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Trip Report Northern Peru: Lima to Huaraz, Trujillo, Chiclayo, Chachapoyas, and more!

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I would like to tell you a little about a fantastic trip that I, my wife, my brother-in-law, and a Peru friend (who happens to be a guide!) took to Northern Peru from April 15, 2009 to May 2, 2009. I have documented the trip with photos at http://sleonf.jalbum.net/Northern%20Peru%20Trip/index.html and here I would like to provide some of the details.

First let me summarize the trip:

In the last few years, we had visited Peru 3 times and had always followed the popular tourist route that mostly lead to the south; Cusco, Sacred Valley, Arequipa, Nazca, Lake Titicaca, the Jungle, and so forth. But this time we wanted to do something radically different -- in at least 3 ways: 1) We wanted to wing it, on our own, no travel agency involved! 2) We wanted to visit the historic, pre-Inca, sites of Northern Peru, and 3) We wanted to get away from the tourists and all that goes with supporting them. I might add that we also needed to keep the trip economical for we are not real flush with cash (I'm a retiree).

We met those requirements and everything turned out just great -- no major glitches!

I <a href="http://sleonf.jalbum.net/Northern%20Peru%20Trip/slides/Peru_norte_partial-2.html">laid out the trip</a> using information from the web and the many detailed maps readily available on the internet (Google and Peruvian government maps, mostly). Even bus schedules can be figured out using the web -- sort of -- with a lot of research. The plan was to go to the areas around Barranca (Caral), Huaraz, Chimbote, Trujillo (Chan Chan and more), Chiclayo, Chachapoyas, Cajamarca, and return. To do that, we would use a variety of transportation modes: private auto, bus, horse, and possibly air plane. Mostly we traveled by bus from major city to major city and then found local private auto transportation (often a taxi cab) at each destination.

The key to making this possible was the fact that we had become good friends with a guide from Sacred Valley, Renato Auca Fuentes (contact information is on his "Cusco Native"web page, http://www.cusco-native.com), who had supported us on our previous trips to the Sacred Valley/ Cuzco area. There cannot be a better guide than Renato -- he is honest, knowledgeable, intelligent, friendly, and most of all, very responsible. But what was even more important now was that he was a good friend. I was able to talk him into going on the trip with us to just keep us out of trouble, if nothing else, but to also help us deal with the many representatives of busses, hotels, historic sites, horse rides, etc. Since none of us speak Spanish very well (my wife gets by) we needed an honest and responsible interpreter!

In summary, this was our travels in the 15 days or so we had allotted (you may want to follow this outline on our pictures page, http://sleonf.jalbum.net/Northern%20Peru%20Trip/index.html, Northern Peru Trip":

The three of us arrive in Lima a day late due to American Airlines causing a missed connection. Renato meets us at the airport and we depart. We travel by Private Auto (Renato arranged it) from Lima to Barranca where we visit the <a href="http://www.nazcamystery.com/caral.htm">Caral site</a> and then on to Casma for lodging.
We visit <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6408231.stm">Chankillo (Towers point to ancient Sun Cult - astronomy)</a> and <a href="http://www.nazcamystery.com/casma_sechin.htm">Sechin</a>, near Casma and then on to Huaraz by very exciting Bus trip (more later). At Chankillo we had the place to ourselves and at Sechin there were almost no other tourists.
Our main point of interest in the Huaraz area was the <a href="http://blogs.bootsnall.com/trisha/chavin-de-huancar.html">Chavin de Huantar</a>. We had hoped to also spend some time in the beautiful Cordilleras but had to skip it for we had lost a day due to a missed connection on the American Airlines flight to Lima (their fault -- they put us up in a hotel in Miami -- whoopee!). We return to the coast via a night time bus.
Next was <a href="http://www.panoramio.com/map/#lt=-8.112043&ln=-79.078689&z=4&k=2">Trujillo</a> where we visit <a href="http://www.inkanatura.com/coastchiclayotrujillochanchan.asp">Chan Chan</a> and other famous and historic sites. We also take a little R&R on the beach -- <a href="http://www.panoramio.com/photo/2356022">Huanchaco</a>, near Trujillo -- with its many reed boats which we took rides on.
After a day or so, we catch a bus to <a href="http://www.travelblog.org/South-America/Peru/Lambayeque/Chiclayo/blog-55391.html">Chiclayo</a> where we visited several ancient and very interesting sites: Pomac Forest, Sican, Lord of Sipan museum, Huaca del Sol y la Luna, Túcume, and more.
Then we catch a night bus to Chachapoyas. Night buses are the most available form of travel in Northern Peru. Maybe they don't want you to see just how precarious those roads are. Well we saw anyway since the road was washed out in a few places, where we had to wait for repairs, resulting in us arriving in Chachapoyas way up into the next day.
<a href="http://www.enjoyperu.com/peru_travel_tours_information/peru_travel_destinations/peru_chachapoyas/chachapoyas_attractions.html">Chachapoyas</a>, home of the "Cloud People", was the height of the trip. We really enjoyed the sites there as they were very interesting and almost devoid of any tourists besides ourselves. We didn't see all there was to see there (we plan to go back someday) but we were thoroughly entertained and fascinated by what we did see. We visited the famous mummy <a href="http://www.inkanatura.com/leymebamba_chachapoyas.asp">museum at Leymebamba</a>, the <a href="http://www.kuelapperu.com/">Kuelap fortress</a>, the Rio Utcubamba Valley, the <a href="http://www.pbase.com/manco/image/71044269">Karajia</a>, the cliff tombs near Revash, the Gocta waterfalls, and finally the bottom of the <a href="http://www.rutahsa.com/PNMaranon.jpg">Marañon canyon (Marañon Rio)</a> on our way to Cajamarca.
The trip to Cajamarca was the most exciting bus trip of all! What some views -- often straight down! Just two or three years ago, there was no reliable bus service through this area and you might have to catch a potato truck or similar. But now a major line, Movil, http://www.moviltours.com.pe, runs the route, although very carefully. See my pictures.
We didn't spend a lot of time in <a href="http://www.peru.info/temario/attach/270.pdf">Cajamarca</a>. While it has some interesting sites and is the site for the <a href="http://teacherweb.ftl.pinecrest.edu/SNYDERD/MWH/readings/1/1pizarro.htm">beginning of the end of the Incas</a> -- thanks to the Spanish Conquistadors -- we just didn't have a lot of time and, frankly, were becoming a little jaded.
From there we caught a bus back to Chiclayo where, after a night's rest, we caught one of those luxury liner buses back to Lima. We splurged but just wanted to experience how the upper classes travel. And the trip is quite long and tiresome -- nearly all desert.
In Lima, we overnight, and then catch the plane back to our homes in the USA. Uneventful trip going home.

If there is interest from the readers here, I will post more detail in follow up messages. And maybe more links to the sites we visited.

Again, I want to say thanks to our guide and friend, Renato, for taking care of us and ensuring that we had a very exciting trip but without any major hitches. It would have been for different without him, I am sure. He has is own Peru tourist web site where arrangements can be made for his tours. He specializes in small groups but at a very fair price. He has no problem customizing the trip to your interests and is always flexible for changes once the trip is underway. Again, his web site is http://www.cusco-native.com, Cusco Native. Please give it a look. We, or course, have no financial connection to his business -- we're just friends.

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