Cajamarca to Huamachuco

Friday we left Cajamarca and took a bus to Cajabamba. The bus was full and very warm. It was about a three hour ride. From Cajabamba we took a very full collectivo over a bumpy road to Huamachuco, about a 90 minute ride. 

I’ve picked up a head cold so Saturday I pretty much rested all day in our hotel room. 

Something I have seen several times in the past few days is women walking down the street knitting! I’ve also seen a couple of women spinning wool into yarn while walking!!

Probably the most memorable thing about Huamachuco is the topiary in the main square.

Our first night in Huamachuco we stayed in an ok hotel called the Hotel Santa Fe but our room was right over the street and it was very loud. The second night we stayed in a wonderful hotel called Mama Wasi. 


Today was a rest day. We took our clothes to the laundry and studied where we want to go tomorrow. 

One sight I wanted to see was el Cuarto del Rescate, the Ransom Room. When Pizarro the Spanish Conquistador captured the Inca king the Spaniards agreed to release the king if his subjects filled a room with gold once and silver twice. The incas did this and the Spaniards still killed the king. Tradition is that this Inca room in Cajamarca is the Ransom Room. 

We also visited the cathedral and the archaeological museum. 

We are staying at the Costa Del Sol right next to the church above. At dinner last night we met a couple from Quincy, California which is not far from Reno. This afternoon we had drinks together and shared stories of our travel adventures. 

Leymebamba to Cajamarca

Today we rode 150 miles in two very comfortable modern buses. It took us 8 hours! We started at around 7000 feet elevation went up over a 12,000 foot pass then down to a river at 3,000 feet then up over a 9,000 foot pass down to a 5,000 foot town and then up over another 12,000 foot pass. Peru’s mountains have to be experienced to be believed!

The road was almost all just one lane. It was breathtaking  to appreciate how the driver dealt with tight switchbacks and on coming traffic. 

The bus spent almost all its time between ten and fifteen miles per hour.  I am ready to rest and spend two days in one place. 

Chachapoyas to Leymebamba

Tuesday morning we caught a collectivo to take us to the little town of Leymebamba. It is only 37 miles south of Chachapoyas but it took us two hours to get there winding our way through the Utcubamba River Canyon. We stayed at the absolutely wonderful  Kenti Tambo Lodge. We had a big open room up in the trees with a balcony.  The balcony has two comfy chairs and a hammock. 

There were lots of hummingbirds. 

Across the street from the lodge is the Museo Leymebamba which was built in 2010. They have exhibits about the inhabitants of this area over the years. The main purpose of the museum though is to house the more than 200 well preserved mummies that were found on a cliff overlooking Lagunas de las Condores near here. You can’t take pictures of the mummies but they are in a climate controlled room with a big window. 

We had dinner at the lodge. We started with appetizers next to a roaring fire. The meal was the best of the trip; Quinoa, sweet potatoes with a cinnamon glaze, roast goat and a bottle of wine. It was cozy and magical. 

Hiking to Gocta Waterfall

Today we hiked to Gocta waterfall. It is 2,529 feet tall and is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world.

To get to the trailhead we took a collectivo to the junction of the dirt road leading to the trailhead then a taxi from there. Our collectivo had a flat tire so Duke got to have a discussion with the other passengers while the driver changed the tire. One of the passengers asked Duke “Is Donald Trump a racist?” Duke said” I believe so.” Then I got to use the two phrases I’ve been practicing. “Él es una vergüenza nacional” and “Tenemos que volver para votar!”

The hike was Just over there miles esch way. The weather was very humid and I think I sweated about a quart. My hair was dripping wet at the end of the hike.  But the rain forest and the falls were worth it.

When we got back to Chachapoyas first priority was a shower. Then a steak and fries really hit the spot.

