Thursday, October 1, 2009


We head back down river to Pucallpa, which is a city of some 200 thousand, sprawled across the cleared banks of the Ucayali river. In the dry season, it is dirty and dusty. Very few people have cars, so the roads, both paved and dirt, are filled with motocabs. I’m not sure that is what the locals call them, but they are like a motorcycle attached to a rickshaw.
It is a wild ride, I’m guessing 30 plus miles per hour with the wind blowing dust in our faces. Many of the roads are about two lanes wide, but these drivers don’t know about lanes. They drive three across, weave in and out, make left turns from the right side of the road, honk and toot and flick their hands in half-hearted signals. They cut the corners so close that I am certain they will clip the curbs. On the rutted dirt roads, the ride is nightmarish, jostling and bumping, and jarring my spine. Please, stay on the paved roads!
It’s easy to find a motocab. The roads are full of them. Step to the curb, and 3 motos will compete for your business. The ride is pretty cheap, as long as you negotiate the fare up front and have some idea of where you’re going and how much it should cost. And have the right change!
There is so much to see. Streets are lined with houses, with yards boarded up with miscellaneous lumber. Stores have flat fronts, with garish printed signs in their doorways. The downtown area looks much like any small town, except that the storefronts are narrow with minimal signage. My favorite area is the market. Produce is displayed in huge arrays, right along the street. Melons. Plantain. Many, many fruits and vegetables and goods of all kinds. I want to jump out and wander through the stores. But we are whipped around the corner and down another street.

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