UPDATE#25 07/23 thru 07/26   


Howdy Everybody,

The adventures of 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 through 07/22/09 have been published on the website.  We continue with the latest edition, which is the 6th in the Peru Series.

 UPDATE 2009 #25  07/23/09 thru 07/26/09

At last update, we were in Chachapoyas, enjoying our adventure trip in the north central highlands of Peru.


     Our experiences in the Chachapoyas area have been very exciting and adventurous thus far.  Although the alarm was set for 6:45am, I was awake early.  Even at 6am, all was quiet and the doors at Hostal Rumi Huasi were still locked-up tight.

     After breakfast at the Panadería San Jose, we strolled by the central Plaza to the Chachas Tours office where Rolando had previously arranged for our visit to Kuelap.  


     By the Plaza, our group van was waiting across and in front of Rolando’s office.


     Judy and I had the front seats next to the driver for the two and a half hour trip to the site.  From our viewpoint, the scenery was spectacular.


     Mostly along dirt and gravely roads, we could view rural life in Peru up close.


     The site of Kuelap is perched high on a mountaintop.  We wisely elected to ride horses to the top of the rutty, muddy trail.  These were not rider-trained horses and they had to be led by young girls who were adept at their task.


     The view was wonderful as we climbed higher and higher to 9,843 feet above sea level.  Some of the younger travelers chose to hike the challenging trail.  The cost to ride up was less than $2 each.  Being led, we had much more time to enjoy the scenic vistas without worrying about twisting an ankle or slipping on rock and mud.


     The girls dropped us off and headed back down the mountain in hopes of rounding up some more riders.  They promised to return for us after we visited the site. 


     The fortress of Kuelap is enormous.  Kuelap is the most grandiose citadel discovered thus far and is said to be the largest building structure in all the Americas. Historians report that the Chillaos people constructed this massive complex.  Forming a part of the Chachapoyas Culture, they rose to a prominent position of power in this area of northern Peru. 


     Kuelap was constructed with 5 levels of stonewalls built inside of more walls. Outer protection was provided by a series of huge walls with some well over 60 feet high.


     A simplified plan view of the fortress layout was provided for reference.  Note the three entrances and circular construction of the inner buildings.


     Access to the huge fortress was only available through three narrow slits in the solid outer wall.  This feature would force any potential attackers into single-file forces and that would be on foot. 


     The discovery of Kuelap did not occur until 1843.  It is believed that the fortress had remained unknown to both the Incas and the Spanish Conquistadores.


     Amazingly, it has been calculated that they utilized three times more materials than were used at Egypt’s largest pyramid in Giza.


     We gained access through the secondary entrance opening.


     Several black llamas roamed freely about the grounds.


     The second set of defensive walls would be equally difficult for attackers to penetrate.


     Imagine trying to direct any large contingent of armed attackers through and up the narrow passageways.  The defenders had a distinct advantage over any offensive force.


     The tower building at the summit…


     Our guide to the site spoke only Spanish.  Having read about Kuelap, and its history, helped to enhance my understanding of the place and the people.


     Estimates are that many millions of cubic feet of cut stone and materials were used at the site.


     Although we didn’t personally count them, it has been said that there were over 400 stone buildings erected within the inner top 3 levels.


     Examples of decorative, rhomboidal frieze designs abound.


     Currently, only about 40% of the fortress has been excavated.


     Periods of mist and rain got us a bit wet but failed to dampen our fascinated spirit of adventure.  Note the stepped platform design and the zigzag frieze patterns typical of the Chachapoyas Culture.


     The construction of Kuelap is believed to have taken some 200 years to complete.  This single reconstruction illustrates the magnificence that must have existed during Kuelap’s primetime.


     The excellent strategic position provided an extensive observation point from which to control the defenses and the trade routes throughout the valleys.


     The exploration of the main passageway, only recently excavated by archaeologists in 2005 and 2006, uncovered a tomb and various period designs carved into the stone blocks, including animals, snakes, and heads.


     With the weather clearing, we headed out of the site grounds.


     As promised, the girls were there with our horse transportation.  Our choice to ride proved to be a good one.  One of our fellow travelers fell on the slippery trail and came limping down, covered with mud and broken glasses in hand.  I wonder, how do you say, “Yee-Haw” and “Giddy-Up” in Spanish?


     As seen from across the valley, the arrow points to the immense edifice of Kuelap and its strategic location.


     Along the remote dirt roads on our return, we could see the traditional ways that have been practiced for centuries.


     Heavy bags of produce, most likely potatoes, are carried from the fields to locations like this along the main roadway for transfer to trucks.


