After staying a couple of weeks enjoying Cajamarca and the hospitality of a friend I felt it was time to hit the road and see something new again.
My trip destination is Iquitos, for that I have to go to Celendin and then to Chachapoyas in order to reach Tarapoto or Yurimaguas and look there for a ship -“barcaza” or “barco” according to whom you ask- and navigate the Marañon and Amazonas rivers to finally reach Iquitos.
This is mostly an adventure trip so some of the means of transportation are the ones andean or jungle dwellers use, keep that in mind when using the bus lines or whatever listed here.
After not getting enough information from the tourist booth in the Cajamarca main square I got a ticket to Celendin in Atahualpa [s/ 10 leaves at 1 PM] There is also Rojas who leaves at 3 PM everyday. My friend liked the idea and came as well. Later we found that there are also combis that leave every half hour or when all the seats are taken.
The Atahualpa bus was old but sturdy; seats were not in the best of conditions but usable. The trip takes 4 hours in a mostly unpaved road. As the weather was pretty good with little and light rain we didn’t have any problems but a flat tire.
We arrived to Celendin around 5 PM. This town reminds me of Caraz -in the Callejon de Huaylas- or to many small Andean towns: white painted houses, wooden doors and balconies, usually carved, people in Andean clothes mixed with other people in occidental ones, hats. Nice to see. Good to be here.
We got a room in Hotel Celendin. Old house facing the main square. s/35 soles for a two-bed room with private bath and balcony overlooking the square. Clean room, a bit on the rough side with cable tv and hot water that took forever to arrive. Literally, it took more than 30 minutes to get hot water off the shower.
In the meantime I went off to check transportation to Chachapoyas.
The buses to Chachapoyas usually leave Sundays and Tuesdays only, one bus per day, so you have to be in Celendin early that day or the day before in order to catch the bus. Nobody knew for sure the times or if there was more than one bus leaving those days when asking in Cajamarca. Due to a problem in the Chiclayo – Pedro Ruiz highway people is using this way and Virgen del Carmen -the only line doing this route- is having buses Mondays and Tuesdays, on top of Thursdays and Sundays sometimes more than one a day. It’s better to ask, but their number is not listed in the yellow pages and the tourist booth girl didn’t know- according to the ticket their number is 076-55 5238 Celendin, Cajamarca. So better call and ask. Fare is 35 soles.
The night was uneventful, this is a quiet town and the most excitement came from the music playing off the stereo of a truck parked at the main square and the people chatting and drinking there. I asked about a disco and was told that the hotel had the best one but sadly it was closed due to having underage people admitted.
The next day I was in for a surprise.
The bus was kind of a mini bus, larger than a combi but smaller than a a normal passenger bus. The problem were the seats and the space, the seats were small for and adult and as the person sitting next to me was the same height and approximately same built as me we were pretty tight as sardines in a can. On top of that the bus had oversold the tickets and there were more passengers than seats, which was promptly solved by handling plastic stools ! Boy I would be in a rage had I gotten one of those seats and paying full price for it. This is 12 hour trip so imagine the heat and discomfort that is usual for these people as they barely complained and accepted this situation asking for more stools instead of a refund.
And the police ? Didn’t see any of it nor a control in the way.
Being the only line going this way and remembering a trip in the passenger train back to Cuzco from Macchu Picchu that had on top of cargo, live chicken and other animals roaming around the same coach as the passengers.. this wasn’t as bad. In the train we had to literally pull the ticket controller and pass it along. In this mini bus the guy was stepping on top of the arm rests and hanging from the small luggage compartments on top of each seat to check the tickets. Picture that.
Oh well, this is also the real Peru mind you.
We had a day with great weather which made the trip safer, as we passed along some very exposed and narrow places. The picture below is the first glimpse of the Marañon river that marks the limits between Cajamarca and Amazonas. And yes, those lines cutting the mountain side is the road. A gentle part of it.
We had some fun though with a girl who had never traveled this kind of roads and never had come to the highlands. As the mini-bus heavily rocked along the potholes and small waterfalls on the way the guys howled and yelled “nos caemos nos caemos!” “ayayyyy” “no llegamos no llegamos!” and the girl cried in dispair and holded onto her boyfriend, cursing him for bringing her to his home town. The soroche and exposed road over high cliffs played a part as well. It was more fun that I can put into words as the expression cannot really translate well into english or my poor mastering of this language is not enough to express them.
More later as using windoze and exploiter in a spamware ridden cabina is a biatch.