Saturday, March 15, 2008

Chicha Morada Recipe

  1. Wash the corn and place it in a pot with the water, the clove, the cinnamon, the chopped quince, the pineapple shell and the chopped apples.
  2. Let the mixture boil until the grain of the corn bursts open, then remove it from the heat and strain it.
  3. Let it cool to room temperature and sweeten it with the sugar. Then add the mandarine juice.
  4. Serve it thoroughly chilled, with finely-chopped fruit.

Trails End

Only moments ago I stepped into the raucous of Lima, Peru. After adventuring in the jungle for nearly a month, being back on a bus for fifteen hours was tortuous. Ah! The crisp fresh air of a lancha at sunrise, and the beauty of lightning storms through plump la selva clouds. The monotony of hiking through mud ridden- mosquito infested forest, and coursing back and forth over flooder river terrain. We were paddled up stream though one of the longest rains of Lagunas ´reckoning. Seven straight hours the drops pelted out of the sky, natives conjecturing, ¨mucho lluga, mucho!¨and then smiling at me listfully with the pride of the forest in their forceps and mind.

We left Iquitos on a Thursday evening after spending the previous night on the town with my friend Nara (a local to Iquitos whom I met on the Rio Napo) walking the Plaza de Armas, admiring the fountains along the river, feigning some interest in street performers and Michael Jackson impersonations, and questing through the Artisans market for an old shaman with porcupine quills and Siete Reices. We feasted upon a tipica jungle chicken dinner, fire roasted and served with a multitude of sauces. Then, later a welcomed visit with her family. Sitting in the dirt on a noisy sidestreet in the warm late night air. Discussing English and Spanish phrases, a tearful goodbye amongst a friendly invite to return with full lodging and meals included. Then, spending Thursday fully stocking up for a pleasant boat trip downstream to the small village of Lagunas on the border of the Picaya-Samiria reserve.
We had Uely´s daybag stocked on rum, local beverages, pineapple juice, peanut butter, jam, knife, lighters, bowls, cups from Popayan, spoons, my mother´s spanish dictionary from college, our South American Handbook for inspiration, and his journal for memories sake. We lounged quite giddy and content, as this boat was a palace compared to the one on the Napo. It towered a full story higher, and another lancha longer. It had space enough for my stretching and dancing in the early mornings. The bathrooms were usuable and there were even shower heads.


IT WAS GONE. From right under our hammocks. Urgh. Rattas. Theifs. Everyone around us saw it happen, and no one said a thing. Shrugging their shoulders, laughing at my horrid gringa-speak as I inquired, ¨Rattas tomar nos bolsa- Por que no dices me?¨Not a friend in sight.

Hence, a grim, but adventurous journey to Lagunas, we spent our time trying not to sulk as we kept full guard over our remaining belongings and shared a melancholy mediocre book for distraction. And tried not to think about Uely´s irreplaceable journal and the Peurto Rico rum that walked away (it is a brilliant solution to killing whatever lives in the river water cuisine served on board). Also, we had positioned our hammocks on the top deck with only a tarp cover above us. The nightly storms raged at all angles, and we were glad to have our luggage wrapped in a heavy duty garbage bag with 15 liters of water on top for better keeping.

We found ourselves in Lagunas late Saturday night, and were immediately befriended by Clever, who happened to not only have been raised in an indigenous village in the surrounding jungle but was wise with medicinal knowledge carried on from his father. We hired him as our guide a very agreeable rate that is unheard of in Iquitos. He took us into the forest for three days and two nights. Which was more than enough time for me in the deep jungle. Mostly because I got another bout of food poisoning. Can you imagine the misery of my being sick on a tiny three person paddle boat for 6 hours? Yet, this was still an experience to remember the rest of my life.
The beauty of the small silent crevices penetrated by the slow dipping tempo of the wooden paddles. The bright jungle birds, large eagles, black vultures, soaring in the air. Plantain palms, huge Ceiba trees, root masses protruding out of vines and flourishing like chunks of snarled witch hair in the water current. The brown river growing steadily higher, the night sky overreaching our heads, the sky lighting up with thunder. The exotic smells and sounds of unhindered wilderness. Monkeys of their many sizes colors and shapes constantly darted through the treetops. Us- turning our heads at the sound of kerrrrpluunck! and crrrraack! to see them stuffing their faces in sublime satisfaction of lazy siesta haze. The constant threat of piranhas swimming in swarms below. The caimen, turtles, tarantulas, and oh yes- about fifty varieties of mosquitoes. There were the obstinately hungry ones, appearing like those in California, yet more vicious and desperate. Cunningly clever in their achievements on my flesh. Then in the heat of the afternoon they flew grandly about my face in hysteria. Larger, with bright blue and yellow coloring. The evenings were infiltrated by armies of these beasts in every shape and size. My legs are quite a pocked wonder.
Clever, I think, was sad to see us go, though his ego said otherwise to his friends and family. Small side gestures and laughing of ¨touristas¨¨gringos¨you´d think I would be used to it by now. However, Clever decided to join us at the docks with rum and mandarin treats. He saw us off like a true Father figure, helping with our bags, waving, and one last offering for aiuawska, which we have not partook in.