     The group of travelers stopped at the El Gran Shubet Restaurant for a late lunch.


     More spectacular scenic views were revealed at every turn of the road.

     It was 6pm when we arrived back in the small city of Chachapoyas.  A lighter dinner choice was made at Caldos Mary, located near the Plaza de Armas.  The soup, Caldo de Gallina, was meaty and good.  Helping us relax, we had coffee and dessert at the Panadería San Jose.

     Planning to leave very early on our trip tomorrow, we arranged for the doors of the Hostal Rumi Huasi to be unlocked at 4:15am.  It was sleepy time at 9:30pm. 



     Our packs were closed up last night before bed.  With a 4am alarm set, we made our way out onto the dark streets at exactly 4:15am.  A few blocks away, we found the area for the collective taxis.  Within a few minutes, we had three more people headed the same way.  These collective taxis leave when full, so, piling in, we were on our way for the hour-long trip to the junction at Pedro Ruiz.  The total fare for both of us was only about $7.

     Hoping to catch a passing bus, we were quickly approached to take a collective van onward.  With eight people in the van, Judy got stuck on the middle jump seat. The fare was about $10 each.  About 45 minutes after our 5:35am departure, we came to a very sharp curve on the narrow paved road.  Attempting to pass a big truck on a corner, the truck swung wide and our driver was squeezed into a fender bender collision.  The sounds of tires and crunching metal soon followed.  With seemingly little damage, the two vehicles just continued like nothing had happened.  I guess we were real lucky in the unfortunate clash since the curve bordered on a very steep cliff.  Oh well, chalk it up to another adventure situation…

     We stopped for breakfast in the town of Moyabamba.  I got to survey the right front fender damage and it appeared relatively minor.  I would imagined that the owner of the nearly new van would be quite angry and that the driver’s job might be in jeopardy.  Several people disembarked here and we continued onward with only three passengers.  Despite his attempts, the driver could not drum up any more riders.


     The destination of this van was Tarapoto.  The van driver dropped us along the main road into town.  Once again, being not exactly sure where we were, we asked and relied on the local knowledge of a MotoTaxi driver to help us out.  He told us that, nearby, we could catch a regular bus later on today, or he could take us across town to another location for a collective taxi that would be much faster.  Somewhat reluctantly, we said, “Vamonos”, or “Let’s Go”.


     At a busy, muddy market section, he dropped us at the origination point for the collective taxis. 


     We paid the fare of about $8.50 each and waited patiently for about 15 minutes while they gathered up a couple more passengers.


     The driver stopped at a pretty nice place for lunch. 


     Judy and I shared a meal of soup and fresh fish for less than $3 total.


     At 3pm, we had already been traveling for over 10 hours when we reached the town of Yurimaguas.  Again, we were unsure of exactly where to go, but several MotoTaxi drivers with local knowledge were vying for our business.  We chose one to take us to the riverbanks where the cargo boats stage.  The driver was very helpful in getting us connected with the boat people.  There is no office and the boat personnel conduct all business.  We had several boats to choose from but our driver suggested we try the Eduardo III.  We were the first ones to arrive at the boat so we had our choice of accommodations.


     Although the chalkboard sign said “Mañana”, or tomorrow, we learned that it would be several days before they would leave.  Even though the other boats might be leaving sooner, this proved to be our best option. 

     We had our choice of a lower deck hammock, an upper deck hammock, a bunk bed room without bath, or a double room with private bath.  They agreed that we could stay aboard from now through our trip.  We opted to pay the extra for the “best” room.  Although the price was a bit steeper, we were in no big rush so it became a value by staying the extra nights.  We also felt more comfortable with the ability to secure our bags in a locked compartment.  On this boat, there were only four of the bunk style rooms and only two rooms having a double bed and bath.  We were fortunate to get one of them.  I must explain that when I say, “best room”, I’m certainly not talking about luxury.  This is a cargo vessel that takes passengers too.  The room was simply welded steel walls, a bed, a humble shower and toilet with no seat.  There were numerous Araña” or “spider” webs around, which should have been expected since we are in the river jungle of the Amazon.


     A tow and barge were re-supplying at the private dock of the prominent beer company.


     The vast majority of the cargo boats have no permanent dock facilities.  The merely shove their bows into the riverbanks from where they are loaded and unloaded.


     Since river travel is the only mode of transportation in these areas, the numbers, sizes, and varieties of different types of cargo boats is very interesting.


     Passengers traveling relatively short distances pack into covered vessels similar to this one.


