August 25 (Tuesday)
Peru Travel Diary Chapter 7: Satipo
The Satipo bus terminal is apparently served by many bus companies, some of which have buses which go all the way to Lima (about 700 km away). At 6:15 am it's too early to go into town, so I buy some biscuits and read a book until 8 am. I then get a moto to the Restaurante El Bosque, which has many tables in a large courtyard with lots of plants and three dogs. There's a bird cage, but the bird has flown (or more likely, died). I get a good breakfast consisting of papaya juice, fried eggs, coffee and a couple of excellent fresh bread rolls with butter and jam, all for 11 soles ($3.31).
I leave my bags there while I go looking for a hotel. Apparently none of the hotels mentioned in my 2004 edition guide book still exist, but I find the Hotel Brassia, in a side-street one block from the Plaza de Armas, which has a good room (and an attractive very well-endowed receptionist). I check another hotel but the room is unappealing, so I go back to the first place and bargain a bit for the room, eventually agreeing on 50 soles (about $15) per night. The wifi is a bit flakey, but the signal strength is good when it works, and the room is well-furnished, with a good bathroom, so it's worth the price.
At lunchtime I go out and get a café pasado (a cup of hot water with concentrated coffee solution in an accompanying small jug, common in Peru) plus a slice of pie de limón (lemon meringue pie). I then walk around the town. It's quite a warm day. There's a nice river a few blocks away, but the bank is used as a garbage dump.
The local market has lots of the usual things, none of which is of interest (except perhaps a new shirt for about $20). There's a herbal medicine shop with a lot of dried plants plus the usual tonics (many supposedly to enhance sexual performance).
There's also a Chinese medicine shop, but they don't have the box of small bottles of ginseng extract that I used to get in Penang (and, surprisingly, also found in Cape Town and Osnabrück). So overall Satipo town is not impressive, but at least it has better scenery surrounding it and I find it more pleasant than Huánuco.
At 4:30 pm the electricity at the hotel goes off, so I can't boil water in my electric kettle (which I've been carrying since Tarapoto) to make coffee. It's still off at 6:30 pm. I make my way through the dark streets to the Restaurante El Bosque, which also has no power. But they can still cook, so I get a lomo saltada (braised beef, onions, tomatoes, rice, chips). The power comes back on. But back at the hotel it's still off. The manager lends me a hurricane-lantern-type flashlight. Finally at 8 pm the electricity is restored. Looks like Satipo has a power problem; but no, the power is OK for the rest of my stay in Satipo.
The Plaza de Armas has some trees, paths and seats, but is not particularly impressive. There's curious geometrical structure at the center. The plaza is more appealing in the evening, when the central whatever-it-is has water spouting around it and it's illuminated by colored lights.
I receive the following message from one of my informants:
Drinking ayahuasca, even with great ayahuasceros, is a dicey affair, in my humble opinion. The only safe way would be to get a known amount of DMT mixed with a known amount of harmine/harmaline. With 'known' I mean an amount you have calibrated to your own experience, which takes some careful experimentation with gradually increasing amounts of a single, well prepared brew. Too much of either will result in a decidedly unpleasant or even hellish experience. Too little of either and the result will be underwhelming. Most brews are not calibrated in any way, if you even know what goes into them in the first place. No wonder I keep hearing horror stories from the ayahuasca tourism scene. Including the occasional death. I don't recommend drinking with anyone you don't know really well. Personally I would either mix known amounts of pure DMT with a known amount of harmine, but that would involve finding those pure substances first, which you are not going to do in the jungle, or most anywhere else for that matter. The only other way is to work with a single brew in gradually increasing amounts, and that brew has to have only Banisteriopsis and Chacruna in it. The other thing is that almost all brews have way too much of the vine. It's only necessary to get enough beta-carboline to deactivate your MAO, and that amount is small enough that you really don't need to get the usual nausea and vomiting at all. Most people go on and on about the 'cleansing' effects, but it's totally unnecessary in my opinion, and undesirable as well.
I spend most of the day studying Andrew Gallimore's important and excellent article "Building Alien Worlds".
Dinner at Restaurante El Bosque: Costilla de cerdo ("pork ribs"), delicious, for 22 soles ($6.50). I'm really not looking forward to returning to countries where everything costs four times as much as here. Hoping to move on from there before long.
The big dog at the El Bosque seems to be getting old, and can't be enticed to play by the other dogs. He seems permanently unhappy.
After working all day I go out for dinner and walk over to the Plaza. It's a full moon tonight and people are strolling around or sitting on the seats, including several couples, possibily engaged in amorous conversation under the lunar influence.
Satipo is the center of a coffe-producing area, and today happens to be el Día nacional del Café en Satipo ("National Coffee Day in Satipo"). I'm not sure whether this "Coffee Day" is celebrated throughout Peru or just in Satipo, but in any case there are booths set up next to the plaza by several coffee shops and there are twenty or so tables set up for people to sit at, sip free coffee and listen to speakers who are presumably extolling the joys of coffee-drinking and the excellence of Satipo in being a center of coffee production. The many ways to drink coffee are described, including Espresso, Espresso Doble, Espresso con Panna, Capuccino, Mocha, Macchiato and Cortado, the most complex of these being Mocha, which is coffee overlaid by chocolate overlaid by milk overlaid by froth. There's no dancing, but the mood of everyone is elevated by the coffee freely dispensed.
