Km 13 572
After a rest day in Trujillo, we set off for the Amazon. But the first surprise is already waiting for us when we leave the casa ciclista: a French family with tandems riding in the opposite direction from us. We have a lot to tell each other and good plans to exchange. We decide to have lunch together and visit Chan Chan in the afternoon. The largest adobe city in South America is richly decorated and inspiring, as are the conversations with our new friends “On prends le temps DeM”. After a test ride on the tandem for Matthieu, we part, sad that we are already going our separate ways. We drive north, first on a small road between sugar cane fields, then on the highway between sand dunes. Shortly before the city of Chiclayo, we turn onto a quieter road towards Cajamarca. Here we return to the Cordillera. The valley is very green and offers us a nice campsite by the river. But we have to climb up to more than 3200 m altitude before we drive a bit down to Cajamarca. We are in the region of the dairy cows. There is a lot of yoghurt and cheese, a dream for Matthieu. The fields and the mountains are very green, it reminds us a little of the Alps. We continue uphill before descending to Celendín, where we admire the monument in the form of the typical hat worn by the women here. Another small mountain pass has to be crossed before we descend to Balsas at only 850m. We arrive in a stifling heat. Luckily there is fresh coconut water to drink to cool us down and mango trees to give us some shade. There are literally tons of mangoes for sale in this small village. They are loaded in crates onto trucks to be taken to markets all over the country. We just find our happiness on the ground under the trees by the roadside. There is plenty of immaculate fruit, sweet and juicy as we could wish for! Officially, we are already in the Amazon, but we still have one last mountain pass with a 2700 m altitude difference ahead of us to arrive in the Chachapoyas Valley, our destination. It is only 11 am, but the heat is already overwhelming. We can hardly wait to get further up into cooler spheres. We make good progress and the kilometres fly by quickly, then the big drama: a link of Kati’s chain breaks. There is nothing we can do. We have to go back down to the village and hope that someone can repair the chain or take us to Leymebamba, a bigger village on the other side of the mountain range. The village is so small that we don’t even know if there is anyone with a bike. A few people know about motorbikes and how to repair them. They don’t have the right tools for a bicycle chain, but they are inventive. They use a hacksaw to cut through the broken link and then close the chain with a cut nail and a hammer. It’s not ideal, the nail hits the cassette every time and the first two gears are no longer usable, but at least Kati can ride again. However, it will not be possible to manage an ascent of 2700 metres. We try to hitchhike and an already fully loaded truck gives us a lift. On the back of the truck there are already about 10 other people, several bags and boxes and a number of animals: Cows, sheep, pigs and a box of chickens. But we can still find a small space for us, our bikes and our bags. The road is very winding and we wonder how they managed to carve it into the rock. From the roof of our loaded truck it is even more impressive and scary than on the bikes. Arriving at the mountain pass, we get out. We spend the night in a small closed hut at the side of the road and are thus protected from wind and cold. The next day we cycle comfortably downhill, now we are in the Chachapoyas Valley in the region of Amazonia.
1300 metres downhill, there are worse ways to start a cycling day. At the bottom, in the village of Leymebamba, we treat ourselves to a good fresh fruit juice. Then we drive to the village of Yerbabuena to have lunch. For the afternoon we had planned a short hike to the ruins of Revash, but the weather seems to want to change our programme. We are at the beginning of the trail on a small covered bridge where we have stored our bikes when it starts to rain heavily. At least we have a roof over our heads and can take a nap. Half an hour later it still hasn’t stopped raining, but we decide to start hiking anyway, otherwise we won’t have time to get back before dark. It is wet and muddy, but our rain coats keep us dry. After an hour and a half uphill, we stand in front of the mausoleums that have been dug and built into the rock face, it is impressive. In the meantime it has stopped raining and we can also enjoy the view over the valley during a short break. Then it is already time to go back down. Shortly before nightfall we are back in Yerbabuena. Luckily there is a small hotel for the night.
Today we visit the ruins of Kuelap, a fortress built on a mountain by the Chachapoyas culture between 900 and 1400. It is 30 km to the foot of the mountain, which lies in a valley along the river, so the km fly by quickly. To get to the ruins, we play the real tourists and take the cable car instead of hiking. But since we haven’t slept well, we lack the motivation for a 10-km hike steeply uphill. Besides, the cable car is beautiful. It crosses a deep valley and is the only one in Peru, so we didn’t want to miss the experience. The ruins are on the edge of a rocky cliff and the only accessible sides of the fortress are surrounded by 20m high walls. From here you can see the whole valley and the surrounding mountains. We walk among the remains of small round houses on several levels (above for the elite and the military, below for the common people), some houses have beautiful stone ornaments. But nature is taking over its prerogative on the site. Trees and grasses grow in abundance between the stones and we also meet 2 alpacas. For us, this adds to the charm of the place. Back in the village below we eat something and go shopping. We still have a short drive down in the valley ahead of us, where we get our daily dose of rain. Fortunately, when we put up the tent, it is dry again.
This is already our last day in the Chachapoyas Valley. We finish with a hike through the jungle to the Gocta waterfall. We drive a few more kilometres in the valley through a beautiful canyon, then we take a gravel road up to San Pablo de Valera. A few errands and off we go. The beginning of the trail runs between coffee, banana and sugar cane fields. Then we leave the cultivated surroundings and enter a tropical forest on the side of the mountain. The stone path is well marked, but beyond the path the vegetation is dense. Moss covers the trees, orchids grow on the branches. We walk on quickly, we want to get to the upper waterfall to have lunch there. We can already hear the water, then we see the upper end of the waterfall between the branches. One last steep wooden staircase, then we are there, right in front of the first waterfall over 230m. The water crashes onto the rocks below us, the drops of water fly into our faces. We are all alone, how lucky we are. We take a few nice photos, then walk to a viewpoint further down as the next tourists arrive. After admiring the waterfall up close, we sit down on a bench some distance away to picnic and enjoy the view of the valley. There are several large waterfalls throughout the valley. We walk back almost 2 km before turning off to another viewpoint: Here we can admire the waterfall in all its glory of 770 m in two stages (the upper waterfall of 230 m, which we saw up close, and the lower one, which plunges 540 m into the valley). This makes it one of the largest in the world. We could stay all day, but at the first drops of rain we leave. Luckily we had our rain jackets with us so we stayed dry on the way back. When we arrived at the bicycles in the veranda of the community centre, the rain turned into a downpour. We were lucky! We let the worst pass and then set off for the last kilometres in the valley to Pedro Ruiz Gallo. Conclusion: The trip in the Amazon was rainy, but we loved it!
To see all photos, please click here:
From Trujillo to the Amazon