Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What I'd Left Out

There just hasn't been time to update the blog over the last week and a half. I have to do a bullet point list of where I've been and what I 've done.

As I mentioned, we got to Iquitos in three days and three nights on the boat from Pucallpa. I'll put together a whole story on that some other time.

I was over a week in Iquitos. As well as the motorbike classes, I also participated in an ayahuasca ceremony, which I suppose did "cleanse" my body through repeated vomiting, but disappointingly didn't produce any psychdelic experiences.

We went to visit the Boras and Yahuas tribes, about half an hour from Iquitos by boat, and bought more miscellaneous arts and crafts, while they jumped into native costume, performed a brief traditional dance, and charged us for the experience.

We also visited the "serpentario", an animal santuary perched above the river which included a tame anaconda amenable to being photographed draped around the neck of tourists.

Not to mention the social life and numerous invitations to people's houses to be stuffed full of local cuisine.

Tuesday morning at 6:00 am I took the fast, but extremely cramped, boat to Leticia, wher the frontiers of Peru, Colombia and Brazil meet. I spent four days in Leticia, undertaking some investigations about which I hope to be able to write in more detail some time in the future.

There was another trip to a native community, and some more handling of another anaconda, this time wild, which had eaten seven of the local chickens, and had recently been captured.

On Friday the "dry law" started in Colombia; presidential elections were on Sunday, and no alcohol was allowed to be served throughout the country during the weeknd, presumably so all voters would make a sober choice. To address this inconvenience, we left the country - several blocks down the street into the Brazilian town of Tabatinga.

This didn't turn out to be such a good idea, as the next morning I very nearly missed my flight to Bogota, luckily being saved by my new Letician friends who came to my hotel and woke me up.

I spent the evening in Bogota at the comfortable house of a friend of a friend, and the next day took a taxi through the very quiet city to the airport to catch my flight to Santiago. Seven hours of pleasant flight in the company of a very gregarious girl from Bogota who was going to study in Australia, and I was at my second to last stop.

My uncle and aunt, who live in Viña del Mar, very kindly picked me up, and that's where I am now. My body has had soemthing of a "what the hell have you ben doing to me these last five weeks" attack over the last couple of days, but now I'm on the mend.

Tomorow I'm heading back to Santiago to catch up with a couple of people, and then it's back to NZ and to work. Another time, another place, another life.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Born to Be Not So Wild

AS I mentioned in a previous post, traffic in the jungle cities of Peru is completely dominated by various kinds of motorcycles. I already knew this, as my friend Blanca in Arequipa had painted a romantic picture of her "tierra", of people riding around on motorbikes, hair blowing in the wind. So one of my goals before coming here was always to try and learn to ride some form of motorcycle.

Having expressed this wish to various people on my arrival in Iquitos, I had several offers to give me classes. I took up the invitation of a girl called Glahiss, whom Hugo and I had met with her sister at an open air disco on Sunday evening.

We rented a small motorcycle and headed out of the city to the Quistococha reserve, where there is a stretch of asphalt with no traffic.

Everything was going fine. The motorcycle was stable and easy to handle; I was getting the hang of working through the gears. After making another lap of the short stretch of ashpalt, I slowed up and went to stop. I squeezed the brake; unfortunately in my efforts to concentate on the gear downshifts, I neglected to take my hand off the accelerator, and in fact ended up squeezing it harder.

The result was predictable; the bike careered and skidded about 10 metres, I was thrown off, and the bike rolled onto its side. There pretty much ended the lesson. I escaped with a light graze on my right elbow. The motorcycle, however, received some noticeable scratches around the front wheel and mud guard. Worse, the steering wheel appeared to be twisted, and the bike would no longer go into neutral.

We headed back to Iquitos, going slowly in second, me with some trepidation about what I would have to pay for the damages. About five minutes down the road we were stopped at a police checkpoint. The rented bike had no plates, and they also wanted to see Glahiss' non-existent licence.

Glahiss was called across the road to talk to the more senior policeman. "Where's your licence, señorita?", he asked. "I don't have one, Ramón", she replied. "What? How do you know my name?", asked the policeman. It turned out that she had known the cop when he was much younger and used to come to her mother's store. She had just that moment recognised him.

