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Trip Report Chachapoyas, Trujillo, Huaraz and more in 2 weeks part 2

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Even with the bout of altitude sickness that kept her pretty much bed-ridden for three days, my daughter says that the Lazy Dog Inn was her favorite part of our trip. (My daughter that stayed on her feet also says this but that is less surprising.) Unfortunately, just as we obtained the oxygen tank and my daughter got back on her feet, my husband was laid low with an intestinal bug. We are fairly certain that he picked it up at a marshmallow roast that some of our fellow guests arranged one evening after they found out that the staff of the Inn had never roasted marshmallows. We all just used sticks that some of the staff sharpened for us to hold the marshmallows. Ironically, my husband is always the most careful about water when we travel (he is the only one of us who avoided giardia in Russia) but he clearly picked the wrong stick with which to roast marshmallows. Anyway, a trip to the farmacia for cipro and imodium and he was well enough to travel.

We took the overnight Movil Tours bus from Huaraz back to Lima. We choose the supercama 180 seats (fully reclining) and had a wonderful night's sleep. I wish we had those for traveling within the US! We purchased those tickets in Huaraz the first day we were in town. We arrived in Lima in the wee hours of the morning, so we had about 12 hours before our evening flight to Tarapoto. Our plan was to drop off all of luggage with cool weather clothes at South American Explorers for storage since the rest of trip would be in warmer weather, but we got to Lima so early that we went to the airport and got our hair washed at the spa in the main terminal. What else is there to do at 6:30 am?

After breakfast we rented an airport locker for 38 soles and left the luggage we would be taking on to Tarapoto there. We took a taxi to the SAE office in Miraflores with the luggage we would be leaving in Lima. We joined SAE about 8 months before we left, hoping that we would benefit from the travel information they have. The trip reports part of their website was never functioning during our planning stages, though, so I didn't get much out of that part or our membership. I did appreciate the free luggage storage however, and the club house was a comfortable place to hang out. They also had a phone with which I could call home. (My Iphone was having a breakdown during the trip.)

We ate lunch at Mangos at Larcomar. My husband ate very little given his recent stomach issues, but I enjoyed the huge lunch buffet. I'm not a buffet fan generally, but this reminded me of a Ritz-Carlton buffet we used to enjoy on Thanksgiving. My gluten free, vegetarian daughter got a nice omelet. At some point in the trip I started letting my daughters cheat on the gluten-free diet because we kept hearing that some people can eat gluten when traveling. They also heard that and couldn't resist the lure of real bread that wouldn't make them feel ill. They did have a few rolls on the trip, and we didn't notice any stomach problems. One of the places they ate bread and were okay was Mangos (on our second stop there a week after this first visit.) My husband, who has celiac and can't tolerate any gluten, never (knowingly) ate any gluten in Peru and he never had problems finding food.

After Mangos we went shopping for souvenirs at the Mercado Indio (the one in Miraflores, not the one in Pueblo Libre). My daughters found some souvenirs for their friends at home, and enjoyed the notion that you could get a better price if you bargained. Of course that's tricky when you pick up an object marked 10 soles and tell you mother out loud that you are willing to pay $10 for the item. Overall, I wasn't blown away by the items. It was fun wandering around and browsing, though.

We had arranged with our taxi driver from that morning to pick us up at 3, and he was right on time--early actually and so were we. So we made it back to the airport in plenty of time for our Star Peru flight to Tarapoto.

We spent one night at the Hotel Rio Shilcayo in Tarapoto (279 soles) and they provided transportation from the airport to the hotel. I chose that hotel primarily because the same owner runs Gocta Lodge, and I wanted to go from Tarapoto to Gocta Falls. The scenery along that route sounded beautiful. There isn't a direct bus route from Tarapoto to Gocta Lodge, but the hotel was willing to arrange a private driver for us for 800 soles. They also told me via email that we could get to Gocta Lodge on public transportation for 250 soles--they even explained how we would do it. I would have chosen the public transportation, but we were on such a tight schedule that I was nervous. Also, I wanted to enjoy the scenery and stop along the way. I did plan to take the public transportation option to return to Tarapoto four days later. I assumed the people at Gocta Lodge would help us figure out exactly how to do that since Luis from Rio Shilcayo was so helpful over email.

