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Tarapoto, the Tropical Pathway

Photo: Carlos González.



Photo: Renzo Ucelli.



Photo: Carlos González.



Photo: Carlos González.




Photo: Mylene D'Auriol.


Photo: Roberto Fantozzi.

Tarapoto is not the capital of the department of San Martin. This title is taken by Moyobamba, which was founded earlier. But the impulse which this city embedded in the greenery of the High Jungle, makes it worthy of carrying off the award. A continuously bustling commercial center, enclave of growing industries, such as agriculture, mining, logging and arable products, its principal wealth rests on the exuberance of its soil, in its tropical fruits and in the attractions that nature offers for tourism, an activity which makes Tarapoto something like a paradise within reach of the traveler.

This becomes a reality from the time you land at the airport, which has an increasing amount of air traffic (the road access from Lima is not to be recommended). The humid climate and the relatively high temperature (it can reach 32 degrees Celsius) remind the tourist that he is in the Eyebrow of the Jungle, a region furrowed with large rivers like the Huallaga and the Alto Mayo, tributaries of the Amazon together with the Ucayali. But it is also a region graced with an infinite number of tranquil lakes which invite the refreshing plunge. Moreover, one must not miss the spectacle of the nearby waterfalls, such as Ahuashiaco, 40 minutes from Tarapoto.

The adventure begins after a rest in the hotel (there are some for every taste and purse). A visit to the village of Lamas, located some 30 kms. from Tarapoto, is an indispensable experience: situated on three split-level tiers, this human settlement of highland quechua origin set down in this pre-Amazonian region, is a surprise, both for its origins and for its picturesque dress and customs. The highland houses offer more than one surprise to the visitor. There one can acquire in some kiosk - from the hand of a generous Lamas child - handcraft objects such as flutes, necklaces of the huayruro bean, or carved wooden figures of naive taste. As a souvenir.

Along the Marginal Highway

Tarapoto began to breathe deeply several decades ago now, after they began to build the Marginal Highway. This connected the main towns with a paved highway, in a region where the rains turn the communication routes into mud holes. Today it is a pleasure to drive to Puerto Lopez, on the banks of the Huallaga river.

There a ferry-boat awaits, a flatbed of planks solidly fastened together, with an outboard motor, on which a car, a jeep, a truck, livestock, travelers, or a swarm of native children, according to the occasion, will cross the river to the opposite bank in a short, truly delightful ride. Not to be missed. The intermediate destination will be Laguna Azul (Blue Lake), or Sauce.

On a graveled highway with disquieting curves one covers the reamaining 12 kms. to Sauce, a one-horse town on the banks of the tranquil Laguna Azul. Puerto Patos (Port Ducks) is ready to welcome the weary traveler in bungalows of rustic but perfect comfort. Boats filled with equipment for every kind of water sport bob at the jetty.

To boat on Laguna Azul is to contemplate a mirror in whose waters various species of fish invite one to catch them. Some years ago on one of the banks of the lake someone built an exclusive resort, which had an ephemeral success. Then terrorist activity laid waste the region, and of this effort only the ruins of the attractive bungalows remain. Today, peace restored, Laguna Azul is recovering its august and serene beauty. After boating on the lake for some 5 kms. one arrives at an inlet. From there, on foot, along a steep climbing path, one ends up at another paradise: Lago Lindo (Pretty Lake), or Sunicocha. The invitation to swim is irresistible.

     Volume II/Issue 10, Page 42
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