Meanwhile, I was left with the other policeman. Having explained the gravity of driving an unlicensed vehicle and the need for police vigilance, he took an interest in my piranha necklace. "What else have you done here, bought any other artesanias?", he asked. I told him about our trip to the communities of the Boras and Yahuas tribes. We were let go with a warning.

We struggled on. Just as we were coming into the central part of Iquitos, we had a puncture which completely deflated the front tyre. We stopped a moto taxi, whose driver agreed to "tow" us to a tyre repair shop (meaning the front wheel lifted onto the taxi's baggage space, us holding on). He also managed to straighten the steering column and get the bike going through the gears again.

The puncture took less than ten minutes to fix, and the shop manager was sympathetic about my accident. "Ah, it's the only way to learn", laughed. "When I was twelve, I rode my bicycle directly into a power pole".

We headed off again. Two blocks later, we ran completely out of petrol. The bike stalled and completely refused to start. This time, we got another moto taxi driver to "push" us the few blocks to the nearest petrol station. I rode in the moto taxi; Glahiss sat on the bike, which the traxi driver pushed along with a free foot. This is very Peru - informal, creative improvisation making up for failures in other areas.

We got to the gas station, bought some petrol and headed back to the motorbike rental plae. As soon as we had parked the bike, Glahiss went into flirtatious negotation mode with the young attendant. We had been away two and a half hours, but she was trying to convince him to charge us for only two hours. "Oh come on, make it two hours", she simpered, batting her eyelids.

In this way, the attendant was distracted from checking the condition of the bike and noticing the scratches, which I had convinced myself weren't that bad anyway. He eventually caved in and charged us for two hours, and we walked away, me wanting to hurry to the next block somewhat quicker than Glahiss.

If slices of bad luck do seem to come in threes, at the end of the day we had been favoured by fortune.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Iquitos - Marchitada y Bonita

The trip by boat from Pucallpa to Iquitos took three days and three nights, with an extra day's delay thrown in when the Henry I, despite all assurances, didn't leave port.

It was an experience and an adventure, most of everything I had hoped it would be. I'll try and find time in the next few days to describe the journey in all its detail and texture.

For now, in a few snatched moments in the internet, I content myself with reporting that Iquitos is an absolutely intoxicating place, a faded and soporifically lazy tropical dream. At the same time as understanding why many people who live here have the goal of moving somewhere else, you can easily comprend why visitors never want to leave.

Within an hour or so of arriving, both Hugo and I independently concluded that it reminded us of our received image of Cuba. Attractive colonial buildings in the centre, eroded and peeling in the heat. Palm trees hanging lazily in the windless air. Fleets of motorbikes and ancient buses buzzing through the streets. People sitting outside corner stores and motorbike repair workshops playing cards in the evening. Fiestas every night with people of all ages joyously shaking their hips to salsa and cumbia. Beautiful women strolling casually through the plazas. Endless variety of exotic dishes, strange fish and fruits.

I don't have time right now to describe the things we've done so far, but must mention the overwhelming warmth, friendliness and hospitality of the people. These are cliches; nevertheless I defy anyone to find a place where the local population is at once as nice and as interesting as here.

I should mention that is also very safe; this is the first place in Peru where people talk down the dangers rather than exaggerate them. Lima seems like a planet away. Social conditions are not much different from the rest of Peru; it's more that the possibility of crime doesn't seem to occur to many people. It would generally involve moving slightly too fast to be feasible.

Will try and write more when I can.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Rolling on the River

HUgo and I arrived in Pucallpa Tuesday afternoon after a tiring but tolerable two-leg trip from Arequipa via Lima. We have reserved tickets for Iquitos on a boat called the "Henry", which has claims to being the fastest on the river, and leaves this evening at 5:30.

After looking at the options, we decided to pay a little extra for one of the tiny, hot cabins, as this means we can leave our bags in a secure place and will at least have the option of sleeping in a bed. But we have also bought hammocks and will be able to relax on the (covered deck). The guys selling the tickets made all sorts of extravagant claims about special food for those in the cabins, and armed on-board security, which we didn't believe.

Later this afternoon we will stock up on provisions, including insect repellent, fruit, water and beer, before boarding the boat for what we hope will be an interesting and tolerably comfortable trip.