Our Adventure to Kuélap

Yesterday we consolidated our stuff into one suitcase, checked out of our hotel, left our second suitcase with the people at the hotel and caught a collectivo (essentially a shared van) towards the ruins at Kuélap 45 miles south of Chachapoyas. 

Kuélap is an immense pre Inca city built 1000 years before Machu Picchu. The ruins sit on a ridge at 10,000 feet. They have a commanding view in all directions. It’s about a three hour ride to get there and two thirds of the ride is on a narrow steep dirt road. 

When Duke was here in 1979 the road didn’t exist. He and another guy climbed up for five hours to get to the ruins and when they got there they were the only ones there, no tourists, no locals, no one!

We decided to break the trip up and spend the night at Choctamal Lodge about half way up the dirt road. We were the only ones staying there. We could see Kuélap in the distance. It at the top of the far ridge in this picture. 

These are pictures of the lodge and our room. 

We knew there was no food service at the lodge so we bought bread, cheese,  crackers and peanuts before we left Chachapoyas. We walked about 20 minutes down the road to a village and bought two bottles of beer. Then we sat an a blanket and had a picnic outside our room. 

This morning we had to wait a couple of hours but we finally got a ride the rest of the way up to the ruins. From the parking lot we walked up about a mile. 

The first thing you see is the walls. Fodor’s Peru says “the city of Kuélap is surrounded by a massive defensive wall ranging from 6 to 12 meters (20 to 39 feet) high.”

There are only three narrow entrances to the city. Here we are climbing up one entrance with our guide. 

Inside our guide showed us the different areas of the city and stressed that none of Kuélap has been reconstructed.

After walking back down to the parking lot we managed to get a ride with a tour going back to Chachapoyas. On the way there was discussion between the young man who was the guide in the van and some German tourists about whether the cable car they are building to allow visitors to avoid the long dirt road is a good thing. 

Now we are back in Chachapoyas at our hotel. We will decide our plan for tomorrow when we see if it is still raining in the morning. 

Chiclayo to Chachapoyas 

Last night at nine we caught an overnight bus to Chachapoyas. There was a stewardess welcoming us onto the bus. After we left she served tea and box dinners of chicken and rice.  Our seats were on the top level. The bus was full but the seats reclined to 140 degrees so they were pretty comfortable. I slept, listened to music on my phone, read, and woke up periodically to look out the window. There were a lot of trucks on the windy road. This morning we woke up in the mountains. 

Chachapoyas is at 7600 ft and we started at sea level so we were going up all night. We arrived at Chachapoyasat about 7:30 got our bags and walked to our hotel. The roads were muddy so we might have been wiser to get a cab even though it was only about eight blocks. 

The Hotel let us have a room immediately and after settling in we went out to find coffee. While we were sitting on a bench in the park a nice looking young man sat on the branch across from us. You could tell he wanted to practice his English. He was sixteen. He said he wants  to visit the United States and he loves English. He was in Chachapoyas to take a math exam. If he did well he will be able to go to Lima for school next year. 

We made plans for tomorrow. We went to the collectivo (van) station to figure our how we could get  to the ruins at  Kuélap tomorrow.  It sounds like we can get a van at 2 in the afternoon. We will spend the night in a guest house near the ruins. I’m guessing we won’t have Internet. 

We also explored Chachapoyas. We bought some bread. The vegetables in the market were beautiful and I found a great yarn store. 

Our hotel is beautiful and our room is impeccably clean but it is cold. The  weather is overcast and rainy. When we are walking around it is warm enough but our room is like a cave and it is cold! We napped and read all afternoon snuggled together to stay warm. 

We had dinner at a great restaurant Duke found on Trip Advisor. We talked to a lady from Switzerland who is on an extended trip through Peru exploring on her own. In the picture below you can see Duke’s beef hanging from a little clothesline. We had great soup and as an appetizer a plantain cooked with peanuts and cheese.  They also gave us complementary test tube drinks. While we ate we watched a kitten dart from place to place as she surveyed her territory.