The first time I went to Pucallpa was in 2009. I had not forgotten about the city and the friends I had made there, and I knew I had to visit them before I went back to Canada this year. However, there was one thing I had forgotten; my first impressions ofSouth America.
In 2009, I visited Pucallpa before starting my internship inCuzco. I had stayed inLimafor a day and a half and flown there for 3 days. Although I had been to the Dominican Republic and Cuba and Mexico, I can definitely say that the biggest culture shock I had felt yet was when I arrived in Pucallpa. I had never in my life seen the “mototaxis” or “tuktuks” (as they call them in Asia), which is a motorbike with a kart with two extra wheels to bring people around; this is the main means of transport in Pucallpa, there are very little cars and people do not really use bicycles. I was lucky to meet with Padre Gerald, who was sent from Rigaud,Qcas a missionary toPucallpaand who spoke French. Also, Dante, whom I met through Padre Gerald spoke English; otherwise everyone only spoke Spanish. At this point, my I had only begun my major in Spanish and I could understand more than I could speak. I had also never seen so many people probably living under the poverty line: families living in small houses made of wood, toilets are a hole in the ground in a shack at the back of the house, chickens and animals walking around everywhere and kids with torn, dirty clothes and hair playing in the streets wit
h whatever is lying around. The dust from the street, the smells, the wind in my hair, the heat and humidity I felt three years later, made me feel even warmer inside and while riding in the mototaxi I remembered so many details that I had stored in memory lane, not really ever thinking I would one day come back to Pucallpa.
On the first day we went to Yarinacocha Laguna to eat at the floating restaurant and to take a tour around the lagoon. We didn’t make it very far with our friend Pablo, as we stopped to visit a friend of his who lives in a 3 storey tree house. We ended up hanging out in his hammock and having a few beers. Then, we went to the center of the lagoon because we wanted to go for a swim. Little did we expect that there would be many dolphins, and jumping high up in the air; they put up quite a welcoming show! It was great, the water refreshing and luckily no piranhas came to bite us! Ahaha! At night we went out for pizza with my friends Dante and Joseph to catch up after the years (although that now with Facebook, it is easier to keep in touch even at a distance!)
The following day we took a boat and visited San Francisco; which is a Shipibo village about an hour away from the lagoon. These native Indians, who live along the Ucayali river, still practice some of their ancient rituals such as Ayahuasca shamanism and arts such as textiles and especially their pottery. Their village has an elementary school, but if the children want to continue their studies, they must eventually go to Pucallpa. At night we had dinner with Padre Gerald and Dante, and also went to have a few typical drinks. I can definitely say that this was the first time, and probably the only time, that a father drops me off at a bar. We all thought this was really funny. The bar had the craziest names for their drinks such as Solita cae (alone she falls), Super Sexi, Ultimo recurso (last resort) etc! And some of them came in a glass with boobs and a bum! Weird…
On our last day in Pucallpa, we took a 2hour drive to “la ducha del Diablo” which is a tall waterfall by the road to our other destination: “el velo de la novia”. Translated this means the bride’s veil, because the waterfall kind of looks like one. We went swimming and had lunch there and headed back toPucallpa. We went to say bye to everyone, but ended up staying with Joseph for a bit and having beers with him and his neighbours. It was really nice and we would have loved to stay and spend more time chatting with them but it was already time to go and catch our flight. They were three wonderful days, yet again, too short. There is just something about Pucallpa that always makes me want to stay: the people, the food and the sun and heat (not the mosquitos that’s for sure!!)