Peru’s North-Eastern Route: Chachapoyas

My trip to Northern Peru is about to begin. I got my ticket to Chachapoyas, the bus leaves tomorrow at 4pm and I should not arrive there until next day around lunch. It’s a shame the airport there is too dangerous and remains closed after the airplane crash there on 2003. I hope the weather, specially the rains are good with me. I leave on the wettest month in the jungle, and Chachapoyas is where the jungle begins, the Cloudforest. In fact the word “Chacha-poya” means “People of the Clouds”, or at least it meant that for the Chachapoyans.

I made a simulation with my backpack, which is huge and heavy (23 K). I’m carrying the tent and rubber boots plus the lap top (otherwise these lines would be impossible) and a lot of other gadgets among my binoculars, camera, ipod, etc. This has made me concerned about the security of these things along the trip. I have to say I have never been robbed from a hostel or on the streets of Peru, ever. But traveling with all this expensive gadgets makes me know in silence I carry a lot of expensive stuff in city streets where few gringos are commonly seen. My other concern is my back and leg, just being recovered from a muscle strain in January that sent me to physical rehab after 3 days without walking.

I do know the area somewhat. My aim with this visit is to organize everything for the tours I’m designing. Do some birdwatching too. Meet with my friends Erick and Matt and help them with their aim of writing a book on Peruvian cuisine and travels. And enjoy it of course. I can say I love the area and I would live there if I could.

I arrived to Chachapoyas today at 3pm. Just before arriving Erick called to say he and Matt  were on their way too from Cajamarca through a different route. They would arrive 2 hours later than me. So I went in search of a hostel for all of us and after checking 8 hostels we decided to spend the night at Hostel Revash on the main square. The price is a bit higher than we expected to pay (25 soles each) but it’s a treat as it’s on the main square and close to everything, it has wi-fi, good beds and a delicious hot shower. The bed is what I’m more interested in after the terrible night I spent in the bus last night. My leg started hurting as it did today even though I have done my exercises.

Chacha Church.

With the boys we visited the main market area and got a menu for 3.5 soles and later walked up to the viewpoint to check the sunset. Just before that we were introduced to a friend of the owners of our hostel, Janet, who owns a restaurant in town with typical dishes. She spent some time talking to us about local dishes and invited us to a “Yunsa” on Saturday, a local festivity held usually this time of the year. A yunsa is like a carnival party where they place a tree, previously cut, and they replant it in the middle of an open area where the party takes place. Sometimes in the middle of a street. Then the tree is adorned with gifts and colors in the fashion of a pinata. The host family usually cooks and gets drinks for all the people, who can be hundreds. There is a band playing and as they music fills the air, the typical food is served and the beers flow, the attendants dance around the tree and they also ax the trunk of it. That’s right, you just read the words ‘beer’, ‘dancing’ and ‘ax’ in the same sentence. But you gotta be clever with your strokes (add that up to the formula) because he or she who brings down the tree has to organise the yunsa party for next year.

The weather is been nice with no rains so far. Chachapoyas is looking beautiful and I can see a few more tourists here than I did on my last visit 2 years ago. Women are very beautiful here, with a beauty quite unique. It has been said by some Spanish chroniclers that among the Chachapoyans there were white or “fair skin” people. Also there’s the fact that the Incans, once they conquered the Chachapoyans, brought here people from other parts of Peru. And then during the Republic, German immigrants came here too, so all that mixture shows on their women here. At least that’s where I see it.

Chachapoyas under an almost full moon.

The trip has begun!

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Filed under Alternative tourism, Backpacking, Birdwatching, Cultural Immersion, Food, Peru, Travel Stories, Travel Writing

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