What on earth does one do when stuck in Puerto Maldonado for an extra day as the lethargic research permit process gets cranked through the wheels of bureaucracy? Rent a moto of course!! Alison had the brilliant idea of renting a moped and trying our luck out on the dirt roads around PM. I have to admit that at first I was nervous about the idea. She had only ridden once before and my experience is described in full as three seconds in a parking lot on a street legal dirt bike which never left first gear… or traveled more than 3ft from its original position because I freaked out and jumped off. Well… we decided to do it anyway. I love Peru. As long as you have some form of ID, you don’t need a driver’s license or proof of any prior experience. Paper work? Ha! It’s Peru! With a little help from a friend we got our lovely moto and headed out onto the Caraterra Tambopata for a joy ride. To get to the mellow road we first needed to fight through the Puerto traffic. We decided that Alison should be the girl behind the wheel. Almost everyone we passed laughed and pointed at the two crazy gringas who were having way too much fun navigating through the crazy intersections.
We made it out onto the dirt road and picked it up a notch letting the wind pass through our hair and the gravel laden dirt speed beneath us. It was so nice to escape from the city and be in the green shade of the forest once again. Alison, being the darling friend that she is, found a nice flat spot for me to learn and we pulled over to switch spots. “The hand break doesn’t work, so use the foot break here. The speedometer is broken but that’s not a problem. Mirrors… no one uses those anyway. Shifter here… gas here… ok! You’re ready!” So she hopped on the back and off we went! It turned out to be a pretty straight forward process, and while learning on a gravel/dirt road peppered with mud puddles and sketchy narrow bridges may not have been the safest environment to learn, it was a total blast. I’d say more but I don’t want to scare the family! I love you Mom! Feet covered in mud, a little sun burned and smiling to the point of facial muscle spasms we finally had completed our moto adventure and arrived back to town in one piece.
Tonight was the day of the high school, middle school and elementary school parade. Once again, Peru never ceases to amaze me. At least 100 little kids were wearing costumes ranging from spider man to native dress. A line of high school boys were crowded under a black cloth tarp which I am assuming was supposed to be a dragon since the leader had a hairspray can and a lighter which he was using to create a totally safe burst of fire at random times. There was also a fabulous marching band followed by the middle schoolers holding individually crafted paper lanterns on wooden poles which each held a small candle inside that lit up the colors beautifully. All of this (of course) was followed up by a car completely covered up by some kind of paper mache with the exception of a tiny slit to see through on the driver’s side shooting firecrackers into the air that often did not make it too far from the ground. It was glorious.
We never got the permit, and are hoping that it is granted by the time we leave the biological station so we can exit with our mosquito collection. We’ll be taking the infamous colectivo up the Tambopata river at dawn with our fingers crossed and hoping for the best. After all… in Peru, anything can happen.