On the way here, we climbed out of Lima in the evening, crossing the Andes by night. Morning saw us already in Tingo Maria, in the lush lower part of the "ceja de selva". From there we endured two stretches of rough unsealed road, and had to wait for an hour for roadworks, before finally arriving in Pucallpa at around 3:00 in the afternoon. The countryside was green and attractive, ranging from jungly lowlands, to hills with ferns and waterfalls.

Pucallpa is a friendly, surprisingly attractive town, decorated by plams and othe trees and buzzing with swarms of moto taxis, three wheeled vehicles with the front part of a motorbike attached to a passenger platform seating two people. There's evidence of some wealth; Pucallpa is the centre of commerce for a large area, and the wood and petroleum industries are being supplemented by increasing agriculture in the lowlands to the west of the town, plus the beginnings of tourism.

Last night we took a moto taxi out of town to a lagoon which had been recommended to us by another taxi driver. We feasted on the local cuisine, and were surrounded by indigenous women selling crafts. I opted for a píranha tooth necklace, which I hope will protec me against all fierce beast, fish and serpents during my journey.

We then took a launch across the other side of the lagoon to visit an animal reserve run by a kindly ex-policeman who was originally from Camaná in Arequipa. There were several kinds of monkeys, sloths, a range of South American rodents, a boa, an anaconda, and a beautiful ocelot. Most of the animals were in cages, but the monkeys were free to climb in and out.

The animals were also mostly babies or quite young; the owner said he always ended up getting animals dumped on him to take care of, so had decided to start up a nature reserve. It had been going for 8 months; they had just completed a restaurant and were starting on building tourist bungalows. We left a donation for the animals, and talked with the owner's son about creating eco-tourism links with Incaventura and Sudamerica Tours.

From this evening, we will be on the river until we get to Iquitos, so this blog will not be updated for at least three days.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Pasándola Bien, Too

My long-winded accounts of my investigations into issues for the pueblos jovenes of Arequipa shouldn't lead anyone to think that I haven't been having fun as well.

Last Wednesday Lizbeth and Tessy talked me into acting as a guide and taking a Dutch couple to the waterfalls of Sogay. Those who read my blog when I was last in Peru may remember that I "discovered" this walk as a possible tourist attraction, and had made three trips there.

Lizbeth had already sold the trip to the couple, who said they wanted to do something"different", but couldn't get hold of a guide. I was reluctant to go; I wasn't entirely sure of the route (it was a year and a half since I'd been there), and thought the river might be a little high from melting snow.

However, Rafael, with whom I'd gone there twice previously, said that there were now arrows pointing the way to the falls (just what I had suggested in a blog post at the time) so you couldn't go astray. I also thought it would be a good chance for exercise, to burn off some of that comida arequipeña, as well as a favour to Lizbeth, who is giving me free room and board for the entire time I'm here.

It was quite a good trip in the end. The river wasn't any higher than it had been in September / October, but the rainy reason had left countryside awash with green. The normally arid areas beyond the township of Sogay were ablaze with red, orange and yellow wildflowers, and buzzing with birds and butterflies. The strategically positioned painted blue arrows were also a great help in ensuring we didn't get lost.

I took along Ayda, an apprentice from the Incaventura agency. She is the younger sister of Rivelino, who also worked for Incaventura. Their family is from San Juan de Chuccho, a little village at the bottom of the Colca Canyon, and examplify the new generation of rural mestizo migrants to the Peruvian cities. As an exhibition I saw at a gallery of the San Agustin university said, their parents or grandparents lived a near subsistence existence; while this generation "dances to salsa and reggaeton and is studying computing and English at an institute".

Ayda still posseses a healthy dose of country-girl ingenuity and is subject to restrictively close family ties, but is at the same time very into her clothes and makeup. When Tessy suggested she come on the trip to Sogay, I said that would be great but to make sure to wear some sensible clothes. "It's a trek over rough ground and you're likely to get wet crossing the river", I harrumphed. "Don't think you can just wear tight jeans and flat-soled trainers".

Ayda obeyed my instructions to the extent that she showed up the next morning in leather street shoes and slightly older jeans. But during the walk, although she played the high-maintenance girl ("are we nearly there yet, Simon?"), her country background came out. While I and the tourists struggled along the hot, dusty walk and scramble along the riverbanks, Ayda casually made her way over the rocky bits, across the river, and up the steep and somewhat risky climb to the falls, as if they weren't there.

