We arrived in Tarapoto by plane at dusk on Thursday night. The airport was small but the building was fairly modern and in good condition.
There was quite a bit of activity, Tarapoto is sort of a gateway airport for ecological tourists who come to this part of Peru to see the jungle highlands and the scenic wonders. This area is know for the exotic natural orchids and rare butterflies.
After we gathered our luggage we emerge from the airport to find our driver who would escort us into town to our hotel. The parking lot is swarming with motorcycles hooked up to a two-seater rig covered with a canopy. The drivers were hustling to get fares into town as quickly as possible and the scene is lively because the vehicles are painted in bright colors and each has been cleaned until they glisten.
Our driver approaches us and helps us with our luggage as we pile into the van for the ride to Tarapoto. This will be our driver for the next two days, often your driver is your lifeline to safety. You learn to trust them implicitly, they are looking out for you at all times. This trip gave me new respect for these guys.
We're all pretty tired but in a good mood, each of us is looking forward to a chance to get some rest in the privacy of our room. A day of airports and airline food and queues and enforced sociability has made me long for a huge bottle...of water! I'd also like to write down some of my notes and review our itinerary.
CRS trips are busy and every day begins with a packed agenda. Tomorrow we head out for a 3-hour drive across the rugged jungle highland roads to Moyobamba. We are investigating a big problem for the youth of Peru—human trafficking.
We often tell our friends how convoluted air routes in the US are. They are indeed, but I was astounded to find that a simple flight from Bogota to Lima was not in the cards for me. We boarded our flight in Bogota, our destination—Panama City. Once there we switched planes for Lima, Peru. Kai Hill, from CRS headquarters, joined us on this leg of the flight. She would accompany us on our trek through Peru.
We all flew into Lima in the early afternoon. There we met an important member of our party, Barbara Fraser, our translator and a top-notch journalist. A CRS Peru office member, Lorena, was also there in the Lima Airport bound for Tarapoto.
We all needed to catch the flight to Tarapoto that evening, where we would spend the night before setting off for Moyobamba. These are towns in a part of Peru referred to as the jungle highlands or the selva.
Luckily we had wireless internet access which allowed us to catch up with news from home. We also ate a fair amount of ice cream (helado) and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. The South Americans are fans of ice cream and make big cool creamy desserts served on platter size dishes. Like every Spanish textbook exercise I remember—people love to gather for cafe y helado and chat away.