Feeling like Indiana Jones – On the traces of the Chachapoyas in Peru

Before we could feel like a real adventurer it was quite a long way. First it was the end of my single traveling, because my brother Stefan and his friend Stephan (alias Chef) should be my future companions for the next 3 weeks. The plan was before to go directly to Peru to have some chillout days on the beach, because it should be vacations for my attendants and I tried my best to let them feel like that. But before I want them to see something from the Ecuadorian culture and we did a stopover in the beautiful city of Cuenca in the Andeans of Ecuador. It was a quite tough for them to go with a jetlag over a 3300 meter pass in the mountains to stay one night in Cuenca (2500 meters) and that’s why our city tour was not that long and we spend more time to drink some local beers (that’s culture too!!) and sleep. Sleeping was not the best because as we figured out later, next to our hostel was a Karaoke bar… Wow and you cannot bargain with the taxi drivers in Ecuador! I never had this before, you tell the them price you want, they say no, you say – ok lets do the ride for the price you said – they say no, I am not going to take you and leave! What’s that?!

Worst border crossing and surf and fun in Peru

The way to Peru wasn’t that easy. First, our bus to the border town of Ecuador to Peru collects every human being even for a ride of 5 minutes. The bus was so full, that people had to stand in the bus, which is very unusual in Latin America if you take a modern direct bus line. And the bus driver was again crazy, passed by other buses in curves and before hills just to collect people before them. Quite a nice start for my brother and his friend. They must thought  – how should we survive this trip?! Than there was the most stupid border in front of us. Normally you go with a bus to the immigration office of one country, cross the border by foot, go to the immigration office of the other country and continue your trip. At this border it was different. The immigration office of Ecuador and Peru both where out of town and we needed almost 2 hours to finally cross the border. The border itself was a street market, where every car had to cross on their way on the Panamericana highway. But we survived that and our reward was a nice beach and an even better hostel in Máncora, Peru. The hostel was like a palm tree garden with hammocks and small bamboo houses one minute from the beach. For the next 2 days we relaxed, surfed and swam and tanked some power for the long bus ride to the Peruvian Andeans, which should be one of the worse I had…

The long way to Chachapoyas – we ended up somewhere else

The guy in the ticket office in Máncora recommended us, to take the 6 hours night bus to Chiclayo and take then a bus to Chachapoyas, which should depart frequently. Well the first part was cool, six hours in a half bed bus and we arrived at 5:30 in Chiclayo and hundreds of taxi drivers bothered us even before we got our luggage. We took one of them and he told us that there is no bus to Chachapoyas in the morning, only in the afternoon. There are two buses to Chachapoyas passing Chiclayo in the morning, one of them we almost got, but the bus driver could not take us, because for this bus we should have purchased tickets before – come on! We could take another bus in 90 minutes to a city next to Chachapoyas, which was okay. But they told us right before the 90 minutes where over that this bus is not coming because of a strike in Lima and the next bus comes in 3 hours. We had no choice. Chiclayo was nothing special and we spend most of the time waiting for the bus, which departed finally 30 minutes late. The beautiful girl from the bus counter left her number and a message on my ticket, that was the only thing which made me smile. Because after 20 minutes bus ride we had to wait almost 2 hours until they finished packing the bus, which was over packed with machines, chicken, beds and cupboards of the roof of the bus. When the bus was leaving finally I was so pissed that I felt to sleep and after 10 minutes a clown stands in front of us, doing stupid tricks and spoke so loud that I was close to hit him, but somehow I couldn’t beat the clown… After 12 hour stop and go, letting people in and out the bus we arrived at 11 in the night (normally it should be at 6…) and we could take a shared taxi to Chachapoyas. Inside I was speaking with the driver and another girl about the things we wanted to do in this region and we figured out, that its better to go to a small village of Cocachimba, which is on the way and next to the third largest waterfalls we wanted to visit. We went there on a 5 kilometer dirt road and when the taxi driver left we figured out, that the whole village (100 people) was sleeping. Finally one guy of a hostel woke up and let us in to his house. We were super tired from this trip – 24 hours on the road. And we felt asleep immediately. From now on we should have some great times in the Andeans…

