A travel into the Peruvian north – off the gringo path – Part II

From Huanchaco to Cajamarca – Leymebamba – Chachapoyas – Kuelap – Gocta – Tarapoto – Yurimaguas – Amazon river boat cruise to Iquitos and Leticia (Colombia).PN2

This series is about a trip the the less travelled paths of northern Peru. It is about Pre Inca cultures, indigenous people, friendliness, new friends and encounters and slow travel on the amazon river till the border of Colombia.

Part II: From Cajamarca to Leymebamba: 

It is 4:30am, with only one eye open I crawl into my seat direction Leymabamba! One of the most dangerous and spectacular streets of Peru is waiting to be safely cruised for the next 8 hours. On this narrow windy road, the bus is zigzagging its way up and down the hills and some parts are so steep and narrow that you can only hope the driver knows those curves better than his wife ones!

FotoWhenever a truck is approaching us and we have to set back, you can literally see the pebbles falling down the gorge under our wheels! Together with 2 other Gringos from Belgium, Indra and Maxim, we make the best out of the trip. At lunch time we stop at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere and have a big plate of rice and beans and a soup for only 1 dollar.

DSCF7649Most people go straight to Chachapoyas, not stopping in Leymebamba. But this unknown village holds so many treasures and a real off-the-beaten-track experience!

Leymebamba gets my heart immediately after arriving. Its’ charming little Plaza de Armas (name for the main squares in most of the Latin countries) is surrounded by old houses and the obligatory church. The only hostel listen in internet is actually closed now so we find a familiar hospedaje with a room for three and the cost of 2,50 per night. It is smelly and hot, but the linen are clean and who cares for the rest, right?

DSCF7671A 10 Minute Mototaxi ride or 30 min stroll uphill one of the best Museums in Peru is located. El Museo de Leymabamba! It is settled in a beautiful garden with all kinds of tropical plants and consists of more than 200 mummies and their burial offerings recovered in 1997 from the Laguna de los Cóndores by a salvage Project directed by Centro Mallqui. Explications are mostly in English and Spanish, some even in German. They also hold a collection of mummies which have been either sacrificed or died naturally.

Across the road you find the only option to get a real espresso and some delicious brownies sitting in the colorful garden with colibris flying around in their search for nectar, the Kentikafé.

On our way back through the village we are the main attraction of the day. Kids come to play with us, everyone is so friendly and welcoming!

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Leymabamba is the starting point to visit the ruins of Revash. But asking around in the village we heard from some unknown ruins called La Congona which we could do during the morning and take the afternoon bus to Chachapoyas. Sitting over a sandwich de queso y un cafe (Nescafe, the typical taste you will get!) the next morning, we meet Nick who is cycling since two years from Alaska on his way to Tierra del Fuego. He decides going with us so we end up in a car bringing us till the end of the road. I recommend you not to take a mototaxi for that part as it seemed quite impossible already for our car. To get a car, go to Plaza de Armas and ask someone there. They will call a friend with car who will take you there! Should cost about 8 Soles pp.

DSCF7659From there we follow a path up for the next 1,5 hours through the mud until meeting a campesino who introduces himself as Onessimo, owner of La Congona. For a small tip of 5 Soles he allows us to enter his property and even walks with us to explain and show us arround. It is truly amazing!

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And obviously unknown. He shows us the way through dense undergrowth and indicates where are the houses, walls etc.

It is similar to the Kuélap architecture.

DSCF7698How comes no-one knows about this hidden treasure I ask Onessimo. Well, I bought the land 30 years ago, known as Congona land because of this plant Congona (showing us the plant) growing everywhere here. Obviously no-one knew about the ruins and only 15 years ago I discovered them. They a waiting for some european or US NGO getting interested in the case to clean and open them. Onessimo would even be allowed to tear them down as he is owner of the land he keeps going. But his wish is to preserve them and open one day a sustainable tourism project here on his land. I am stunned! Peru has so many ruins that the government is not even interested in preserving them all. I have never seen such a green landscape and hills laying so gently around a valley.

He invites us to his little hut, offers us some cooked choclo (corn) and we pick fresh granadilla (a maracuja like fruit, my favorite one here in Peru) from his trees.

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We start our way back to have lunch before the 2pm bus. Just when we are back in town it starts raining cats and dogs. What a lucky group we are!

After lunch we find ourselves again in a bus, this time direction Chachapoyas, capital of the Amazonas region!

How to get there:

From Cajamarca to Leymebamba two daily buses are leaving: 5am and around 5pm. Highly recommended to take the early bus, the ride is to spectacular to do it in the dark (and actually too dangerous as well). Takes 6-8 hours.

From Leymebamba to Chachapoyas: The bus from Cajamarca stopping in Leymebamba will go on to Chachapoyas. Leaves when it arrives, around 2-3pm and takes3 hours.

Museo Leymebamba

Av. Austria s/n, San Miguel, Leymebamba (a 10 minute drive or a half-hour walk from Leymebamba). Open Monday-Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, or by appointment. Closed December 25 and January 1. Phones: (51) 971104909, (51) 971104907

by: Isabel Gür