Sunday, October 16, 2011

No llamas in Lamas. Just Castles.

Unlike its name, the town of Lamas has no llamas. But there are streets draped in colorful murals, some explaining the town history and others as advertisements. I saw several artists painting these beautiful murals by hand. Lamas is one of those most culturally preserved towns in the area with Quechua traditions surviving today from over 500 years ago. This shows in the brightly-colored, flower-embroidered dresses the women wear, the way they balance huge cans of water on their heads, how their houses only have slivers for windows to keep out evil spirits. The town is also cursed or blessed, depending on who you ask, with the most incongruous of sights: a brand-new Italian castle. An eccentric Italian man came to this traditional little Quechua village a few years ago and decided to build this brick monstrosity, complete with turrets and fake flags. It’s now a restaurant and quite the tourist attraction for Peruvians.
On the way back to Tarapoto from Lamas, we got into a "colectivo," one of those shared cars that shoot off to select destinations the minute the seats are filled. The first warning sign was that the right passenger door wouldn’t open and one of us had to climb in from the back. The front windows were automatic but the back were manual. It was clearly a Frankenstein car put together from many carcass bits. We had a brief moment with a big juicy rainbow but the sky quickly turned into pouring rain. Still, the driver kept speeding and passing mototaxis. All of a sudden, the car started swerving into the opposite lane and kept swerving from one end of the road to the other. Either his brakes weren't working or his wheels were as bald as Howie Mandel. It was maddening to see him press the gas pedal even as we were yelling “Mas despacio mas despacio!” I had a sinking feeling that he might just kills us all. Only after we threatened not to pay him did he pull back the certifiably insane driving. Half an hour later, I made it out alive and well enough to blog.