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John and Mandi

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Behold, Our Eyes See Beauty, Northern Highlands, Peru

Jun 12, 2018
by John
in: Peru

How interesting that we find ourselves being called to the mountains, instead of the coastal places we are accustomed to. Ideally, we prefer a combination of the two, probably why we love the Caribbean islands as much as we do. The green, the air, the lushness of life. It is so comforting, the rushing waters, abundance of the living. Even though we had arrived during an unusually long season of rain, the northern highlands of Peru touched us so. The beauty, the resilience, a calling of home.

What We Did

La Balsa: Ecuador to Peru Border Crossing

Not a popular border but the one that placed us exactly where we wanted to start exploring Peru. Our intention was to arrive with plenty of time to beat the long lunch closure that started at 2:00 but the drive from Vilcabamba took us around 5 hours. We also ended up giving an Ecuadorian soldier a ride to a nearby base with all the food, water, and sundries for everyone stationed there. Reaching the first customs office at 1:15 had us a bit anxious, especially since the office was empty. Wide eyed wandering gringos must mean something, minutes later we were both getting our exit stamps and having the van's TIP cancelled.

Rushing to the Peruvian side we parked and bee lined for the customs office getting 183 days on our tourist permit. The van took the longest as the Aduana agent wasn't the most proficient with modern technology. No matter, he eventually had us type the remaining information into the system before he checked the van's VIN and hurriedly printed then stamped our TIP...lunch time had begun. Elated, we jumped in the van and rushed through the gate to enter Peru. Later that evening we asked each other if we checked how much time we received on our TIP, we were never asked how long we wanted. In a tizzy we pulled out our paper work to find the van somehow was given a full year!

Huembo (Marvelous Spatuletail Interpretation Center), Amazonas

Our first night in Peru was spent in San Ignacio parked at El Gran Hotel for 20S ($6.13). It was a good place to perform our usual border crossing activities such as getting Peruvian Soles, a SIM for our phone, and vehicle insurance. After wandering in and out of every SOAT location we happened upon, no one was willing to sell us the required insurance, we eventually triumphed. It took almost two hours of waiting, we were told it should take 10 minutes, but the helpful Rimac agent seemed to have called everyone in the company she knew to get us one year of coverage for 85S, $26.07. We don't plan on spending one year in Peru but at that rate who really cares?

Sorted and stocked, we drove to the Marvelous Spatuletail Interpretation Center to free camp outside the gate for the night. Ever since learning about the marvelous spatuletail we knew we had to visit the center, also known as Huembo. Entrance cost 25S each ($7.67), not exactly cheap by Peruvian standards but worth every single penny. Witnessing the spectacle of the spatuletail was phenomenal. Out of the two viewing areas we preferred the covered one close to the highway. We were so enamored we returned a week later to catch another glimpse of the male with his beautiful tail. The Utcubamba Valley is the only place the spatuletail live.

Huembo, Amazonas, Peru

Sugar makes you fat

Huembo, Amazonas, Peru

Show off

Huembo, Amazonas, Peru

Stop your bird doggin

Huembo, Amazonas, Peru

Don't cast stones

Huembo, Amazonas, Peru

Enough water for everyone

Huembo, Amazonas, Peru

The guards here take their jobs very seriously

Huembo, Amazonas, Peru

Stick, stupid

Huembo, Amazonas, Peru

Why is this extra creepy?

Huembo, Amazonas, Peru

That one keeps following us

Huembo, Amazonas, Peru

Can you flip burgers with those?

Huembo, Amazonas, Peru

Marvelous indeed

Candamo, Amazonas

A chance encounter at Huembo had us parking in the grassy lawn of Estancia Candamo. The agreement was all we needed to do was purchase a meal and we could camp, like we can resist an onsite restaurant (6S - 18S, breakfast - dinner per person). Hugo and Marlena were exceptional hosts, Hugo taking us along with other guests to hunt for the elusive Cock on the Rock on his family's adjacent property one morning. Coming up empty handed, his dog Chicharron the culprit, we had a wonderful time exploring the property, a waterfall, and the onsite coffee processing facility. A couple days later, Hugo and Marlena took us shopping at the local market and we visited neighbors who had suffered damage from a landslide. The amount of rainfall was well above normal, preventing us from visiting many of the places we had intended. We spent four nights on their property, trying most of their available dishes for an average total cost of $6.14 per day, in hopes that the rain would cease. Unfortunately it continued so we said our farewells after deciding to just push further south. The region around Candamo is stunning and full of archeological and natural wonders. We expect to return one day to spend more time with our friends and to further explore the region.