     MotoTaxi fares to the nearby town center cost about 50 cents.  We went to town and had a Chinese style dinner at a local Chifa.  Fearing the spiders that might be in our room, I bought some spray cans of insecticide.  We were both exhausted and went back to the boat early.  With only the crew on board, we had the entire boat to ourselves.  Glad that we had the insecticide, I went on a killing spree with the lethal blasts.    We had rented a couple of hammocks for daytime use on deck.  Being a bit congested, I took a Benadryl capsule and soon fell sound asleep in that hammock.  Judy had to awake me from a deep slumber to go back to the room for the night.  Somewhat confident that I had eradicated the pesky arachnids, we could rest relatively well.



     Very early in the morning, loading activities were being conducted.  We had slept well and, having liberally sprayed our room, we had no problems from spiders or insects.


     Watching the loading process was totally fascinating.  Everything is loaded by hand using strong, young manpower.  Carrying phenomenally heavy sacks, they streamed aboard in steady lines.  There were no forklifts, no conveyer belts, no cranes, no wheeled carts; only strong legs and backs toted the weighty loads in the same manner used for centuries.  There were no hardhats, no safety shoes, no safety glasses, no back braces, and no OSHA posters or placards.


     The wheelhouse of the vessel was incredibly simplistic.  There were no controls other than a wheel and throttle.  There was no equipment for radio navigation, no GPS, no VHF communications, no engine instrumentation, no windshield wipers, and not even a compass was there.  As it has been for centuries, riverboat guidance still relies on the captain and crew to have experienced knowledge. 


     The cargo loads consisted of everything imaginable.  From livestock to lumber, from fresh produce to sacks of salt, from sugar to furniture, the porters lugged or prodded everything aboard.


     Perhaps the most interesting and comical was the loading of hogs.  The loudly squealing pigs vehemently resisted, seeming to know their destiny.  The handlers employed every conceivable method to forcefully urge the swine to comply.


     From big trucks, loose loaded oranges were packed into heavy sacks to be carried down the muddy bank.


     With all the heavy rains, the tributary river into the Huallaga was swollen and nearly raging with swift current.  A banana raft broke loose from its tether and was swiftly escaping downstream.  Valiant attempts by these workers to harness the runaway were futile to capture it.  I was easy to see that they were no match for the powerful forces of nature.  After careening off one of the cargo boats, it floated off down the main river.  Being their main source of livelihood, we hope they were later successful in retrieving the raft.  There was a lot of yelling and screaming going on during the pandemonium.


     The porters’ ability to carry extreme loads was amazing.  The second man here is carrying two sacks at 50 kilograms each.  At 2.2 pounds per kilo, that load weighs 220 pounds.  Just imagine, he is going to do this backbreaking labor all day long.


     Most of the early activity was loading the EDUARDO II.  Our vessel, the EDUARDO III, would have to wait patiently for its turn.  You can see Judy watching intently from the upper deck of our vessel.


     The main mode of land transportation is comes from literally thousands of MotoTaxis.  We hailed one to take us from the riverbank to the town center.


     The street markets are the focal point of activity.


     Available for sale, these fresh fish from the rivers create an attractive display.


     The cathedral and municipal buildings are the focal points around the central Plaza de Armas.


     The plaza itself is attractive and neatly kept.


     This government building was receiving a fresh coat of colorful paint.


     All kinds of goods, vegetables, grains, eggs, dairy products, and chickens were on display to tempt the passersby.


     Under threatening skies, we returned to the EDUARDO III.  Within minutes, a torrential downpour turned the riverbank into a muddy, slippery goop.  Cargo loaders scurried to protect their products with plastic tarps.  Here in the Amazon jungle, they must get plenty of experience with conditions like this.


     The crew lowered the rain shielding tarps to keep out the pelting rain.  On the still empty upper deck, we relaxed peacefully in the “hamacas colgante” (hanging hammocks).


     As the rains subsided, the ALBERTITO eased away from the riverbank into the muddy Huallaga River.


     Aboard our sister vessel, an armed squad of soldiers conducted an inspection of the passengers and cargo.  In this jungle environment, I wonder what they could have been looking for… Yah, right!


     Lighter rain showers continued throughout the afternoon.  All that soft, pure rainwater offered the perfect opportunity to lather up my curly locks.  Aaahh, yes, it was so refreshing…


     This deckhand started to paint ID numbers on these cattle from inside the pen.  He soon realized the error of his ways when the bovine became restless.  He quickly chose a safer alternative position from which to continue his bright red artwork.


     At the dock of the beer company, a brilliant rainbow fell gracefully on the fully loaded barge.  In this case, the proverbial “pot of gold” turned out to be the bottles of “golden Cerveza” (Beer, my friends, luscious golden beer).


