Tuesday, October 9, 2012

There are some snakes in paradise

Right. Now. Then. Where do I start? That’s always the trickiest question, and this time it may have an easy answer. Let’s start at the very beginning. Well, let’s see. It’s not as easy as I first thought. I think I misplaced that beginning somewhere in the deepest darkest moments of my unconscious. Perhaps.

Once upon a time, I may have been in my early twenties – or even earlier – I heard the Peruvian pan pipes somewhere on a street in Germany. There were a lot of ‘them’ in Germany then. Dressed up as only they had a right to do and also to generate some interest, keep warm, cash in on their alien-ness for which they probably paid dearly on a day-to-day basis. Germans embrace the exotic when they go boldy out to meet it but are at times somewhat hesitant to received it in their own back yard gracefully. Dunno.

It’s just that there was that sound, strange, exotic, bringing with it images of never before seen: mountain ranges, animals with two heads (yes, well…), rivers under green roofs, trees that would open their arms if you were unlucky enough to fall down from a great height and calmly closing them again over you to keep you theirs forever, birds singing different songs, majestically flowing rivers, Isabella la Catholica, the Santa Maria, and people like Pizarro on clanking, rusting armour on enormous horses wreaking havoc; Machu Picchu, the lost city and the last Inca ruler Atahualpa. And that’s only an end. Before a new beginning – as always.

But back to Germany. Or, perhaps fast forward to Spain. Some lady clairvoyant told me many things (my friend Lindy took me there around 1978 or so – we were just checking her out as it were) about many things, among them was something I dismissed immediately, of course: that I’d been in Peru in a previous life and would go back. Me? Are you nuts? I don’t even know anybody from Latin America, let alone Peru. ‘Ha!’ I hear you whisper while you’re reading this. Ha! Indeed.
I bought some Peruvian folklore (which I love to this day), met someone who became a friend (of Spanish provenance, grown in Peru), I moved to Spain (the reasons for that move may well be content for another blog one day), and met (and eventually married) - lo and behold - another Peruvian, and here I am. Ok, not quite. I was going to talk about paradise, wasn’t I – not just about beginnings.

Is there another ‘mature’ lady you know who’s been presented with 100 hectares of rain forest recently? No, neither do I. After buying the land, Lucho disappeared around once a month to work in the finca. And about two weeks ago five of us set out to find out what he’d been up to for the last few months.

It’s still very early Spring in Lima and relatively cold. After one hour flying time we left the plane in Tarapoto, the District of San Martín, sweltering and pulling off clothes. No air conditioning in the small airport. Our cases arrive, hot. Outside, among moto-taxis (those three-wheelers, tuk-tuks in Thailand, a bit like motorized rickshaws) waiting for passengers was a car, reasonably large and in reasonable condition, to take us the next two hours to a small village called Sauce and from there to a hotel called La Sirena. 

Not as straight forward as it sounds. We were going up, up and upper along an asphalted road which would in European terms be a slightly neglected B-road. It came to an end at the Huallaga River. From the Encylopaedia Britannica: Huallaga River, Spanish Río Huallaga, river in central and northern Peru. It rises in the Andes mountains just south of Cerro de Pasco and descends north-northeastward past Huánuco and Tingo María. The Huallaga carves a valley between the Cordillera Central and the Cordillera Azul and emerges into the Amazon River basin to join the Marañón River downstream from Lagunas. The Huallaga is estimated to be 700 miles (1,100 km) long but is mostly unnavigable.

We crossed the Huallaga with the help of a motorized car ferry and continued on neglected dirt roads for the rest of the journey. Stopped at Limoncocha, a salt-water lake half-way up to take more pix (we’d already been clicking away furiously ‘cause we’d never seen anything like it…) . I couldn’t find much on the internet or anywhere else regarding the Peruvian Limoncocha laguna, except one telling line: FACILIDADES: Ninguna = facilities: absolutely none. It’s on the way to the Laguna Azúl or Lago Sauce or Lake Sauce or the Blue Lake which our finca borders with approximately 200 meters of shoreline.

It’s already getting dark when we finally get to La Sirena where a small woman comes up a steep hill towards us, climbing like a goat and bringing us a huge smile and a kiss each: ‘Hola, soy Amanda’. The ‘hotel’ consists of three bungalows of varying sizes. We have been allocated No. 2 – a bungalow that ‘sleeps seven’ as they would say in British holiday brochures. Lucho and I on double, Phil and Paty on with three singles, Evita one double in the extension of what may be called the living area which contains one plastic table and three plastic chairs. One bathroom. No mirror. No cupboard, no wardrobe, no nothing. As I said, facilities: absolutely none.  We manage.

The view is breathtakingly beautiful (it’s the only word I have… like ‘love’, ‘beautiful’ can mean so many things and has been used so badly), so we don’t really care. Amanda comes to tell us to keep the door closed after five or we’ll be eaten alive in the night. We ask her for towels. We eat the last stodgy stuff we were offered on the flight and stashed away in our backpacks.

Paradise comes with a price tag, as do all things. Let’s do some apophases:  I’ll spare you the whining voice of the urbanite who’s suddenly been deprived of all mod cons, I’ll not talk about the Paty’s squeaks when she saw bigger and better insects (even the ants are huge), neither shall I mention our astonishment that there’s not a pane of glass in sight, just wire mesh to keep the bichos out, I won’t bitch about the fact that we couldn’t plug in anything (cameras, cell phones, hair dryers, shavers etc), or that that few lights were the ever-lasting low wattage kind.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves from here on, and assure you that Lucho had been working his heart out. He’s even learning how to use the machete. They planted, they weeded, the cleaned, revived the coffee and the cacao plantation, found already a lot of the medicinal plants (even one that closes over a wound like Compeed and costs nothing, just a small tick of the bark), he had benches made around nine trees and much, much more. He got back last night and brought three kilos of our first coffee harvest. The bees are in for it, they didn’t fill their honeycombs yet.  Guys, I could write a book. It would probably be a very boring one. But never in my life have I experienced such peace. 

PS: For the night noises I attach the link to a very bad video I made which ends with me falling into and immediately out of the hammock. You’ll hear my trade-mark word: ‘fuck!’ – coming from the heart.


PPS: No recipe today... it's a different kind of post. Besides, the fare in situ was more or less anything as long as it was chicken or local fish with fried bananas and rice.

Eva's pic: on course for LA SOÑADA

Eva's pic: obvious

Eva's pic: posing

Eva's pic: the boss opening a cacao fruit

Eva's pic: well, the inside of...

Eva's pic: going back

Eva's pic: somebody you know showing off

On the shores of Gitchie Goomie... well, almost (my pic)
The rest are mine,  no comment. Just enjoy. Imagine the reality. We are back at 'La Sirena'.

Oh, this is Paco

Moonlight on the water (and I don't have a star filter!)

A left-over Serbian hippy - says it's the only place on earth where he's happy

OK, friends, until the next time. Whenever that'll be.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful land you live in! My wife and I love to fish and the rivers look so inviting. Your photos really put me there!

    In Thailand we encounter some of the same 'problems' Insects, lizards, bugs and ants are bigger and usually bite. Ants seem to be the top of the food chain here. I've never seen such a variety. I've learned to never sit on the ground and if I stop I search the area to make sure I'not on an ant trail.

    Wonderful post, Rose Mary!