Candamo, Amazonas, Peru

Still too early to drink it

Candamo, Amazonas, Peru

Oh look, more rain

Candamo, Amazonas, Peru

Schizophrenic weather

Candamo, Amazonas, Peru

Nope, still not ready to go there

Candamo, Amazonas, Peru

Someone's got it figured out

Candamo, Amazonas, Peru

Where's all the rain you been talkin about?

Candamo, Amazonas, Peru

Looks amazing you lying bastards

Candamo, Amazonas, Peru

Hands off you grubby gringos

Candamo, Amazonas, Peru

Get a room

Kuelap, Amazonas

After failed attempts at the giant waterfalls of Yumbilla, a landslide prevented access, and Gocta, due to the constant rain, we took the scenic drive along the Uctubamba river to visit the pre-Inca ruins of Kuelap. During the drive Mandi caught sight of parrots nesting in the cliffside so we pulled over for a much needed break. That night we parked next to the Jherly Hotel in the town of El Tingo for 20S ($6.13). Instead of driving to the ruins, we decided to visit them via the newly completed cable car for 20S each ($6.13), catching the first car. The ruins themselves, also 20S each, were still a decent uphill walk from where the cable car terminates. Our early start made us the first visitors to the park, wandering around for over an hour by ourselves before taking the return ride back to El Tingo. The day was cloudy, living up to the reference of the ancient civilization as the cloud people, and we enjoyed the hike and the surrounding flora. At a total cost of 80S ($24.54) for the two of us, we do feel it was a bit expensive for what it was. Our experience probably would have been much better if the grounds crew didn't have their equipment, gasoline, and debris scattered all over the site. They were also tossing the clippings over the side from the top, adding to a giant mound against the outside wall that is obviously creating a problem for the structure.

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

Just need a tube and a cooler full of beer

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

That's one proud parakeet

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

It might clear up today

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

Hmm, maybe that trinity thing has some merit

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

It's so gray it looks blue

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

You should have planted kale

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

It's the meaning of life

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

Fire the designer, shit doesn't match

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

Not worth the price due to the view

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

Someone was trying to outdo everyone else

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

To the keep

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

You'd think it was spring

Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru

Proving the moisture content, doubters

Revash Mausoleums, Amazonas

Driving further along the Uctubamba river to the town of San Bartolo was one of the most beautiful drives of our trip, of course it is also one we didn't record with our GoPro. We arrived in the afternoon, it was raining, so we opted to hike to the Revash funerary complex the next morning. We attempted to park in the two designated areas recommended by the park employees, one was too small and the other was extremely muddy and unlevel, before parking on the small town square for an unbelievably tranquil night. Entrance was 10S per person ($3.07) and we opted for a local guide for another 25S ($7.67). We were told a guide wasn't necessary but we knew hiring one was the best way to help the local economy. He was quirky, definitely a fan of his own humor, but a really fun guy that made for a great morning. Visitors can no longer get close to the funerary complex, it has suffered defacement, damage, and several people have fallen off the cliff side used to access them. It is a beautiful site, one of our favorites so far.

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

Much stronger than most

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

Still not tired of this river

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

Are we ever going to get there?

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

Maybe how we'll build our future home

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

Crazy place to keep your dead

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

Is this why the gaveyards are so fancy?

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

Circle circle, dot dot

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

Permanent housing

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

Screw the mummies, this would make an awesome summer home

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

Playing with toys

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

Not sure what these have to do with it

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

Just add butter

Revash, Amazonas, Peru

The way in is always the way out

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas

Leaving San Bartolo fairly early, we drove to Leymebamba to visit the well known mummy museum. It was raining when we arrived so we parked in the lot and wandered across the street to the KentiKafe for coffee and lunch. The cappuccinos were good, the sandwiches crappy, the real treat were the hummingbirds including a shy female marvelous spatuletail. We were unable to get a photo of her but are still very happy that we got to spend some time sipping coffee while she made sporadic appearances.

The museum, 15S each ($4.60), was much more than we imagined. While the mummies are phenomenal, the other artifacts on display were equally so. We spent over an hour in the little museum then ended up finding a couple local hand made purses we couldn't do without in the onsite shop. While getting some soles from the van I noticed a familiar overland vehicle, the owners also spent time parked in Villa de Leyva at Juan and Mariev's house! Soon we were chatting away with Nick & Angie. Eventually, we went our separate ways expecting to run into each other in a day or two, we drove about an hour out of town and free camped on the bank of a river.

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas, Peru

Got pots, no heads

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas, Peru

Sew, a needle pulling thread

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas, Peru

I'd pay 50 soles for one of those

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas, Peru

What's with the mini spear?