On Sunday afternoon, we were invited to a "pollada" in the lower-middle class suburb of San Martin in northeastern Arequipa. This is kind of community fiesta, organised by a family or local group, usually held in the street. Fried chicken and beer are served, usually as part of a fund-raising effort.

This particular pollada was supposedly in honour of "la santísima virgen de Fatima", but there was no discernible religious tone to the proceedings - just chicken and beer, plus a performance by a group of mariachis in full costume.

On the way out there, through dusty, potholed streets past houses with peeling paint, I thought that this was one of the less attractive parts of the city, and had a rather depressing feel. But later, as we sat at a table in the middle of a street blocked off by a row of parked cars, enjoying the food and good cheer and laughing at Gerardo's attempts to join a game of football ("no, Gerardo, you have to stand in front of the goal to guard it!"), it occurred to me that these kind of casual, friendly, neighbourhood festivities no longer exist where I come from.

On Monday, which was a public holiday, I took Ayda to eat at La Cecilia, the best known of the typical restaurants to the south of the city at Arancota. These all have big interior and outside patios, and serve huge helpings of traditional Arequipan dishes. On weekends and holidays, they also often have live music.

One of my last trips to Arancota was on my birthday in 2004, and was something of a disaster. I'd picked up a case of food poisoning in Bolivia, and though I'd had a couple of relapses upon eating rich food, thought I was over it.

However, after a long afternoon of scoffing piles of artery-trashing chicharron de chancho (fried pork), litres of beer, and the excitment of the Copa America Peru-Argentina quarter final, I discovered later that night that the bugs in my stomach weren't yet entirely gone. The violent reaction of my metabolism lasted most of the night; it was close to the sickest I've ever been for a short period, as my afternoon's consumption was rejected in, shall we say, both directions. I was eventually cured the next day by a rather execrable "home remedy" cooked up by Hugo to supplement the powerful, unprescribed antibiotics supplied by his nurse technician cousin.

On Monday, though, I suffered no such problems. After being frustrated in my search for lighter items on the menu - arroz con pato and tamales were "weekends only"- I settled for a huge heap of fried chicken. Washed down with plenty of beer and burned off by marathon dancing efforts to the brassy salsa, merengue and cumbia pumped out by the house band, it was all part of a great afternoon.

There's also been several trips to discotheques, and I've rediscovered the joys of dancing salsa, as well as the possibility of going out and doing something other than just drinking.

Today (Saturday) is likely to be my penultimate in Arequipa, and I'm contributing the food and alcohol for another parrillada at Hugo and Lizbeth's place. It's with considerable reluctance that I'm moving on, but I'm just grateful that I've been able to pass such a happy couple of weeks. And I have to remember the original purpose of my trip - more adventure awaits in the jungle.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Mayor and the Engineer

On the ground floor of the municipality there were a confusing series of offices and counters and a lot of people waiting. We had been advised that we had to talk to the mayor in order to get any action. I was fully expecting us to have to take a ticket to wait our turn to talk to a clerk to make a preliminary appointment with the mayor for some days hence.

I was just looking around to figure out in which section we would have to do that, when Ilona simply bowled up to one of the security guards and said that we wanted to talk to the mayor. "OK, just head up the stairs" said the guard. It turned out that the mayor and the chief engineer hold court on Monday and Tuesday mornings, receiving complaints and petitions from their offices on the second floor.

After being directed to take seats by a smiling woman in the public relations department, we didn't have to wait long before we were ushered into the office of the mayor. On hearing that we there to enquire about Villa Ecologica, the secretary sent us in at the same time as a young woman who turned out to herself be from Villa Ecologica.

The woman was called Julita, and she recognised us. "Hey, weren't you guys in the community yesterday?", she asked, smiling. "In a maroon jeep?". She had been one of the people working collecting scraps of rock in the dust beside the track uphill where we had passed in the 4WD.

The mayor and the chief engineer were both robust, jovial men in their forties. Ilona and I were keen to get straight to the question of the health campaign, but the mayor was already in full flow. "You've come about Villa Ecologica, no?", he said. "You're interested in the water situation, then".

We decided to go with the water, given that the chief engineer Salinas, whom Ilona had spoken with previously, was present. "The problem about supplying water just to Villa Ecologica", said the mayor, "is that it would be a major investment for relatively few people. "Any solution needs to be part of an integrated project that can benefit a greater number of people".

