Posted by: Jessie Kwak | October 19, 2009

“La gente de Amazones son lo mas amable en el Perú.”

“The people of the department of Amazones are the kindest in Peru,” said the driver who had just picked us up.  I was sitting in the back seat of his pickup, munching on a sweet banana his friend had offered me, and Rob and Kevin of England were nestled in the bed with various construction equipment.

I agreed with him politely, but in truth we’ve been shown an amazing amount of generosity since we began this leg of our trip, taking the back road from Cajamarca through Celendín to Chachapoyas.  I sat in the pickup thinking of Flor, whom we met in Celendín, and Señora Teo, with whom we’d just parted ways an hour before.

Señora Teo

Señora Teo

After we returned from our 6-hour hike to Gocta waterfall, our guide Sra. Teo had invited us to her café for pineapple juice from pineapples she had grown.  They were massive, twice the size of supermarket pineapples in the States.  “Cortesia de la casa,” she said, pouring us seconds.  “Para que tienen buenos recuerdos del Perú y regresan.”  (Courtesy of the house, so that you all have good memories of Peru and come back).  She insisted that we sit and rest for a few more minutes before setting of again back to Chachapoyas, and her husband put on a CD of local music to entertain us.

All the people of this area have been like that.  Like Señor Pepe, who the night before had contributed to our hangovers during the hike.  We had been walking along, looking for a restaurant that Kevin had smelled but not seen the day before.  We wandered past an open doorway and were startled to hear a quiet, pleasant drawl ask, “Que buscais?” (What are you looking for?)

A restaurant, I answered, and the man in the door began a discourse on good local restaurants, local history, and his door, which was one of the oldest doors in Chachapoyas.  He invited us to admire it, and we did.

It belonged to a Spanish house built over 400 years ago, and was of sturdy colonial construction.  It was his house, he said, and he invited us in so we could see the colonial style.  We all glanced at each other, but it seemed impolite to refuse.  Pepe invited us to sit down in the sala, an ancient colonial room, and then disappeared to grab us a drink against the cold.

He returned with what looked like a small white enamelware watering pot, and a single tiny shot glass.  He poured himself a shot, then handed the pot to Kevin, who looked at it warily, as though uncertain whether he was expected to drink from it.

Pepe raised his glass.  “To meeting you all tonight,” he said, and drank.  He handed the glass to Kevin, who poured a shot and passed the pot around the circle.

It was good quality aguardiente, Pepe said, made of sugar cane.  It had a strong flavor of olive oil, but was quite smooth.  He poured himself another shot, then handed the pot to Kevin once more.  “No hay primero sin segundo,” he said over Kevin’s protests.  (There’s no first without a second.)

His cousin arrived, and after a third shot, good conversation, and many exhortations to return to his house day or night, we were set back out on the street a little less clearheaded than before.

Or like the three men in whose pickup we were riding on our way back from Gocta.  When I told them that we hadn’t seen any petroglyphs yet, they stopped at a little roadside site and herded the tree of us up the trail.  The petroglyphs seemed to be a bit too modern, and one of the men kept voicing his skepticism over the assurances of the other two, particularly about the dinosaurs.  The other two assured us all that they were llamas.

Llamas?

Llamas?

They offered to take us up to a little village and then to Chachapoyas, but we were starving and so they left us at the turnoff to await another ride.  Five minutes later we were on our way again in a small suburban.  Like Rob said, it doesn’t quite feel like hitchhiking when you get picked up by the first car that has room for you.

Goodbye Amazonas, goodbye Chachapoyas.  You were far too good to us, and we’ll definitely be back to return the favor!

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