Michelle and Charlie's Around the World Trip 2004-2005 travel blog

one of the many dirt highways we traveled

a truck load of people

the wheel broke on the bus soon into the trip

at places the road is washed away

river at the bottom of a 3000 feet descent

lunch stop


lots of reconstruction at Kuelap


There is some more work to be done inside of the city

one of the 2 buildings of the hundred (?) that is already...

the happening town of Pedro Ruiz where we got to spend 2...

our home on the Rio Marañon for 2 days

view from the boat

The bus passangers take the "walk now, live longer" approach when the...

Lunch break. With better magnification we could probably see the bugs that...

first views of Kuelap

The bromeliads certainly don't mind the fog

a local at Kuelap


we have reached the Eastern foothills of the Andes

the lowlands, at last

the port, waiting for departure

the guys are loading the oranges up. hmmm, oranges from the highlands...

the less fortunate "passangers". We felt really bad for them, they looked...

other traffic on the river

good morning




now, that's a real raft

almost at Iquitos. Check out how different the colors of the two...

After Cajamarca our ultimate goal was get to the port town of Yurimaguas from where we wanted to take a river boat to Iquitos, on the Amazon. On route we wanted to stop at the pre Inca ruins called Kuelap. To accomplish this our guide book promised "a long, tiring road trip." Sounds like fun!

Looking at the map it looked like the whole trip shouldn't take that long. Of course the map doesn't show that the roads aren't pave and go through the mountains. The first step was a 4 hour bus ride to a town called Celendin. Within the first 5 minutes the pavement disappeared and it started to rain. We had a front row seat to the action which included lots of turns where all you could see was the cliff next to the road. The driver was quite competent though, so it wasn't too bad. Celendin had nothing to offer as a town except we found the cheapest hotel to date -- 3 dollars. There was also a pick up volleyball game going on in the street (literally, as they hung the net up across the street and had to stop the game on the very rare occurance of a vehicle trying to go through). Unlike Ecuador, here the women were participating, too and they also followed the rules and they were very good players. I'd put my money on Peru in any Peru v. Ecuador volleyball matches.

The next step was a 11 hour bus ride to Tingo. The bus only goes twice a week and for some mysterious reason, it leaves at 11:00 am, meaning that half of it was in the dark. That makes sense -- driving through the mountains, on dirt roads, in the rainy season in a bus that within 30 minutes had to stop to change a tire. No, the tire hadn't blown, the metal wheel part had broken in half. The mountain side that the road was carved into would never be a run a U.S. ski resort unless you signed a special waiver. They were steep. And very pretty and green. Unfortunately, in some places there must have been a government project to install outhouses on the farms and had gotten a deal on flourescent blue siding to build them out of. Kind of ruined some of the pictures. Anyway, the government didn't seem to have any hand in improving the roads, so there was a kid working on the bus whose job it was to jump out every five minutes to clear whatever larger rocks had slid from cliffs above the road. There's no good pictures to show of this ride (which turned out to be 13 hours) but take our word for it that it was a good time (although about 4 hours too long). If it had been a straight road it would have covered about 100 miles.

After waking up the owners of the only hotel in Tingo we got some sleep before going to the Kuelap ruins. Lonely Planet promised "no crowds." That turned out to be an understatement since we saw one single other tourist at the ruins that morning. We payed a guy to drive us up (yet another bumpy mountain road) and wait for us to look around for a couple of hours. The ruins were very interesting and well marked with signs in English and Spanish. They are only partially cleared and the rest is still overgrown cloud forest vegetation. With the mist rolling in you can feel like the first people to discover the site. The only draw back is that there is no single vantage point where you can take in the whole site and there's no big photo op, like Machu Picchu. But there are llamas roaming around...

With two switches in rides we got to a very small town called Pedro Ruiz, which finally lies on a paved road which heads to the east towards the Amazon basin. We were only planning to stay for minutes in order to get a ride further east, but ended up here for almost 2 days. On the way there Charlie suddenly started to feel cold and then clearly had a high fever. By that night he was clearly very sick and we agreed if he wasn't better by the morning we would find a doctor. That morning he wasn't much better so we went to the very rustic doctor's office. They were extremely nice to us and within 2 hours he had seen the doctor, had some lab tests run and been prescribed medications. All of this prompt medical attention cost a whopping $1.50 plus the antibiotics, etc. which cost $4.00. So much for needing travel medical insurance. Within a day he was feeling almost totally better and I was quite ready to move on from Pedro Ruiz which was basically two roads.

We got a bus to Tarapoto, which was hot and humid and buzzing with mototaxi rickshaws. We were "greeted" by about 40 taxi drivers all wanting the privilege to take us into town. It was a very fun ride and we found a decent room right away with our favorite feature, cable television with HBO, a much needed luxury from time to time and since this room was only about $10 well worth the price. We only had one night in Tarapoto but it seemed like a fun city from what we saw of it. I had a fried fish dinner and was a little taken aback when it arrived with the head and all and not looking like what I pictured fried food to look like (ie, breaded and not resembling the creature it once was) but it turned out to be pretty tasty. The next day after some negotiotions with the various forms of transport to Yurimaguas, the river port town we were aiming for, we finally got a ride in a car for the 4 hour bumpy, dirt road trip through the rain forest. It was kind of surreal because the driver had one tape which he played over and over again full of American 80s songs like "Maniac" and other 80s favorites.

Things went surprisingly smoothly once we were in Yurimaguas. We got another mototaxi ride to the port (although they only get gas in 25 cent increments so we ran out of gas on the way and had to walk a little to the nearest gas station) and when we got to the port we found out that a cargo/passenger boat was leaving for Iquitos that evening. We had been prepared to have to wait a few days to find a boat, so this was a pleasant surprise. The boat had three decks - the first for cargo, including bananas, oranges, about 20 cows and various other farm animals such as baby pigs - the second deck for passengers and the third deck also for passengers, but slightly more expensive than the second deck. After catching a whiff from the cattle "car" and seeing the very cramped conditions on the second deck, we opted for the third deck which had a lot fewer passengers. We bought two hammocks and strung them up on the third deck and waited for departure. Not surprisingly the boat left several hours later than we were told, but it was a comfortable evening and despite our expectations of insects in the jungle, we didn't see one mosquito.

The next two days the boat made its way slowly up the River Marañon to where it joins other rivers and becomes the Amazon. Along the way the scenery was very green and the river was wide and brown. Occassionally the boat would stop at the very small villages along the river side to pick up more cargo or passengers, or sometimes cargo would be dropped off from a motorboat. We were treated to three meals a day, and although after seeing the poor treatment of the cows on board I was considering to switching to vegetarianism, all of the meals featured beef so there went that idea. We were also treated to several bad action movies, at least two of which were starring Jean Claude Van Damme who seems to be a favorite here. I found the hammock to be pretty comfortable but Charlie had to switch to sleeping on the floor. It was an interesting trip but by the second day we were quite ready to get off the boat.

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