Published: January 2nd 2010January 2nd 2010
So… we crossed the border into Peru on December 2nd and arrived safely in the city called Jaen, after a long journey of about 14 hours (!), using almost all means of overland wheeled transportation, we pulled off the motorbike taxi near the Cesar Hotel in Jaen and took a deep breath of relief. We left the small village Vilcabamba, which turned out to be a disappointment, with the 6:30am bus to Zumba on the way to the neglected border point La Balsa. We were ‘lucky’ to stop half way at the village of Palanda for their celebration of a 12th anniversary for the region, this hindered us for about an hour and a half with scores of marching bands of children closing the route for their celebrations, and although it was a nuisance to be held up for so long, it was also quite an amazing expreince to encounter. As soon as the road was clear of the marching bands, and as the sounds of trumpets and drums gave way to the sounds of impatient engines, we were back in the ‘outback’ of the Ecuadorian Andes, crossing the wilderness via a road that resembled at places the notorious death-road of
Bolivia. After seven and a half hours boxed up in a 4WD bus, we came back to life in Zumba and hopped on a truck that took us on another hour and half journey to the border point.
The weather was nice, sunny and clear thus we could enjoy a nice breeze - better than the sealed bus - as we crossed some army posts heading down the mountain to the river crossing where the border gates are. If we thought that Ecuador was a mess once we crossed the bridge we realised that Peru has mastered mess. We had to take the border officer out of his bed or shower or whatever reason made him be naked at 4pm in order to stamp our passports, this border point is not much used, but once that was done we changed to a private car (another vehicle) and rallied over San Ignasio. The driver rightly earned his title as the best rally driver we know for his performance on these roads which were little better than farm tracks, not much tarmac around here!. Along the road are amazing mud houses that flamed our imagination with design possibilities as well as
simply excited us as we glanced into them and had a view of how people live in them. The walls are not plastered inside thus they are brown as mud indoors, whilst it works well with the surroundings outside I guess it is quite dark to live in this environment inside. But never mind, we passed them quickly spraying mud all over until we reached San Ignasio and from there in another taxi to Jaen. Jaen looked quite rough, we didn’t like it but by this time of the day we just wanted to stop and have a rest, we were told that the Ceasar hotel is nice and so we headed there willing to splurge over the cost of the room (20$ for the night).
Today after another ‘joy’ ride we arrived in Chachapoyas which is in the Amazonia region, quite a good base for visiting the archaeological sites of the pre-Inca Chachapoya culture or a lovely break before heading to the jungles. We had such a pleasing surprised when we arrived here. Well, first we were happy to be alive because the driver who took us from Bagua Grande was way too tired to drive, especially on
the winding road turning sharply up the mountain with sheer drops on the sides, also the crossing of some of the rock ‘tunnels’ along the river, though a beautiful vision, it was quite scary to get so close to the edge of the rock, and of course the odd passing truck, oh, and the bloody exhaust pipe that blew its dark fumes into the car… we were really happy to be alive and shocked when we saw how black our belongings, our white t-shirts and our skin had turned.
The village Chachapoyas is just about the right size for a 3-4 day stay with an odd daily excursions to the nearby sites: Kualep (ruins) Karajia (sarcophagus) and Gocta (700m high waterfall). The people are friendly, the small square is nice and vivid, full with people of all walks, surrounded by cafes, shops and hostels. At the weekend we are going to visit these sites and hope for the best weather.
There are more photos below