The Trip from Leymebamba to Celendin

Celendin Travel Blog

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The fog and the clouds on the other side of the mountains from Leymabamba

The town of Leymebamba was a crumbling mess of a place perched up on hillside about two hours south of Tingo. Half of the streets in town had been ripped up for repaving and so all traffic flowed through the one street that passed through the central plaza. But at least the town had internet and several restaurants and hotels. From Leymebamba there is transport twice a week to Celendin, about 7-8 hours away. I had asked why there wasn´t more frequent transport and the only answer I could get was that it was in a different province and there wasn´t much demand. The other thing was that the van left at 6am and there was a bus passing through from Chachapoyas between 8-10am, but no guarantee of a seat.

The red rock mountains as we descend toward the river valley
Because of that I decided to take the van and had to drag myself out of bed before dawn to wait for the van. The man from the hotel had reserved a spot for me so that was all set, I just had to wait until about 6:15 when the van finally showed up with a sheep roped to the top. As all the bags and cargo were loaded on, the sheep was moved so that it nestled in snuggly with the spare tire and a tarp was thrown over the other bags on the roof. Inside, the van was a mobile farm with a sack of live chickens, a sack of guinea pigs, and a woman´s dog. Before we started there was a foul smell in the van and this man handed out this sack of raw meat to go up on the roof. Just stinking raw meat in a bag, unrefrigerated and unsealed. And finally we were ready to go as the van pulled out of town around 6:30am.
The river valley below

From Leymabamba the road climbed steadily up the mountains from 7,000 feet to the cold and foggy mountain pass at about 11,500 feet. After leaving town there weren´t really any towns, only a few houses scattered here and there, none with electricity either. Most of the hillsides were totally covered in vegetation and it is easy to see how some of these ruins are still being discovered. After the mountain pass the road dropped continuously for about 3 hours. We emerged from the cold, damp fog of the high mountains to a level in between the clouds above and more clouds and fog below us. The views were just amazing and I was lucky enough to get a few decent pictures as the van rumbled along the poor and potholed road. Still moving downhill we stopped for breakfast at about 9:30 at a restaurant on the side of the road, and by restaurant I mean a mud brick hut with three women cooking on a mud brick stove over a wood fire.

Filling up the van with gas, no gas pumps in this wilderness
Everything was fresh and very tasty, bringing a whole new meaning to organic. I had the soup, which had various animal parts in it, some stomach, intestines, heart, and I was lucky enough to get a big hunk of brain as well, I also had a plate of stir fried beef with vegetables, rice, and an egg, all for two dollars. After eating we pressed on downhill passing into a more dry and desert scenery with some stunning mountains and a glimpse of the road on the other side of the river valley. Occasionally the driver would stop at some homes to drop some things off to people and pick mail and money for things that he would deliver on his way back in the other direction the next day. There were just all these people living out in the middle of nowhere with no electricity in mud brick houses, relying on the driver as their only link to the outside world, it was quite amazing really.
That zig-zagging line is the road
But after four and a half hours we finally reached a town at the river, Balsas, which had electricity, and at 2,500 feet was the bottom of our 9,000 foot descent.

We dropped of a few people and picked up a few people and then rambled across the river and headed up the other side of the mountains on a long and winding road, leaving the desert behind as we climbed. Mid way up the mountains we stopped at a house and they promptly brought out three five gallon buckets and a funnel. That´s right, no gas stations out here. After re-fueling and much climbing later we reached the next mountain pass at 10,000 feet. After 6 hours the end was not far off, another 2,500 feet down was the town of Celendin. From Celendin I caught another van to Cajamarca, about 4 hours away on a very rough and deeply potholed road. A long day of traveling had finally come to an end. But I must say that after all the 199 hours I have spent of buses, boats, and trains, the scenery on the trip from Leymabamba to Celendin was by far the best.

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The fog and the clouds on the othe…
The fog and the clouds on the oth…
The red rock mountains as we desce…
The red rock mountains as we desc…
The river valley below
The river valley below
Filling up the van with gas, no ga…
Filling up the van with gas, no g…
That zig-zagging line is the road
That zig-zagging line is the road
The cathedral in Leymabamba at sun…
The cathedral in Leymabamba at su…
Loading up the van, sheep and all …
Loading up the van, sheep and all…
Looking down on Leymabamba
Looking down on Leymabamba
In between the clouds on the other…
In between the clouds on the othe…
The view from the restaurant we st…
The view from the restaurant we s…
The bridge over the river at Balsas
The bridge over the river at Balsas
The charming dusty street(s) of Ba…
The charming dusty street(s) of B…
Crossing the muddy river at Balsas
Crossing the muddy river at Balsas
The other side of the river on the…
The other side of the river on th…
The road from up on the mountain
The road from up on the mountain
Looking down onto the plateau and …
Looking down onto the plateau and…
Finally the town of Celendin
Finally the town of Celendin
Celendin
photo by: AndySD