On May, 23rd, I have entered Pucallpa for the first time. The tropical lowland forest humidity after the first step from the plane welcomed me in Pucallpa, largest, noisiest and dustiest city in the Peruvian Amazon. I had visited some tropical countries before but this was again a different world for its own. The campus of Universidad Nacional de Ucayali was well prepared for exchange students with a special facility nearby their little school secondary forest.
Focus of my investigation was on diversity of bananas and plantains in that area so I went to check the marketplaces shortly after my arrival. There are several big marketplaces in Pucallpa but the current officials are trying to push the salesmen out of the city centre. The biggest marketplace working nowadays is already on the city edge. It was my main data collection place but i went many times to the port as well, which is actually just muddy river bank. It is where boats with daily supply of bananas for the city arrive. Boatmen came mostly around 5 AM before the sunrise with long boats fully loaded with unripe bananas. Those are bought straight on the river bank by local tradesmen. It was nice to talk to those people as only “gringo” in the port, while the sun was waking up. Some people did not want to talk to me at all, caring about their own business, while others were offering me themselves information and inviting me to see their plantations around Pucallpa. Other way of bringing the bananas to the city is through the roads which are getting more and more important as their quality have improved during the last few years. Trucks bring the fruits from areas along the road from Lima to Pucallpa, only big road in that region, straight to the markets.
Except of more than ten varieties of bananas, the marketplaces offered more and less known fruit and vegetables. Some of the rare fruits were coming only once-a-week if they arrived at all. I made some friends on the marketplaces too, some of them still remembering other students from our faculty from the last years.
Preparing a degustation panel with the local students was also pleasant experience despite of being done with smaller time reserve then I wanted.
The banana plantations i have seen were mostly nearby the water source, in this case the river Ucayali. Some plantations , e.g. banana varieties demonstration field in another university, Universidad Nacional Intercultural de la Amazonía, can get very dry during the dry period with no rain when the water level in soil gets lower, resulting in dramatically lowered harvest.
Apart of this, me and other exchange students were taken to Macuya, a forest land managed by the university. In few days they had shown us their practices, agroforestry fields around and also mentioned the danger of invasions when people from other region resettle to new area, like sometimes happens there.
After all I must say this was great experience, both professionally and personally. I am sure I will never forget some particular moments, places and mainly people even many years after finishing my studies with the thesis about banana varieties in the region of Peruvian Amazon.