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

From Huanchaco to Cajamarca – Leymebaba – Chachapoyas – Kuélap – Gocta – Tarapoto – Yurimaguas – Amazon river boat cruise to Iquitos and Leticia (Colombia).
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 IV: From Peru on the Amazon river till Colombia

Read Part I, Part II and Part III.

Once in the deep heart of the Peruvian northern Jungle, there is no way back :-) Unless you want to take all the busses back to the coast. But who wants to return on already travelled paths?


From Chachapoyas I went to Tarapoto (another few hours on a bus) and then followed the route to Yurimaguas. This busy town in the Amazon is the shopping hub of area. Everyone from unknown villages or dusty settlements along the road will have to stop by here to buy and sell whatever he needs or think he needs. Picture it as a combination of the big Bazar in Istanbul (but open air), Tuk Tuks from Bangkok and masses from some inner city in India. In a few words: it is a fucking busy town! But it is exactly what you need to prepare your trip on the Amazon river for the next days!

The AMAZONAS! How many years did I dream of this stream that makes other rivers in the world look like a mere tickle! Its unknown cultures, indigenous people and wildlife. A world, so different from what we are used to, even though we are travelers. I was so ready for this epic journey!


To travel on a local river boat (lancha) is a unique and very local experience. Don’t expect finding many gringos on your way, but many smiles from women and hours of starring from men (vice versa I guess if you are guy).

As there is not a lot of (useful) information in the world wide web, let us give you some advice on how to make your boat cruise a unique GOOD experience instead of a frustrating disaster!

Do you bring …:

  • time?
  • flexibility?
  • a big smile?
  • adventurous spirit?
  • not being afraid of dirt, roughness, eye contact and local languages you will not understand?
    … then this is for you!


Where to start:

Every road leads to Rome, every riverboat going east goes to Leticia! You can travel from Ecuador and Peru to Colombia and Brazil along the rivers (Amazon and arms).

How to book your ticket:

Once in your starting point of dream, ask a Mototaxi (Tuk Tuk) to bring you to the port.


Famous are the EDUARDO boats (PERU – COLOMBIA). I went on one. Ask around those guys at the port (of course you don’t go there at night!) for the captain of the next boat to … wherever you want to go (Amigo, done encuentro el capitán de la próxima lancha a Iquitos?). Talk to the captain, and only the captain!


Usually from Yurimaguas to Iquitos or Iquitos to Leticia, boats are leaving every day.

Some boats leave actually on time (like mine), but I heard from delays of several hours up to several days, so be flexible).

Got it? Lets start shopping!


More about food: 

Your ticket includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. BUT: basically, 3 times per day is served the same: rice, some undefinable kind of meat in salsa and maybe bread for breakfast. They cook with river water (once you’ve seen the amount of trash and fecalia disposed to the river, you might consider fasting for three days). Specially for vegetarians: bring you own food! I was ok eating the rice (solo arroz, por favor!) but pimped it with veggies I brought.


What I brought: 

  • carrots, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber and some limes for my food.
  • Apples and Oranges
  • Cookies and nuts
  • bread
  • and: Freshly made peanut butter! Ask around in the market where to get a pot of delicious peanut butter for only 1 Dollar!
  • WATER (bring enough to drink, brushing your teeth, washing your hands, I brough a canister of 6l + a 1liter bottle to refill)

TIP: wash all your veggies in advance, on the boat you will only have access to river water!


What to bring:

  • The most essential item is your hammock! Your bed and living room for the next days! Buy a hammock instead of renting it (should cost you a max. of 10 dollars, tying rope included)
  • It is loud on the boat, bring earplugs to sleep
  • a thin sleeping bag, it gets colder during the night
  • toilet paper
  • a book, your journal
  • music


Extra tips:

  • Sleeping in a hammock means all your luggage is placed on the floor under you. To avoid stealing and getting wet, buy one of those plastic potatoes sacks to wrap your backpack. Locals use those so your luggage will not be too obvious. And it gets really dirty and wet on the floor!
  • Have a small bag with your important belongings (PASSPORT!!) always with you!
  • Stealing can be a problem especially when stopping at little villages when many vendors come to the boat


About the mosquitos: as you travel in the middle of the river, mosquitoes are no problem! But you will find all kind of other bugs such as cockroaches, spiders …


What else to say? I LOVED my journey! 3 days in a hammock fly by watching the meditative green and brown of the river and jungle passing by. Most of the time I didn’t even listen to music or read my book, I just watched my surroundings.

If you like off the beaten path, go for it!

by: Isabel Gür