When I looked out the window the next day, all the stress of the previous day was gone – the village is in the middle of the mountain, the sun put the mountains in a yellow color and the rooster of the village agreed that its time to wake the people up. From Cocachimba it is a 2 hours walk to the Gocta waterfalls, with 711meter the third highest of the world. A hidden treasure, only a few tourist find their way to this unique part of nature! After a great time in this area we finally went to Chachapoyas, the capital of the state Amazonas and called like the people Chachapoyas, which ruled this Andean area before the Inkas and the Spaniards came…

On the traces of the Chachapoyas

From Chachapoyas we started a three days trip through the mountains. We hired a guide (we all forget his name) and went to Karajía, a wall in the mountains where several sarcophagi of famous warriors of the Chachapoyas are buried. An impressive place. Some of the sarcophagi had a scull on the top, the head of their enemies. It was the first time we felt a bit like Indiana Jones. In the middle of nowhere we discovered this mysterious place. After that we went to another village where a river goes with impressive curves through the landscape. Cows and horses browsed on the incredible green grass and we were the only one there! Magnificent! From the village which was on 2800 meter we hiked over a pass and then down until our first night camp on 1800 meter. On the way our guide showed us a small path into the forest and we found a huge Chachapoyas village hidden in the forest. Wow! What a great feeling! We walked on small path between walls of an age of 1600 years which where undiscovered in the mountains for 400 years. Really, that was one of the greatest moments. Parrots where flying through the tree tops and the four of us where happy! After this unique experience and a 16KM walk we reached exhausted a small village where a beer and great food was waiting for us.The next day we had to hike 31 kilometers! We didn’t know that before and when our guide told us, that we first have to go from 1800 to 3300 meters we weren’t sure if we can make that without any damage! But we were doing well, the start was quite hard and some of us started to get problem with breathing after a while. I was in a better shape and took the backpack of my brother on mine because he hurt his leg a bit and needed longer. That’s brothers love, carrying 15Kg on 2 backpacks to the top…  😉 We discovered this day again some Chachapoyas ruins which were more destroyed, because cows used this place as place to look for food. Stupid cows. After 7 hours we reached the top. It was cold and we were tired and absolutely not in the mood to hike the 10 kilometers down to the village where we were supposed to stay. With the last power we reached our hostel. 31 Kilometer hike in this altitude is not that easy. This time our hostel was really not the nicest one. The rooms looked like a prison room and the beds were made of straw. But it’s part of the adventure! We only managed to eat the dinner and drink a beer and we felt into the hard bed. The night was cold and because of a stupid dog who barked more than one hour load and annoying…

The last day of our trek we were not that fresh after the last night. We went by car to the impressive Chachapoyas ruins of Kuelap. The capital of the Chachapoyas empire was a big stronghold with walls with more than 30 meters height. On the top were ruins of several circular houses which is typical for the Chachapoays culture. Because of tourism didn’t reached this area we were again the only ones on this spectacular place. It was quite, the wind was going with a soft breeze and the lamas were chilling like the lamas did 600 years ago. After we got all the information from our guide we went back to our hostel and the guys had gunie pig for lunch, a unique experience in Peru. I already had one in Cuzco 4 years ago and I got not the most tastiest one, that I decided to take the fish. It was better, because we had a crazy taxi driver who drove us back to Chachapoyas. He needed one hour less than the normal time, was racing on small cliff streets and passed over cars and drucks on dusty streets. We screamed and laughed and that might be the reason why the taxi driver drove even more insane. But again we survived.

Now we are back to the coast, waiting for our flight to Cuzco via Lima. The north of Peru is a real experience, a pity that we didn’t had more time. For everyone who plans to go to Peru: Take some time for discovering the north! You will fell like Indiana Jones, like a real adventurer….More pictures here: http://mathias-travelblog.com/lang/en-us/galery/?album=TheNorthOfPeru

Mathias Written by:

One Comment

  1. 8. June 2012

    AMAZING!! Dude! I’m really impressed with your trip, it’s just awesome! I didn’t know about this Chachapoyas culture before. I must read about them. And I will remember them if one day I’m in Peru. It must have been a great experience to be in an amazing place that hasn’t being converted to a touristic hub, like Machu Pichu. So sad that you had to experience the horrible stopping bus, but then you still had an amazing trip with an overwhelming 31 KM trek. Keep enjoying your Peru trip, and hopefully your brother and his friend can enjoy Latin America, it’s food, it’s culture, and it’s women hahaha.

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