Uely had decided to splurge and surprised me with first class tickets to Yurimaguas. A whole new world with dinner served at a table with plates and cutlery, even tea cups. We decided it would be best to make headway for Lima as we are missing some futile supplies (try hiking through a hot, dusty foreign town slum with no address of where to go, and taxi drivers who cant understand your accent ¨hospedaje-hotel-hostel-residencia-resturante-catedral, por favor?¨). The journey to Lima was not uneventful. However, the only part I feel worth mentioning is the collectivo from Yurimaguas to Tarapoto.

The usual- being pulled by multiple persons in different directions before I have even climbed out of the tiny motortaxi. "Tarapoto!Tarapoto!Tarapoto!Tarapoto!" they exclaim. I give a tiny, discreet nod of my head, while glancing sideways to see what Uely makes of this. We had been headed for a bus station....Our bags are hoisted- flung- onto the top of a pile of other cargo. The usual chickens, parrots, cola, and square-plaid-waterproof bag covers. One man even carries baby turtles in his pockets, which he occasionally spits on for comfort. The children are gathered around him, guessing prices he might fetch for them at market in Tarapoto. The drive is somewhat paved to begin with, but our truck was not in such good condition. There was first a long wait for someone willing to pay twice as much for indoor seating before we could leave, then a flat tire, then another half hour wait for the construction of a toll booth. Then an hour and a half stop to replace the damaged tire in some small sleepy jungle town with an excellent restaurant that actually served us beans! All this in the first 60km.
On the road again- no more pavement now, though there is definite progress underway as the construction was so fresh the red dirt wasnt even a smidgen compacted on the ´roadway´.´We twisted and turned, I practicing patience, bending my knees to keep steady on the bumps and twists, reminding myself that I was about to embark on a series of bus journeys, so I should be ecstatic that I am doing pli`es in the back of a dusty Toyota pickup truck. The canyons stretch a good 100 feet below us in a flurry of green and red jungle abyss. Above was the other 200 feet of mountain about to crumble back down and heal her wounds. I could hear my Dad telling me no when I was five, ¨no, it isn't safe to ride in the back of a truck.¨ The beauty of tropical waterfalls falling through the roadways, under makeshift cement bridges, then cascading the rest of its way down the canyonside. All around, the rich red earth freshly exposed and breathing the misting sun spotted air. Out ahead, a long caravan of traffic; Many collectivo pickups, vans, freighter trucks with multiple cars too large for California laws; A flourishing rainbow of bananas, red jungle fruits, Peruvians, soda pop, and personal baggage in baskets, coffee sacks, and bamboo structures. If only I had my camera ready and also a third hand- to steady the jostle! Past every group of construction workers a large holler, whistle, ¨hey! Gringa!¨Uely got a ¨Buy a sombrero¨ for his T shades in harsh, vowel-laden, Peru-Inglais. I griped the unsteady rail so hard that I got blisters, yet found myself safe and bored in a dusty dry town called Tarapoto before two in the afternoon.

Two long bus rides overnight, and lot of waiting, and additional hassle having no guidebook for addresses to give cabbies, I now find myself in a gringo infested abode in the heart of Miaflores, Peru. Here is where there are DVDs, internet, traffic, and bitchy girls who give me smack for ordering a beer at one in the afternoon. As if I know what time it is after all that! Heh.