys gathered there started asking me questions and we spent a couple hours talking and sharing beer until I was just too tired to stay any longer.  I had wanted to go out dancing but my body was telling me no.  A curious thing about the drinking here and in Chachapoyas.  Much of the liquor is fruit based, and is made from soaking fruit in aguardiente, a high-proof clear cane liquor.  In Chachapoyas there were many varieties of this, and even a liquor made in the same way from milk curds.  The blackberry and cherry and coffee varieties were the best in my opinion.  Here in Tarapoto, the most famous drink is uvachado, the tasty ripe grapes soaked in aguardiente.  It's not as high proof, about 30 I'd say, and it's presented to you with the grapes in the liquor in the glass, and with a small spoon for scooping them out and eating.  It's absolutely delicious!  I got addicted to it in the first taste.  But drinking here is a very democratic process, even beer.  You don't have your own glass and you don't drink alone.  The group shares a small glass, about juice glass sized or so, and if it's beer, it's filled up, but if it's uvachado or some other liquor, a few fingers are poured.  The glass isn't passed to the next person until the glass is empty.  It makes its way around the table until it comes back again to you.  Well, I get the concept, that you are really sharing the drink, but in my mind it just doesn't work too well.  With the beer I got frustrated.  They finished much quicker than me, and then, when I wanted to take another sip, I had to wait til it got all the way around the table. I felt pressured to drink faster but I don't like that with beer, it's too filling and I drink it slower.  So I think the system needs to be changed.  Next time I'll ask for my own glass and just apologize that I'm a foreigner and that's how we do things.  The guys were very nice and welcoming and asked me questions all night.  The wife of the owner of the little stand kept asking me over and over again, "aren't you afraid to travel alone?" or "really, you're traveling alone?  And you're not afraid at all?"  "Be careful Andrew."  She was so incessant that I began to think she had a complex.  I got tired of explaining myself.  A cumbia videa was playing over and over again and I needed some peace and quite, and besides, I was tired from the bus ride that day.  I promised to meet them tomorrow at the same place.

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photo by: yadilitta