Looking at a map, it is easy to understand that Peru is a very large country. However, it wasn’t until we started our drive to Chachapoyas that we really got a full understanding of just how large it is. Our route on the map takes up only a very small portion of the country, but the drive took us about 10 hours. It was a good lesson to learn in our first Peru travels: drives are long, so start early and pack lots of snacks and water. Unfortunately, as our famous early starts aren’t usually all that early, it is going to take some time to get used to. This drive we did actually manage to get an early-ish start at around 7. The first part of the drive before the mountains was not all that scenic, but interesting. The area is insanely dry and the landscape is pretty much dirt and a few trees scattered about. Definitely a harsh climate to live in and an area that puts survival into a whole new context.
On days that we spend more than a few hours in the car, we usually end up grumpy and on a mission to get where we are going. For some reason, maybe the beautiful scenery or maybe just the fact that we knew it was going to be a long drive and had prepared for it, we actually took our time and enjoyed the drive. We even stopped after a few hours on the road and made some coffee having missed our morning caffeine intake in an effort to get started early.
Once we hit the mountains, the landscape turned a lot more scenic, with lush green mountains covered in clouds in all directions. There is something about the Andes, with the exceptionally high peaks dropping into steep narrow valleys that make you feel how small we truly are. We saw lots of goats scattered all over the hillsides as we wound our way around the hairpin turns. We even saw this little guy (picture below), giving a new meaning to the joke: “why did the tarantula cross the road.” It is hard to tell in the picture just how big he is, but the fact that we were able to spot him crossing the road as we were driving might give some indication.
The road is dotted with memorials along the roadside every 500 meters or so as a testament to all those who have come before and a good reminder to drive safe and keep your eyes on the road. These are the type of roads that always make us especially appreciative to be in our own vehicle. It is scary enough without having to put your life into the hands of some maniac bus driver that goes barreling around the corners, while looking at the steep hillside as it drops off the road so far below.
After what seemed like hours, oh yeah it was, we finally dropped out of the mountains into the Amazon region, and what a change in both temperature and landscape! It is hard to explain the difference in the greenness and vegetation between the lush mountains and the even lusher tropical region. Here, the hills are more rolling and even greener if that makes any sense. All of the trees and cliffs have vines growing all over, and the valleys are terraced and full of growing rice. The air is thicker and more humid and the temperature warmer.
After a while we climbed back out of the topical area into more mountains although not quite as high this time. By the time we arrived in Chachapoyas we had come to a happy medium. Nestled in the mountains, it is high enough to be out of the hot humidity of the lower tropical region, but not high enough to reach the coldness of the high andes. As it was New Year’s Eve, we made it just in time to stroll the plaza enjoying all the families and kids letting off fireworks. Our nightcap for the evening was watching a very drunk Peruvian who pulled up to the plaza right at midnight with his girlfriend. He proceeded to get out of his truck with the radio blasting the Bee Gees, light an incredibly long roman candle (it had to be at least 4 feet long) and do a strip dance (he managed to keep his clothes on, but you get the idea:) ) while shooting colored lights into the sky. Unfortunately we had forgotten our camera at the hotel when we had gone out (I know bad travelers), but you get the picture. We couldn’t help cracking up while enjoying the show and toasting to midnight. Any new year that starts with this much comic relief is bound to be a good one! In true Lost World Expedition style, we are a bit late with this post, but we want to wish everybody a Happy and Blessed New Year.