I was asked by the President of the Yorkshire Ramblers Club one of the oldest walking, climbing and caving clubs in the UK, to organise a meet in the Chachapoyas area, I discussed with Rob Dover, my son, various options and decided the Northern Peru Adventure Trek would be suitable.
Expressions of interest soon rolled in and by April I had a party of 11, all over 60 years old, paying the deposits. So in July the party gathered in a Lima hotel and caught a luxury bus to Chiclayo where we were met by Rob and his assistants and left immediately to visit some of the ancient archeological sites on the coastal plain (Ventarron and Tucume plus the Royal Tombs Museum). The next morning we travelled to Chachapoyas over the lowest pass over the Pacific/Atlantic watershed in brilliant weather.
Then our acclimatisation walks started, first to Gocta reputedly the third highest waterfall in the world, and then to Kuelap, on the only day we had any precipitation at all and then only drizzle. The citadel of Kuelap never fails to impress however many times you visit and after recent excavations and restoration is even better.
The real trek started at Leymebamba as we left our packs at the horseman’s house to load the pack animals and after a visit to the Mummy Museum we started hiking to Tajopampa, a farm at just over 3000m where we were to camp for the night The tents were already erected and hot water soon available for the Englishmen’s essential – tea. A telescope was set up to view the tombs and pictographs on the rocky face of the Petaca cliffs. We then followed up the valley passing more cliff tombs reaching a sheltered place surrounded by ancient terraces where to our surprise lunch was set out on a table, with tablecloth, and chairs, thus setting the standard for the rest of the trek. We then continued to a high camp with Condorsamana, the highest mountain (4335m) in the Department of Amazonas, in the background.
We then followed the trail over 2 more passes to our campsite in a field above Atuen where another horseman with pack horses brought us fresh food from Leymebamba. After descending to the Atuen village we rejoined the Inca road which traversed the highest pass at 4100m., again with perfect views all round. We had a long somewhat rough descent to the campsite. Just one more pass before the descent to the campsite below Vira Vira, a large Chachapoya site on an exposed ridge, which we explored the next day before some of the party went successfully trout fishing with the horsemen.
The last day of the trek was a long one, returning over the pass and descending by a beautiful lake where lunch was served to us. After we contoured round a long valley descending to a river before a 245m climb to the last campsite. Here the next morning we left most of the crew and the bus driver arrived to take us to Cajamarca, and a hotel with large thermally heated bath present in each bedroom. After a day exploring round Cajamarca and a celebratory dinner we all headed off the next day in different directions.
What made the trip special to me was from leaving Leymabamba to reaching Cajamarca we saw no other tourists – we were well of the beaten trail and away from it all.