But couldn't it be done relatively cheaply, I asked, and explained the proposal of pumping the water over the hill from the river. "Aha, nice idea", replied the mayor. "But it won't work. The problem is that the river at that point is contaminated. There would need to be a treatment plant installed, which as I'm sure know, costs a lot of money".

I said we had been told that there were no farms or anything further upstream. He said that in fact there were several settlements a way further upstream, including a police camp, whose drains were discharged into the river.
"Anyway", continued the mayor, "we have a better plan, which will bring water to a greater number of people. Wait, let's bring in the whiteboard".

During the lengthy wait while the mayor and chief engineer Salinas hunted down a whiteboard and were accosted by various other petitioners, we chatted to Julita. In contrast to the common image of poor, struggling people from marginal zones, she was bright, positive, articulate and well-informed.

She said she was from the northern jungle, beyond Iquitos, and had left home at age 12, arriving in Arequipa through "a long story of adventure". She said the main issue for Villa Ecologica, apart from water, was that the community was dominated by solo mothers and "abandoned women".

"And I admit - I'm one of those solo mothers", she grinned. "But I only have one child. And I don't see why being a solo mother should make me helpless. There's always something to do, some way to advance. If there's no work, you can always find something to sell. But fortunately, right now the council is supporting our work that you saw us doing".

I said that the work looked pretty back-breaking. "Yes, it's hard work, but at least it's regular", said Julita.

She said that one of the main problems in the community was the sheer number of kids, caused by complete lack of family planning. Women didn't " take care of themselves" (cuidarse is the euphemistic verb employed here to refer to using contraception), firstly, because of a lack of information, and secondly, because their husbands blankly refused. "They think that if their wives want to use contraception it's so they can cheat on them", said Julita. "Right, so then they end up with five, six, seven kids. And then, the husband decides to run off, leaving the woman with all the kids".

Julita said some of programmes supported by NGOs "didn't help", by creating perverse incentives. "You have three kids, you're eligible for getting a latrine built", she said. "Four, and they might help you with a new kitchen. Five, and they might provide you with a house. In other words, there's an incentive to be helpless and dependent. If you stick to one kid, work hard, and try to get ahead, you don't get any help".

By then the mayor and the engineer returned with the whiteboard, and the engineer proceeded to provide a layman's account of the project that they proposed. It involved running a new pipeline from one of the main Arequipa pipelines, uphill to a central high point at 2,700 metres. This would involve the installation of two additional pump houses and the construction of a reservoir on top of the mirador.

From there, water would flow downhill to the five or so pueblos jovenes in Selva Alegre. The engineer Salinas drew a detailed side bar of how things would work in Villa Ecologica. To supply water to Villa Ecologica would require a small "regulatory" reservoir uphill from the township, connecting pipelines, and a reticulated network to supply each house.

The whole project was estimated to cost around $2.5 million USD, while the Villa Ecologica section would cost about $600,000.

This all looked great on the whiteboard, we said, but when was it likely to occur? In fact, said the mayor, the first stage - the pipeline uphill from the main Arequipa supply was already fully planned, and the Arequipan provinical government had agreed to finance it. Construction was slated to start within a month. Municipal elections were scheduled for November, and, said the mayor, "people need to see that we've made a start".

However, for the supply to reach the pueblos jovenes, they also needed to do their bit. "You should never", said the mayor wagging his finger, "give people something for nothing. It leads to unrealistic expectations". As a contribution to the planning for the initial stage, each resident of the Selva Alegre pueblos jovenes had been asked to give 3 soles (about 90c US). So far, the only township not to pay in full was Villa Ecologica, which had collected less than half their designated amount.

Julita shook her head. "It's just that the president doesn't mention this in our weekly meetings", she said. "He talks about other things, but misses this stuff out".

In any case, said the mayor, any progress in Villa Ecologica would require an "expediente técnico" or detailed study of the terrain. The estimated cost would be about $12,000 USD. However, this could be reduced if the municipality could get hold of the mysterious plans of the Villa Ecologica residential area, which were thought to be in the hands of Vladirimo, el presidente.

We agreed to renew efforts to get hold of Vladimiro and ask him about the plans. We also agreed that Ilona would go with the engineer Salinas to the civil engineering department at la Catolica to look for students to help with the studies.