Rio Shilcayo has lush tropical grounds, and a good restaurant. It was fun to drive around Tarapoto and see the ocean of mototaxis. Tuk-tuks were also one of my daughters favorite things about Peru. The room was fairly basic, but all four of us fit in one room and we did have a nice screened porch. My children liked the pool. There was some confusion about who was supposed to drive us to Gocta Lodge, but by 8:30 am Ivan found us by the pool and said he would be our driver for the day. I really enjoyed the drive over. Ivan explained the scenery as we drove--rice paddies giving way to corn fields giving was to coffee growing areas. You were able to see most of the coffee harvesting process as you drove. The scale of the farming is so much smaller than the large Costa Rican coffee plantations I had seen, that it was really interesting. The cloud forest was beautiful. I wish we could have stayed one night in the cloud forest on the eastern side of the Andes because it was so lush. We did stop at the orchid garden in Moyobamba. Don't go out of your way to do this unless you are true orchid enthusiast. The orchids that were blooming when we were there were all tiny. My husband and I found it interesting, but only because it was on our way. Ivan took us to an interesting restaurant/nature preserve for lunch. There were palapas (I guess that's what they are called in Peru) set alongside ponds. The ponds were full of fish that they caught and served in the restaurant.

After an 8 hour drive we arrived at Gocta Lodge. The setting was spectacular. We had two rooms there, but we ended up sharing one because there was plenty of room. Gocta Lodge turned out to be a low point for us, though. Almost all of the conversations I've described in this report were held in Spanish (except the conversations with Diana at the Lazy Dog Inn). We weren't great, but we could understand most of what we were told and almost always get our point across. However, the staff at Gocta Lodge spoke to us exactly as they would someone fluent in Spanish--fast with lots and lots of words. We ended up relying on a German tourist who didn't speak English either, but he would translate into slow, easy Spanish for us. Also, the Lodge arranged a guide for us to hike to the falls the next day, and that guide was worse than useless. I had read that the hike should take 5 or 6 hours. This man blazed his way along at such a clip that the entire trip would have taken us 4 hours there and back with a stop at the falls. We ended up paying him to leave us on the way back so we could enjoy the hike. The trail was clearly marked and there was absolutely no danger of us getting lost once we had hiked in. This guide also had no patience with our poor Spanish either, so he solved that problem by barely speaking to us. He did try to tell us a crude story about the origins of the falls through a French woman we met at the falls who spoke English and Spanish. I understood enough of what he was saying to not want her to translate for my children. She also thought it was inappropriate for kids, so she looked at me and asked if she should translate, and we took at pass. I thought there was supposed to be some colorful local legend about a mermaid...Anyway, I know for a fact that if you went to our North Georgia mountains and didn't speak English well, you would have a tougher time getting around than we did in rural Peru, so I don't want to blow this out of proportion. As I said, I just wish that we had spent more time getting up to speed in Spanish before the trip.

Okay, but once we made the guide go away--the Falls and the trail in were spectacular. Well worth the trip. Back in Cocachimba (the tiny village where Gocta Lodge is located) we wandered around and found a few tables in what looked like it might be a restaurant. The family that ran the place more than made up for our guide. They were so welcoming. We wanted juice, but the power was out so the served us fresh pineapple. We overheard someone giving an English lesson in the kitchen, and when we poked out heads in, we saw our French friend giving the mother of the family an elementary English lesson. I don't have any idea what the name of the place was, but they had pet parrots in front.

We reluctantly went back to the Lodge to wait for our taxi to take us to Chachapoyas. (The hotel manager had told us he could arrange one for 80 soles.) Unfortunately, according to the manager, it turned out that no taxi would come out for us, but fortunately he could arrange a combi for us for 50 soles. I had never heard of a 50 soles combi, but at this point we really just wanted to get away from this Lodge so we said okay. In a while we were picked up by what looked like a private tour van. We rode to the village green in Cocachimba and then we waited. A group of unhappy young Peruvians milled about outside the van. One got in clearly in a huff and then got out again. I overheard someone fussing at the driver about not sharing the van. When my husband got back from an errand into a nearby tienda for a drink, he found out that the van was a private tour company van that had already been hired for the day by the group of unhappy young Peruvians. Turns out they were unhappy because the driver had decided to make some easy money by selling a four more seats and including strangers in their group outing. In the end they let us tag along with them at no cost so we wouldn't form a bad impression of their country. They turned out to be young doctors doing community service in rural areas of Peru.

I'll pick up more on this post later. I was a little confused about naming these posts, so I made this a new post but from now on I'll just add to this one.

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