Rough and Almost Impassable Northern Peru

Full of prejudices, we crossed the border – expecting rubbish, petty crime, and unfriendly people from reports we had heard. But, lo and behold, like a wonder, none of this appeared. Even the customs official suffering under the unreliable intranet with us was very friendly and enjoyed the time spent with a few gringos at a border where something like this is a rare curiosity.
On our way further through the mountains, we passed by small farming villages, and, everywhere, the people living in them beamed at us, waving and calling out greetings. What a great reception! The villages were more desolate and dustier than any we had seen along the way so far, however. Peru is clearly poorer than its northern neighbors. There was not even much rubbish to see, ok, actually none at all, except for a few rubbish dumps and plastic bags here and there in the trees. Just daily life in Latin America, nothing special. As to be expected, there were numerous mudslides on and next to the street. You can only understand what it really means when you read about mudslides in the Andes in the newspaper when you have seen it first-hand.
In Jaen, we picked up Tanja’s sister Natalie, and the five of us continued to explore the non-touristy northern Corderillas. Hot springs along the Rio Maranon, high waterfalls, and the ruins of the Chachapoys settlement of Kuelap are what determined our route. The Cataractas de Gocta at 2,535 ft (773m) are among the highest in the world, and the hike to them along a deep gorge and thick cloud forest at the end was a beautiful way to set the mood for the hiking tours tours in Peru which we have planned. Robert and Carla in their carriers enjoyed the good service, whereby we have to say that Carla trekked a considerable stretch through the mud all by herself (luckily we had been able to rent rubber boots). We felt totally comfortable and at ease in the small village below the waterfalls, and the villagers were delighted with our visit, too.

The ancient settlement of Kuelap towers high about the surrounding area on a mountain crest and, along with Machu Pichu, is considered to be one of the very special ruins in Peru. We could understand why once we were up there. The Chachapoyas had built a small city here, up above the clouds, with a fantastic view out over the surrounding valleys. You can still see the big terraces which they had constructed to level out the slope and lots the foundations for their buildings. The old trees draped in bromeliads and countless flowers in between the ruins combined with the light shining through the patches of mist wafting in the air created a mystical atmosphere. Since we had spent the night at the visitors’ center, we could enjoy this special ambience in the ruins all alone and in peace and quiet the next morning. We didn’t meet any tour groups until we were on our way down again, but the area doesn’t seem to ever be very overcrowded.

In Leimebamba, we dropped off Natalie, so she could start off on a long hike, and then headed on towards Cajamarca. First we took a look through the local mummy museum – in 1997, over 200 optimally preserved mummies were found in the mountains, along with various funerary ornaments – a quite unique discovery. The stretch to Cajamarca was highly praised by many of the locals as being extremely spectacular – which it did turn out to be. What’s more, it was also surprisingly good since it had been freshly paved. First, it led us up to a high pass, only to drop down 8,530 ft (2600m) right afterwards. We had barely arrived at the river when it headed steeply back up again, 6,560 meters in altitude (2000 m). That is more that the Grand Canyon! The scenery was breath-taking – what an awesome warm-up for the drives to come. After several errands in the nice little town of Cajamarca, we set off in the Corderilla Blanca – the high mountains of the Andes.

Private photos are here with the usual password hier.

3 Thoughts on “Rough and Almost Impassable Northern Peru

  1. Carine und Andreas on Wednesday June 4th, 2014 at 03:45 PM said:

    habt ihr den speziellen kolibri von leimebamba gesehen, der aphrodisiatische (oder so) gefuehle verleihen soll (gekocht oder gebraten, oder roh, keine ahnung)

    • Nein, den haben wir nicht erspäht. Könnte mir aber vorstellen, dass im Mumienmuseum die Spuren übermäßigen Konsums zu sehen sind. Wäre dann ein recht schrumpeliges Ergebnis…;-)

  2. Carine und Andreas on Wednesday June 4th, 2014 at 03:39 PM said:

    schoen eure reiseberichte und bilder zu sehen, schoen dass es euch gut geht, weiter so, deutschland wird weltmeister!

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