After the elaborate explanations of the water situation, we managed to move on to the question of the health campaign. I explained what we had been told at the university, and pointedly mentioned that the municipality of Socabaya has already arranged their health campaign.

"Right, no problem", said the mayor. "We'll write the letter now" - and he went next door to find his secretary. She wasn't there, but to make sure it would definitely happen, we said that Ilona would come back next morning at 9 am, collect the letter, and deliver it by hand to the university.

Our meeting wasn't yet over, as the mayor and the engineer felt like some more conversation. We talked about politics (the mayor was an Aprista; "if Alan is elected this will all happen quicker", he said). We were given an in-depth explanation of a cheap, environmentally friendly drainage system developed in Brazil and Bolivia and being piloted by the municipality in a nearby villge called Javier Herault.

We then moved on to the etymology of the town's unusual, French-sounding name. The mayor explained that it was named after a 1960s, Che Guevara-type rebel, who had also been a poet. "The town is named in his honour for his poetry, not for being a communist", he laughed. Apparently, young Javier had not been much of a fighter. "He used his rifle like a guitar", explained the mayor. "He lasted about five minutes as a guerrilla".

After more conversation, pleasantries, and exchange of contact details, we eventually staggered out into the sunlight, desperate for something to eat. We had been in the council offices over two and a half hours. One thing you can guarantee about Peru - people love to talk.

In New Zealand, I reckon, the whole meeting would have taken about ten minutes.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Visit to the University

On Tuesday Ilona came round bright and early and we headed off in a kombi to La Catolica university. Though she speaks excellent English, her Spanish is rather rudimentary, so as well as getting interesting information, I would be a significant help to her in her various meetings.

A week or two previously, Ilona had been to the university with the idea of seeing whether they could help with social programmes in Villa Ecologica. She bailed up the rector, who referred her to a woman named (as it transpired) señora Angelica in the multidisciplinary Department of Social Projects. When we arrived, Ilona admitted that she didn't know the name of the person, position, or department we were looking for, but that it was "round about here", as we climbed stairways, crossed courtyards and walked down corridors.

Ultimately we did happen upon the right office and person, entering while a meeting was in progress. The señora Angelica broke off to talk to us. Ilona had told me that the university's response had been quite positive when she suggested a health campaign for Villa Ecologica, and she was hopeful that something would happen soon. But when we spoke to the profesora, she explained the situation more clearly.

In order for la Catolica to undertake a health campaign, it had to receive a formal request from a public organization, preferably the municipality. It could not run a campaign simply because we thought it was a good idea; nor could they take a request from an NGO or even from the Villa Ecologica community association itself.

She said that the day after Ilona's visit, they had rung the Selva Alegre council offices to see whether they would put in a formal request for a health campaign. By mistake, they had rung the offices of the municipality of Socabaya - another poor, outlying area. The Socabaya council had been enthusiastic, and in fact their letter requesting a health campaign promptly arrived the next day.

Later, they had tried to ring Selva Alegre again, and had been put through to the Public Relations department, who had said yes, they would pass the message on regarding a possible health campaign. A week and a half later, no further word had been received from Selva Alegre.

The señora Angelica explained that there were two types of campaigns run by the university. The smaller, "focussed" campaigns were run Mondays to Fridays, and included paediatrics, general practice and dentistry / oral health. "Integrated" campaigns were run on Sundays, and included all specialities. In answer to my confession of ignorance, she explained that campaigns consisted in medical assessments, ordering of appropriate treatments or vaccines, and health education and promotion.

I asked what was the role of the Ministry of Health in ensuring primary and preventive health services to poor communities, and she said that the Ministry was limited to providing vaccines.

For an integrated campaign, said Angelica, it was necessary to have at least 2,000 families. This seemed to me to be a rather arbitrary figure, given that we had just told her that there were about 1,500 families in Villa Ecologica. But nothing at all could happen, she reminded us, until they got a formal request from the municipality.

Ilona seemed a bit frustrated that things weren't moving quite as fast as she'd hoped. I told her that such hoops to jump through were only to be expected; not only was this how things worked in Peru, it was typical of all bureaucracies. The only thing for it was to go and hassle the municipality to write their letter of request.

So we headed off in a taxi, with the intention of trying to talk to the mayor of Selva Alegre.

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