July 16 (Thursday)
Peru Travel Diary Chapter 4: Tingo Maria
We arrive at Tingo Maria at 9 pm. I had consulted my guide book regarding hotels, memorising the names of four of them. As the bus rolls into the town I look for hotels and fortunately notice one of the hotels I had noted, the Hotel Palacio. The bus stops a short distance away, so I get my two bags and walk back to it. It has a big courtyard with rooms on several storeys. Although I have almost given up studying Spanish, in order to work on my software, I'm able to talk to the manager in Spanish and to negotiate a rate of 30 soles ($9.24) per night for two nights. The room is OK, has two single beds, wifi and a bathroom, but no hot water.
I'm very tired, but I need to eat, having eaten only a couple of small packs of biscuits and a slice of watermelon the whole day. I want chicken. I go out to look for a restaurant, but don't see any. However, I find two women grilling chicken at a street corner, and I am pleased to get three chicken wings (for 6 soles, $1.85), a few pieces of cold potato and a glass of (something like) orange juice. I throw the chicken bones to a dog, grateful for its luck. I return to my room, too tired to take a shower, and immediately go to sleep.
I dream I'm in some kind of large hotel and I've met a girl, two girls actually, but I have a special connection to one of them. I'm curious about her — she looks European, not Peruvian, but could be. We're all having breakfast together at a table. I go off to find some coffee and when I return she's gone. Next we're in bed together, and things are getting interesting. But then the dream ends.
Wake at 8 am. My bronchitis is a lot better, but not entirely gone. It's raining lightly. I go out for breakfast and after walking around a bit I find a restaurant where my limited Spanish gets me what I want. Me gustaría café con leche, dos huevos fritos y pan con mantequilla, por favor. ("I'd like milk coffee, two fried eggs and bread with butter, please.") Costs just 4.50 soles ($1.39).
I then find a grocery store and buy some instant coffee, almonds and honey. I've brought the electric kettle with me that I bought in Tarapoto, so I can make coffee. The wifi works OK, and I spend the morning catching up on my email.
In the courtyard of the hotel is a big cage with four colorful parrots. They're nice to look at, but a pity that they're imprisoned in the cage. They don't say much. Probably they're fairly bored.
At lunchtime I find a place where I get the menú del día, a tasty soup and a small portion of roast meat with rice and beans, not great but costs just 7 soles ($2.15). Then back to the hotel for more work on my laptop.
I go out after dark and it's raining lightly. I walk to the corner but the chicken wings stall is not there; I assume because it's raining. So I go to the place I where I had breakfast. It's empty — not a good sign. I should have left immediately, but ordered a pollo a la plancha (grilled chicken), which comes as a cold chicken leg in gravy with cold rice. After leaving I discover that the chicken wings place is actually one block further north; silly me.
I have several red splotches on my legs and feet, and some on my back, which are itchy. The could be bed bug bites. But my bed seems OK, so I don't know. But anyway, annoying. Calamine lotion helps the itching.
Raining again in the morning, but it turns sunny later. Tingo Maria seems to have some good places to visit in the nearby countryside, but the town is quite uninteresting. I get a decent lunch of soup and fried fish, and spend the afternoon working. At dinner time I go out and this time I know where to find the chicken wings place.
I go for breakfast to the usual place, though I have to wait a bit for it to open at 7 am, and get the usual huevos fritos. The TV news is showing CCTV footage of the events at the hotel desk where the guy dragged the woman out by the hair, which I saw while waiting at the bus office in Tarapoto. But this time there's more and it's clearer. Not sure if it's the same event; this time the guy is naked. Did he come back again next night? He's also shown after his arrest by the police (with a towel around his waist), arguing with them. He seems to be asserting his right to abduct the woman.
Soon after, the TV shows an incident, apparently not related to that one, where the police are taking a man from a building who is suspected of raping a 13-year-old girl. He is surrounded by angry men who proceed to beat him, then drag him off. According to the captions in Spanish, they lynched him. It seems that vigilante justice is not uncommon in Peru. Thieves who are caught are often beaten, sometimes to death.
The rest of the day is mainly work, lunch and work, though I do take a walk around town; there's nothing to see. At 8 pm I go for dinner to a place I saw earlier which specializes in chicken and grills. It's large, with many tables, almost all occupied. So I wander off and come to a kiosk-restaurant on a street corner, with tables set up outside on the footpath (these seem to be common in Tingo Maria), where I get an excellent grilled chicken breast with chips and salad, and a half-liter of jugo de maracuya (passion fruit juice, my favorite), all for 18 soles ($5.54) — can't complain.
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