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas, Peru

Evolution of the monkeys

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas, Peru

Elongated skull...the missing link?

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas, Peru

Our next dog is gonna be hip

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas, Peru

Bring out your dead

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas, Peru

I swear that one is looking at us

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas, Peru

It must have been really scary

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas, Peru

The netting makes them much more bearable

Leymebamba Museum, Amazonas, Peru

Grandpa fell asleep again

Ventanillas de Combaya, Cajamarca

Our last stop in the highlands of Peru was the rather large town of Cajamarca. We arrived a day earlier than we had planned so we spent over an hour searching for a place to camp, being told exorbitant prices, before reaching back out to Ricardo at EcoRural to see if there was room for us to come early. No problem, except for the fact that his yard was completely saturated, making for a calculated parking job. At 25S per night ($7.67), it's nice little haven complete with WiFi and hot shower. Ricardo is a mechanic with an onsite shop, making it easy for us to sort a couple small things on the van. One of the bolts holding our fuel filter housing was missing and we needed a new spacer for one of our sway bar links. Both items were easily sorted while Nick & Angie were working on their own van.

After spending a couple nights we left for the Ventanillas de Combaya, hoping to possibly also catch Cumbe Mayo. What we expected to be a 30 minute drive, took over an hour, not exactly the best for a later than usual start. The ventanillas are free so we wandered around a little, deciding not to hike all the way up to them. The site is unregulated, meaning visitors can pretty much do what they want. Being archeological enthusiasts, we opt on the side of caution, hoping to help preserve the archeological treasures that still exist. The site is very large and wonderful, maybe one day it will be managed and protected.

On our way back through town we were unable to locate the route to Cumbe Mayo, twice reaching a dead end on a single track, many other times unable to drive up the stairs our mapping software insisted were roads. Eventually we gave up, driving to a large shopping center to resupply before heading back to EcoRural for another night. Once Ricardo heard about our failed navigation attempts he pulled out his phone and showed us the only possible way through town. If you are thinking there should be signs, those disappeared tens of thousands of miles ago.

Ventanillas de Combaya, Cajamarca, Peru

At least it's paved

Ventanillas de Combaya, Cajamarca, Peru

That hillside has holes

Ventanillas de Combaya, Cajamarca, Peru

Windows to the soul-less

Ventanillas de Combaya, Cajamarca, Peru

Looks like a modern apartment block

Ventanillas de Combaya, Cajamarca, Peru

What's behind door number 1,242?

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca

Leaving early, we decided to try the route Ricardo gave us at least once, before scrapping Cumbe Mayo entirely and heading straight for the coast. A couple hours later we pulled into the lot, paid 5S to park, then 8S per person to enter ($6.44 in total). The engineering aspect of the park was underwhelming, the setting quite breathtaking, the hike decent. It was raining, surprise, so we slipped and slopped around taking it all in. The petroglyphs were our favorites along with the local farmers in their absurdly tall hats, sorry we don't have a picture but we think it's rude to take a photo without permission. Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

Not very promising

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

You crawl into the dark ass crack

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

It says one of us will not survive

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

Maybe it's another magnetic circle

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

Some kind of valley of death

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

All this shot needs is a rubber ducky

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

1,000 years ago they knew to build bridges, not walls

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

Hell of a place to carve a canal

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

It's much smaller in person

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

It's slaughtering time

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

Every carver wanted to leave their mark

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

Does that filter out the bacteria?

Cumbe Mayo Aqueducts, Cajamarca, Peru

End of tour, please take small children by their hand


Say what? (4)
george
Jun 12, 2018 at 07:05 PM
Cheers............looking great, so amazed at your talent to negotiate your way!
Jul 4, 2018 at 08:22 AM
Thanks George!

Our trick is to keep the van pointed south ๐Ÿ˜‰
Lissa
Sep 13, 2018 at 06:47 PM
Hi John and Mandi - wanted to let you know
Lynn Furiato died of a heart attack in her sleep - sept 10. Doug her husband of 40 years had just died of colon cancer on sept 1. Karen is still recovering from her own open heart surgery laug 2017 -

Glad to see you 2 are still alive - Lissa
Sep 14, 2018 at 07:06 AM
Hey Lissa,

Thatโ€™s very sad news โ˜น๏ธ. Give everyone our love and make sure Karen fully recovers. Life wouldnโ€™t be the same if I couldnโ€™t rile her up anymore. We love and miss you guys. My old phone number is still working ๐Ÿ˜‰. ๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜
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