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Perú - Northern Highlands

15th July we headed south towards Kuélap, and the following morning, having discovered that Monday was Cable Car maintenance day, we drove the long, rough road up to the Fortaleza de Kuélap, a citadel city high up in the moutains. The drive was worth it to see this old mountain fortress, built by the Chachapoya culture between the 5th and 11th century.

Our next visit was to the Mummy Museum at Leymebamba. A great little museum with a neat collection of mummies that had been found in a burial site at Laguna de los Condores and moved here to be better preserved.

From there we had a long drive south through the mountains to Balsas where we crossed the Rio Marañon. We were back in the Amazonas. It was in Balsas we found ourselves a low on diesel. A little word with some locals, a knock on the green door and we found the local source. Having crossed the river, we commenced a steep winding climb into the mountains. We found a parking space at the pass, overlooking the Marañon valley and shared sunset with a pair of Peruvians with a liking for New Romantic tunes...they looked hard as nails. Following a quiet night, we were woken at 6am by singing and chatter. It was a group of university students, their professor and a donkey - all waiting for sunrise, so we joined them.

Sunrise fun over, we drove to Baños del Inca and from there we visited Cajamarca, where the Spanish grabbed Atahualpa, the last Inca King. He was held for a rather large ransom - a large room filled once with gold and twice with silver. All those beautiful Inca treasures melted down to ingots. It didn't end well for Atahualpa - he was executed in front of his people. He was to be burned at the stake, but his Spanish captors gave him the option of conversion to Catholicism followed by a quick death. He took the quicker exit... and converted! Oh and the Spanish had their gold (and silver).

After a few days in Baños del Inca, we were back on the road and heading for Caraz, via the 3N. We drove along super narrow mountain roads with hair raising drops. Down to valley floors and back up. We stopped along the way to visit Marcahuamachuco and the massive pre-Inca fort, sprawled over a plateau at 3,600m.

As we headed for the Cordillera Blanca, our journey down the 3N continued through the Canyon del Patos - cliff edge roads and narrow tunnels. It is really at this point that we realised Peruvian drivers do not or never learnt how to reverse - as pleasant as they are in person, behind the wheel they are psychos.

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