The Blue Lagoon

16 Oct

IMG_2988 copy (blog)

On Saturday, fellow volunteers Armandine, Rod, Yun, and I took the two hour ride over ridiculously bumpy dirt roads and one river crossing via ferry to the town of Sauce.

This rather remote and undeveloped area, once a bastion of the Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Path”) terrorist group, also boasts the large, picturesque Laguna Azul (“Blue Lagoon”).  We had come for this, the pleasant breeze, and the relaxing and tranquil atmosphere.  I also got a taste of the unexpected:

Video: I jump into the lake from a cliffside platform over 45 feet high (video updated 10/17, 9:08pm)

Might as Well Jump

Boating on Laguna Azul; the platform I jumped off of

Arriving late morning, a little too early for lunch, our first order of business was to get on a boat for a tour of the (surprisingly vast) lake.  We wound up spending 1.5-2 hours boating around, making the occasional pit stop on shore or on an islet, eating raw tropical fruits off the tree, watching fishermen cast their nets, and also in my case, kicking around a football (soccer ball) with a couple of young local kids.

Fisherman casting net from shore on Laguna Azul

The highlight of the day though came as our boat passed a cliff on the shore from which, at a reported height of 14-15 meters (45-50 feet), a large wooden platform jutted out.  “El Trampolino“, as it was called, beckoned the daring or foolhardy to jump.  So the question was posed to the group on our boat — 4 American volunteers and a dozen or so Peruvians — and after much discussion and cajoling, there was only one willing idiot.  So… I did what you see in the embedded video.  Yelling “Voy con Dios!“, I jumped!

In the late afternoon, after we took a quick peek at what passes as Sauce’s town center, Armandine and Rod decided to head back to Tarapoto with our driver in the rented pickup truck.  So Yun and I checked in to bungalows at Puerto Azul, where rates were 1/4 those charged by the gorgeous Sauce Resort–the latter an incongruously luxurious palm-tree-lined compound with prices I hadn’t conceived of as possible in rural Peru.

Sauce Resort

We immediately decided to cool off by jumping off the dock at Puerto Azul, and lolled in the water until the sun began to set.  Later, after dinner by the lake and putting away most of a bottle of wonderfully creamy and delicious coctel de cafe (a Bailey’s-like local specialty) we retired to the porches outside our little hotel bungalows, books in hand (a hefty paperback I borrowed from Armandine; Yun with her Nook e-reader making me realize how much I need one here).  We sat reading until the flying bugs drove Yun inside.  Not long after, I beat a retreat when I could no longer tolerate the sight of a spider the size of my palm lurking a few feet away.

The Mysterious Don Pollo

The next morning, my alarm blared at 5:15.  Yun and I had wanted to catch the sunrise over the lake, and so had asked our hotel proprietor what time the sun rose here.  His answer of “6:30” didn’t seem quite right, and asking a few other locals there didn’t yield any more convincing answers, so we thought we would get up extra early just to be sure.  Of course then, when I stepped out of my room expecting to squint into the inky darkness, I was instead greeted by a bright sky in which the sun had obviously been up for quite some time.  Fail!

Being up that early already though, we went for a pleasant morning walk, which took an interesting turn when we came to a fenced-off path whose fence we decided to circumvent.  Hardly had we taken a few steps more when a laborer from afar stopped and hurried over to interrupt us.  Apologetically, he told us this was the private property of one Don Pollo (best name ever), and that we could not pass.

Peruvian Five-Oh

So, after a quick breakfast and settling our hotel tab, Yun and I caught a mototaxi to the Sauce colectivo station.  We had been rather wary of how this would work out, having had the previous bad experience in Lamas, and suffering through a tumultuous ride here in a rented pickup truck.  To our very pleasant surprise then, the colectivo we took today turned out to be great: a smooth ride with a very competent driver, and for a price of 15 soles a person, cost us 1/5th of what we had paid to get here.

I even managed to sleep for part of the ride.  The one bit of excitement we did have on an otherwise quick and uneventful trip back to Tarapoto was when we came to a police blockade on the highway.  Our car was pulled over to the side, and identification was demanded of all of the passengers.  Luckily for us, when I explained that we were Americans, Yun and I were left alone.  The driver and the other two passengers had to step outside, and they were searched, as was the trunk of the car and their bags.  Awkwardly, we had to watch as one of the Peruvians who didn’t have his ID on him had his shirt lifted and was led off down the road for a lengthy interrogation by rifle-toting cops.

Luckily, after 6-7 minutes which had started to grow a little tense, we were allowed to continue on our way.  The remainder of the ride was peaceful, save for the brief moment the driver had to pull over to douse water all over our overheated engine.

A good weekend!

View from the road to Sauce


4 Responses to “The Blue Lagoon”

  1. nj October 17, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    that water looks less clean than the potomac, but probably due to mineral deposition and not runoff from dan snyder’s yard.
    your don pollo scene sounds like something out of the godfather, where some chap in a hat and a gun slung on his back warns you that you are entering mob territory…and then he rigs your car with a bomb.

  2. mshofnos October 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Sauce is an awesome town name. Next time, I want to see you do a swan dive off el trampolino.

  3. Belén October 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    Te hemos perdido….

  4. AA October 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Oh no! It’s the orange shorts!!!

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