There's a craft shop at one corner of the Plaza selling items made by local craftspeople, no doubt including many indigenous people. There are lots of interesting things, including what looks rather like wind chimes but consists mostly of shells, nuts and other things obtained from the forest. Nice, but difficult to transport long distances without damage. There are many earrings, or rather, earhooks with ornaments attached, many with feathers. I buy two of these for gifts to female friends. They are not difficult to make and consequently are ridiculously cheap, about 6 soles ($1.90) each.
For dinner I wander over to Rambo Chicken's ("Rambo" is a Rambo-type chicken shown holding a hunting knife), which, for 10 soles ($3.10), has perhaps the best quarter roast chicken (with chips, salad and drink) that I've eaten in Peru, the meat being so tender it almost falls off the bone.
In the evening I go over to the Plaza and buy some more gifts for friends: more ear ornaments, three spirit catchers to hang up, and a small bow with two arrows (useful for hunting). None of it expensive.
I see a crowd and hear strange noises. I go over to see what's going on. The people are watching a muppet show. Like a puppet show, but instead of puppets there are muppets. Good entertainment on a Saturday night in the Plaza — or, judging by the size of the audience, the locals think so.
Sunday morning at 8:30 the Restaurante El Bosque is closed, so I can't get my usual desayuno there. Fortunately there's a hotel near mine where I can get a decent breakfast. So decent that from now on I go there every morning.
It's pretty warm today, 33°. At lunchtime I get a café macchiato at a coffee shop near the Plaza and look through their coffee-table book about Satipo. There's much to see in the surrounding countryside and jungle, including indigenous communities. Unfortunately this needs time and money, and I need to work. If I didn't have to work, and money was not a consideration, I could easily spend a lot of time in Peru visiting out-of-the-way places such as these.
I spend most of the day reading about the Neoplatonists, Philo of Alexandria and Origen.
I'm due to fly out from Lima eight days from today, so I have to think seriously about my next move. I have three choices: 1. I could leave Satipo tomorrow for Oxapampa via La Merced, stay four nights and get an overnight bus from Oxapampa to Lima, arriving two days before I'm due to fly out. 2. I could take a collectivo to Huancayo on the direct road via Comas (the trip is said to be spectacular), stay four nights then take another to Lima. 3. I could stay a day or two longer in Satipo then get an overnight bus direct to Lima. Weather Underground is forecasting considerable rain for Oxapampa and some for Huancayo. Oxapampa is at a pleasant altitude of 1800 meters, but Huancayo is high up in the mountains, at an altitude of 3260 meters, and it gets cold there. Lima has the same weather all summer: dry and about 21°. Huancayo might be too high, too cold and too wet for comfort. Oxapampa, with one third of the town descended from 19th C. German settlers, would be worth seeing. But arriving in Lima just two days before I'm due to fly out is perhaps not a good idea, and would leave little time to visit possibly interesting places. What to do? In hindsight I stayed a week too long in Pucallpa, or rather, I delayed too long in visiting the gallery of Pablo Amaringo (which led to my doing ayahuasca with the médico Felix, after which there was no reason to stay longer).
After reading about the "famous convent of Santa Rosa de Ocopa near Concepción, built by the Franciscans in the early 18th Century" with an impressive museum, I've decided to go to Huancayo.
And — great news — Russian Military Forces Arrive In Syria, Set Forward Operating Base Near Damascus! At last the thugs in U.S.-created Islamic State are going to get the shit kicked out of them, and the U.S.-Israeli-Saudi-Qatari plan for an oil pipeline through Syria to Europe is now in tatters. As one ZH commenter said: "Finally. I weep for what the poor people of Iraq and Syria have been through because of the banksters, elites and zoligarchs who have murdered possibly a few million or more of these INNOCENT people. Many thanks to the Russians and Putin for standing up for and protecting the Syrian people. I only wish it had happened sooner."
After breakfast, again at the place close to my hotel, I walk up the road to where yesterday I saw a sign saying "Minibus direct to Huancayo", intending to take it tomorrow morning. But I find that it leaves at 5 p.m., does not go via Comas, and arrives in Huancayo 18 hours later. Ridiculous! I go on to the bus terminal, and find there's an 8 a.m. bus to Huancayo which arrives there are 4 p.m. What I really need is a collectivo (shared taxi). I go out to the moto drivers and ask to be taken to the local collectivo place. This turns out to be near the Plaza and is one company with collectivos to La Merced, taking two hours. From there, they tell me, I can get another collectiveo to Huancayo taking three hours. So if I leave tomorrow at 8 a.m. I should be able to get to Huancayo by 2 p.m., which would be OK. Weather Underground is predicting rain there on Thursday and "chance of rain" through to Sunday, and predicting in Oxapampa thunderstorms from Thursday through Sunday.
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