     Now, the EDUARDO II was in the final stages of loading and the passengers were anxious to get underway.


     Our attention turned to the loading area as another load of bulls arrived by truck.  As the handlers carefully tried to control them, the crowd of onlookers would scatter and run as the bulls turned ornery.


     The EDUARDO II pushed back between the other boats and began the down river slug toward Iquitos.


     With the weather calmed down, we went into town.  Our dinner at the La Prosperidad Restaurant was very good.  The place was very clean, nicely decorated, and they served tasty meals.  What more could we ask for?  Judy said it was the best chicken dinner yet.

     Back at the boat, we treated any remaining spiders their evening insecticide dessert.  I think we’ve been quite effective in keeping the pesky, eight-legged pestilence in check.  Being quite allergic to their venom, I react badly to most insect bites.  Frankly, they all scare the living hell out of me.  Perhaps the jungle life is not the best suited for me?

      Enjoying relaxing music from our iPods, we swayed gently in our upper deck hammocks until quite late before retiring to our room. 


     By 6am, the loading of the boat was already in full force.  A steady stream of porters moved in ant-like columns packing unbelievable loads upon their backs.  Sunrise across the Rio Huallaga painted the sky with tranquil beauty.


     Another of the loaded boats churned out a mild wake heading for Iquitos.


     An additional herd of bulls and cattle was being loaded aboard EDUARDO III.  Cautiously hiding behind the orange crates, the handler coaxed the huge chunk of living beef with a guiding rope.  The other handler used the technique of vigorously twisting its tail as it came on deck.  With one guy fearing being gored and the other fearing being forcefully kicked, they managed to successfully maneuver the bovine animals into their staked corrals.  Then, it was back for a couple more and the sequence repeated.  Note the orange boxes of egg layers that have been meticulously attended to since their loading.  The hens were fed, watered, and their eggs were gathered regularly. Alternately arranging the palm fronds served to maintain the ideal temperatures in the coups.


     With a taut rope wrapped tightly around the horns, a sharp twist of the tail yielded somewhat compliant results.


     The upper deck of the EDUARDO III remains empty.  This level might be considered as the “first class” section of hammock accommodations.  The more crowded level below might be the equivalent of “economy class”.  At almost double the fare, travelers on the upper level have access to community shower rooms and will have meals served in the small dining area seen aft.  Passengers from below are prohibited from coming upstairs to this level at all times.  On the lower level, passengers must bring their own bowl to the serving line where food is dispensed from ladles in slop style.


     We went back into town for some last minute supplies and sightseeing.  We were delighted to be in time for the bevy of beauties vying for the coveted title of, “Señorita Yurimaguas – 2009”.  Contestants cheerfully flaunted their charm through the indoor and outdoor market sections, offering their most gracious smiles to all.


     If I were eligible to vote, can you guess to whom mine might be cast?  Ou Ou, Babalu, I think I’m in love (or lust).  Sorry Jimmy Carter, you ain’t alone…


     The city and provincial leaders, officials, and dignitaries lined up for the parade presentation.


     A high-stepping honor guard from the National Police Forces proudly displayed the Peruvian flag.


    … as did this group from the “Armada Naval de Peru” (Navy).


     A unique series of parade floats, propelled by the ubiquitous MotoTaxis, were decoratively arranged in an unusual and artistic way…


     The municipal band sounded out their melodic salute…


     After the conclusion of the parade event, we returned to the market section.  I continue to be fascinated by the diverse variety and array of fresh river “pescado” (fish).  You probably won’t find this assortment at your hometown fishmongers. 


     Back at the boat, we watched the arriving GILMER I nestle onto the riverbank next to us.  Passengers anxious to disembark crowded the foredeck.


     In the relaxing afternoon warmth, Judy peacefully napped in her hammock.  With a deck of cards, I played numerous hands of Solitaire.  Soon, it was dinnertime at the Chifa in town.  The “Tallarines con Verduras Y Champiñones” (noodles with vegetables and mushrooms) made a delightful choice to share.

     The EDUARDO III is scheduled to make its departure tomorrow morning.  Vamonos! (Let’s Go!)…






       We sincerely hope that you will review the previous years of compilations to give context to the current editions.  Please let us know if you have any special suggestions and thoughts.

     REMEMBER:  The website is now fully active and you can visit it at any time.  You can also review any of the previous logs from the years 2006, 2007, or 2008 and learn more about the crew and their many adventures.  Enjoy.


   You may contact us via email anytime.

Thanks for allowing us to share our life and adventures with you.

Lotsa Luv,

Fred Reed and Judy Law




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