Chachapoyas -> Leymebamba -> Celendin -> Cajamarca -> Cospan -> Cajamarca -> Huamachuco
Total Miles Covered So Far: 2900
3/4/17 - 3/17/17
Chachapoyas to Cajamarca
The ride to Cajamarca was really amazing. Huge canyons that would switch back and forth from tropical to desert every 20 minutes and then eventually into about 4 hours of mountain passes the first two hours being typical green Andes mountains and intermittent fog/clouds that would bring visibility down to like 10 feet which is pretty scary on mountain roads with hundred+ foot drops, half the time without guard rails. The clouds were also weird becuase this area had probably the best views I’d ever seen in my life, but when you hit the clouds you mine as well have been anywhere because you couldn’t see anything besides what was right in front of you. And I would kind of forget where I was and then in 20 minutes the clouds would break suddenly and I’d see the views I was surrounded by the whole time and it would blow me away. The next two hours turned into a complete desert witch nothing but red sandstone but still really mountainous which was really cool. I got my first sight of the flooding which i had started to hear about when I crossed the river at the bottom of the mountain which was normally like 20ft above the river but now was a couple feet from being washed away.
I stopped in a tiny town called Leymebamba for lunch wich had a musuem with 30-40 real incan mummies just hanging out there which was pretty crazy to see and then headed to Celendin. I was pretty soaked by the time I made it to Celendin so I got food, went to sleep, and woke up at 6 am to get back on the road and made it to Cajamarca by 1pm.
Cajamarca was a large modern city by Peruvian standards which means maybe 100k people and a majority of the building were finished modern buildings with roofs and windows. Like everywhere else in the north east Peruvian Andes it has a ton of history. The Incan empire actually ended in Cajamarca in the 1500’s when Emperor Atahualpa was held captive there, ordered to fill up his jail cell to the ceiling with gold as ransom for his release and then executed a couple days later by the Europeans becuase they already had all his gold. The room is still there and you can go in for a couple dollars. Every single town in Peru has a central square called the Plaza De Armas and Cajamarca’s was by far the nices I had seen with tons of original colonial architecture. The whole town is covered in churches and buildings from the 1500’s and 1600’s and there are a couple major ruins outside the city.
The other cool thing about this area is that there are alot of traditionally dressed Kechua people in the city and in Cajamarca they have a regional style of making their straw hats extra tall wich is pretty cool. I got a couple pics of them but I try not to take to many pictures of people becuase it’s always awkward.
I really liked it in Cajamarca and I found a nice clean relaxed hostel which was the first I’d seen in Peru so I stayed for 5 days. I went out with the hostel owner and some other people to some local bars, some of them which seemed like they were just houses that people were serving homemade booze in and some of which were western style bars dive bars with live music which isn’t common in South America so it was pretty surprising to see it there. There was a hilarious and pretty terrible Spanish speaking Rage Against The Machine Coverband one night.
Failed Attempt to get to Chiclayo
The other reason I took my time in Cajamarca was because the flooding in Peru had gotten really serious at this point with major cities feet deep in water and the major highway completely washed away in dozens of places spread out over the entire country. This is pretty crazy to think about becuase Peru is maybe 1/3 as big as the U.S. and the flooding was spread out over a huge portion of the country which is hard to imagine. Hundreds of people died and I saw an estimate that it left 700,000 people homeless so it was really serious although I heard it wasn’t heavily covered by the American media (surprise surprise).
This made it hard to travel because there was no up to date info on which roads were out and people would just make stuff up about what roads they thought were bad which in reality just meant no matter what road you asked about the person would just tell you it was totally unpassable without having been there.
I headed out toward Chiclayo on the coast (the hardest hit area) because it was about 10 hours quicker to get to my next destination of Huaraz that way then going straight south through the Andes. I hadn’t learned my lesson about not trusting google maps and just put Chiclayo as the destination and headed off. It took me into the middle of nowhere in the mountains and what google had listed as a 4 hour trip was clearly going to take 8-10 becuase I was less than half way three hours in at 2pm. All the locals I asked later said that the route maps recommended was more than twice as long as another way.
I decided to stop when I found a tiny town in the mountains called Cospan. This town had maybe 300-500 people and had a single Hospedaje (kinda hotel but really just someone’s house) which was absoutely disgusting. I got drunk becuase there was absolutely nothing else to do there and ate ritz crackers for lunch and dinner becuase the only restaurant in town wasn’t open that day, and waited to get tired. I put my tarp down over the bed, covered the pillow with a trash bag, and slept in my sleeping bag on top of the tarp. It was that dirty. Even being drunk wasn’t enough to make me fall asleep because I was so grossed out there so I basically just sat awake till 5 am and then packed up and left. This turned out to be an awesome decision because the weather is way better in the Peruvian Andes in the morning and it was the best sunrise I’d seen in my life. From that point on I started waking up to ride much eaerlier.
Everyone in town said the roads to Chiclayo were completely impassable so I drove back to Cajamarca which was much faster in the good weather and went back to the same Hostel and slept the whole day. I spent another 5 days there trying to get information on online Motorcycle Travel forums and decided to head directly South. I also met a bunch of cool travelers including to Swedish guys who were traveling on Motorcycle as well and had been through some major flooding areas.
I made it to Huamachuco early that day with no issues which was a relief after all the trouble I’d been having. Huamachuco was a pretty typical mid sized Peruvian town with maybe 20-50k people but seemed a bit nicer and cleaner than most of the others. There was an American/ European style cafe in the square which is pretty rare in Peru. Like every other town, the area outside is littered with ruins which I got to check out on the way out.
Google Maps said I had 16 hours to my next destination Huaraz which I decided I’d try to split up over three days but I knew up front that these were going to be really hard days. Huaraz was the closest big town to where I was and that was 16 hours away which meant I was going into the middle of nowhere and basically everyone was telling me that every single road was bombed out and totally impassable which I knew was mostly untrue but had a grain of truth to it. Some other travelers who I had met in Cajamarca and who had just hitchhiked from Huaraz had strongly recommended to avoid one of the roads on my planned route becuase they said it was really remote and when people who are hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere tell you your travel plans are a bad idea it makes you pay attention so I did some research on the roads and found what I thought was a better option and headed off for Huaraz.