Getting to Chacapoyas in the Amazonas department of Perú isn’t the easiest of expeditions but it’s well worth the hours on public transport. Visiting Chacapoyas is more about using it as a base for the nearby pre Incan ruins of Kuelap to be honest.
Ok so getting here from San Ignacio just after the Ecuadorian border: first you have to get to the terminal in San Ignacio and hop on a collectivo to Jaen (S/.15 and about 2 hours); you then get in a moto taxi (S/.1.50) to bring you to where you get your collectivo to Bagua Grande (S/.7 and about an hour and a half). Then you go from Bagua Grande in another collectivo (just outside where the last one drops you off) to Chacapoyas which takes another 2 and a half hours and costs S/.10. You’re dropped off about a block from the main plaza in Chacapoyas. We decided to stay at Chacapoyas Backpackers (S/.40 for a double room). The fantastic staff really made this place for us. We booked our guided tour of Kuelap here for S/.30 (that’s $10).
We took a bus from Chacapoyas at 8am for the 3 hour journey to Kuelap…which John described as a cliff-hugging ride of death. Dramatic much? Anyway, it was pretty uneventful until we came across a few roadworks…no road essentially (see below) so we had to wait for an hour or so for a JCB to flatten some mounds of earth for us to travel through. Only in Perú!
We arrived at the entrance office where you have to purchase your ticket for S./15 (c. $5) and sign a register with the usual details (passport number and the like). We then had to walk uphill for about 20 minutes to reach the fortress of Kuelap. There’s still some archaeological work going on here so little bits are out of bounds but it’s quite a spectacular site looking across the ruins and at the surrounding landscape. One wrong step and you’re over a cliff and on a stretcher though… The Chacapoyans (the people that built the fortress) were known as the cloud people – in all fairness there was no sneaking up on them here!
The bus journey back was just as eventful as the way up; this time a flat tyre. Another hour of a delay and the most dangerous tyre-changer/driver on the planet. He was holding the jack up with some stones and hitting the spare tyre under the bus with another big rock to try to get it out from its resting place.
We took a night bus at 8pm that evening with Virgen del Carmen to Cajamarca (12 hours and S/.45). FYI there’s also a 5.30am bus to Cajamarca from here on a Monday morning.
Next stop: Cajamarca!