The Triple Frontier

Trip Start Sep 09, 2006
Trip End Aug 18, 2010

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Sunday, December 10, 2006

The fun thing about travel is that you get to cross an interesting path every now and then which gives you the privilege to make the claim that, "Yes, I have been there" or "Yes, I did that".  In all reality it just allows you to be a better Trivial Pursuit player and win the yellow pie wedge quicker than your buddy.

"The Triple Frontier" or "Tres Fronteras" classifies as one of those "cool places on the planet" that that we can happily add to our list of "cool places on the planet" which we've been to, and lay a claim to it.  It's a border area right in the middle of a remote stretch of the Amazon River where the frontiers of Colombia, Peru, and Brazil meet.  And, it was here where we were able to jump around freely between countries for a couple of days and finally say with pride that "we had Breakfast in Colombia, Lunch in Peru, and Dinner in Brazil in one single day."  Fun stuff.  Or maybe you just had to be there to understand.

Tabatinga, the Brazilian side of this tri-border area was the jumping off point of our marathon 7 day, 6 night cruise up the Amazon river (see previous entry).  How happy we were indeed to have finally disembarked and landed on solid ground.  It was here where our travel companions split into 2 groups, those that were moving on into Colombia (the 2 of us and our Canadian friend Eric), and those moving into Peru (the rest of the bunch).  Unfortunatly, it was also here that we were forced to bid a fond but sad farewell to Brazil. 

Leticia, the Colombian frontier town, and the southernmost town in the country, was our destination and the place where we spent the next few days recovering from our boat trip.  Our plan was to set up a flight out of the Amazon and into the capital, Bogota, so that we could overland it quickly into Ecuador and meet up with our friends who were going to be visiting us from Canada in a week and a half's time.  Tabatinga and Leticia are basically one city divided by a line.  However, the 2 are very distinct in their own right.  Leticia proved to be the nicer of the two border towns. With tree lined streets, parks and better accommodation, it offered us a nice rest stop, and an intro to the rest of our trip through South America, more precisely an intro to Latin American Spanish culture.  And thankfully, we had Eric with us who had spent a month in Colombia earlier on in his travels and knew a thing or two about this foreign land we had just entered.

So we spent some time here and converted our remaining Brazilian Reals to Colombian Pesos, got screwed converting our remaining Brazilian Reals to Colombian Pesos, replaced the Portuguese J sound for a true Spanish H sound in front of words like "Jorge", or "Jose", learned to count to10 again in a different language, figured out how to order a Coke (the fizzy stuff, not the white stuff) and realized that not knowing how to count to 10 and order a Coke really makes you feel like a total loser.  But, it was a nice change to see signs written in Spanish, and in a sense, we kinda had a head start knowing quite a bit of Portuguese from our time in Brazil.  The 2 languages have many similarities and this helped tremendously.
We were also lucky to be there during the Triple Frontier´s singing festival which we affectionately termed  "Tri-Border Idol".  Singers from the three communities congregate each year in Leticia and compete to be declared the top singer of the Triple Frontier.  Believe us when we say that the talent pool in the middle of the jungle is sort of shallow.  Nonetheless, it was a good way to spend an evening in Colombia.

Travelling back and forth between Brazil and Colombia during the day required the use of mototaxis.  A fun and cheap way to travel, the mototaxis of the frontier out number any other motorized form of transport.  While returning from the Brazilian side to the Colombian side on one of these, our moto driver stopped a few hundred meters short of the international line which is always guarded by military from both countries.  We asked the driver why he stopped.  He just replied "Policia, necessito cambio", which basically means because of the Police we must change.  Confused, we just watched the driver take off his red motorcycle vest labelled with advertising from Brazilian companies, put on a blue vest that identifies him as a Colombian driver, and insisted we put on his spare helmet.  "Huh??"  Turns out Brazilian taxi drivers are not allowed to take fares into the Colombian side.  So, to counter the law, they "fake out" the cops and make themselves look like Colombian drivers.  And since the Colombian law requires the use of helmets, thus the reason for the quick safety measure.  Strange indeed, and quite hilarious when looking back on it.
Santa Rosa is a tiny rustic village that sits on the opposite bank of the Amazon River and is the Peruvian border town in the triple frontier.  Just the basics here, being the poorer of the 3 towns. Its tiny population of a few families go about their way tending to their fields, animals, restaurants, and Peruvian tourists who have come from the big city to experience some Amazon adventure.  Our lunch date in Peru involved a short motorized canoe trip across The Mighty Amazon to the border village.  Eric and the two of us spent a lovely day walking around the community watching children play futebol in the fields and run about naked through the grass during the many rain showers we had throughout the afternoon.

Later, we decided to relax a bit and grab a cerveza and a bite to eat at a riverfront restaurant run by a local family.  Interestingly, the family has turned the place into somewhat of a zoo.  In captivity, they have kept a couple of monkeys, colorful species of Amazonian parrots, and in a large box, a dozen or so snakes including a boa which Eric and Ashif got to know a little better. 

Oh yeah, and lunch was a special treat.  Eric introduced us to the South American delight known as Ceviche (pronounced say-bee-shay).  A large plate of fresh, raw seafood comprised of crab, shrimp, fish, and calamari, and octopus.  The seafood is marinated in lemon juice, salt and chili peppers, and is tossed with loads of chopped onions and parsley.  It is served at room temperature often with cancha (toasted kernels of maize).  The marinade used in ceviche is citrus based, with lemons and limes being the most commonly used. In addition to adding flavor, the citric acid causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, which pickles or "cooks" the fish without heat. The result tastes more like a cooked dish and less like raw fish preparations such as Japanese sashimi.  Delicious and healthy!

In the end, the 3 of us left "Tres Fronteras" on an Aero Republica flight out of Leticia to Bogota and eventually landed in the southern Colombian city of Cali.  We bid farewell to our Amazon riverboat friends and for the time being we said goodbye to the Amazon Rainforest and the River that kept us afloat for the past 10 days.

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