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Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Chachapoyas Street???

21 November 2010

CHACHAPOYAS—The previous evening we had been solicited for cabs several times while walking the few blocks from the bus station to Hotel Casablanca. We knew we needed to find a cab or collectivo (nothing more than a shared cab to offset the cost of a trip) to take us on to Chachapoyas and I was relying on the fates to guide us. We shouldered our packs and left the hotel, walking back towards the bus station. It was only a matter of time, or so I thought, before somebody with a vehicle slowed and said, “Chachapoyas???” And I asked, “How much?” and we would be on our way.

Election Posters for the Amazones Region of which Pedro Ruiz and Chachapoyas are part and the latter is the capitol city.

People often ask how one navigates, gets on the right bus or orders the right meal and remark that my Spanish must be excellent in order to achieve the feats of travel which I have. In fact my Spanish is little better than competent and my travels modest. I would answer that the better one’s Spanish is, the easier and more pleasant the experience, but one could get around with almost no Spanish at all given a patient disposition and a little luck. A bus or taxi, after all, is in the business of selling transportation, a hotel in trading accommodation for cash, a restaurant interested in exchanging money for food and drink and, as for the food and drink, regardless of cinematic portrayals of Chilled Monkey Brains and Snake Surprise, the vast majority of what people eat around the world is nothing more than chicken, beef, pig or fish by another name, with veggies and beans and rice and noodles on the side washed down with such exotics as bottled water, fruit juices and lager beer. And as for Latin America, one would probably be surprised as the amount of Spanish one recalls from forays to ChiChis, Taco Bell and other nominally “Mexican” restaurants. Pollo frito is, indeed, fried chicken and man can live on that. The buses and cabs want to sell you a ticket and the hotels a room and while a knowledge, easily acquired, of the numbers is of use, I have never felt I have been unduly cheated even if there is a cheaper price for locals. In this, remember that while one doesn’t want to be made a fool of or cheated one also shouldn’t be a miser or tightfisted. A certain generosity, both monetary and of spirit, goes a long way in smoothing the bumpy path ahead, in obtaining palatable food and gracious service and a decent room.

This being said, we walked all the way to the bus station without a single offer of a ride. The station itself was shuttered and we stood a while wondering if perhaps all conveyance was shut down for the Lord’s Day. Soon we were hungry and decided that, whatever the day’s travels brought, a meal would have to be eaten anyway so we trudged back to Polleria Cyndy and feasted upon our Sunday chicken and a litre bottle of cold communion beer. Sensibly, I asked the owner directions and found that, in order to obtain passage to Chachapoyas, one crosses the bridge that intersects the main road and that collectivo cabs are next to the Banco Nacional.

Pedro Ruiz is, essentially, two main roads that intersect each other on the perpendicular. There is the main highway which brought us from Tarapoto and continues on to Chiclayo, and the turn-off, over the bridge, which goes to Chachapoyas. We crossed the bridge, found the Banco Nacional and were immediately offered a ride to Chachapoyas for 10 Nuevo Soles apiece. We accepted, loaded our bags and waited no more than ten minutes until the car’s full complement of four passengers was reached. It took us awhile to actually leave town, however, as we were stuck behind a contingent of citizens marching towards the small town’s square to hoist the Peruvian flag and their police escort would tolerate no disrespect in the form of passing.

Landscape on the road to Chachapoyas

A short video of the road from Pedro Ruiz to Chachapoyas can be seen here:

Soon, however, we were off, speeding away down mostly well-paved highway that, nonetheless, was often littered by clumps and splinters of new-fallen rock. The road followed the canyon floor, close by a tumbling river of ice-green water but still much of it had had to be cut and blasted out of the living rock. Often we drove under rocky overhangs in the canyon face, cut barely high enough to allow a passing semi-truck. Even more than earlier I was in awe at the size and sheer mass of the Andes and wished I was able to move slower, to be able to hike through their passes and up their slopes. I would soon get my wish…

Along the highway to Chachapoyas, deep in the canyon.

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