Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chazuta Chazuta!

The motorboat provided no cover. It was a two-hour boat ride on the Huallaga to visit the cocoa farms in Nuevo Paraiso. I wondered if it's called that because it was a real mess before. Cold, cutting wind and occasional showers were the travel standard here. Tiny, sharp-winged birds with silver-white bellies flicked the river surface, diving for fish. 
On the way to the farm, we trekked along a muddy path where I was enchanted by a flower called the “Licorna,” resembling a braid of red and yellow bird beaks. After our meeting with the farmers, we were stuck in Chazuta for awhile. The odd thing about this tiny, dirt-covered town is that its one and only road is closed for construction from 6am to 6pm every single day. To kill time, we asked the municipal building to unlock the small houses in the plaza for us. These held archeological digs of ancient funerary urns. The clay jars looked too small for a human body, it’s possible that some of them were luggage to take into the underworld. We tried to visit the historical "museum" in the municipal building but they couldn't find the keys even as a young man tried a ring of about fifty of them. Circling around town, I discovered bite-sized children holding hands on the way home from school, playing inside a cardboard box better than any car, ones with vacant stares who hung onto doorframes. A pharmacy offered its menu in big red letters painted on the front wall: Cures! Injections! Instant pregrancy tests!

I was offered some fresh guaba, and unlike guava is about half my size. It's a curious fruit whose outside looks like a plump vine while the inside is similar to cocoa, white flesh over large stones. I snacked on it happily from the back of our truck until I discovered further up the fruit's long stem a brothel of maggots. They reassured me that these were "natural" maggots that very often live inside the fruits and that the rest of the guaba was fine. I still prefered not to eat any more after seeing all those flesh-colored things squirming inside. The road seemed to have opened again and we headed back to Tarapoto in the dark of evening.