Always wanted to see Peru?
Work teaching English in Amazonas
International Language Center
A small language school, teaching English and other European languages to local people in a tiny city on the Andean sierra.
On the remote north eastern Andes, nestled between the top south American surfing coast, and the rainforest, on the mountainous route to Iquitos - the source of the river Amazon.
Always looking for foreign teachers who want to work 4 or 5 hours a day with us, and get to know the real Andean culture, far away from the beaten tourist path. Our terms are one month long, so you can stay for 4 weeks, or you can stay for up to a year – it’s up to you!
Surrounded by approximately 3000 lost jungle cities, the most famous of which is called Kuelap, from pre Inca civilisations. Two years ago, the world’s third tallest waterfall, Gocta, was discovered here. If you’ve ever dreamed of being Indiana Jones, or Lara Croft, you can do it here.
At least 18 years old, a native speaker of English, and good at communicating.
Interested in finding worlds that are off the beaten tour bus path.
A TEFL qualification is useful, but not obligatory.
Find out more about us by looking us up on the web:
Facebook Group: International Language Center
International Language Center
Chachapoyas, Amazonas, Peru
School Size: 120 students
School Director: Fidel Elera
Telephone 00 51 41 478807
A typical volunteer at ILC Chachapoyas is rugged, hardy and independent and came to the region to learn about a side of Peru that isn't found in the Miraflores branch of Starbucks, Lima, or in the Irish backpacker bars of Cusco.
They are often in their early 20s (though older staff are prized), and looking to form a real connection with Peruvian peoples and Peruvian culture.
If they don't speak Spanish, they are motivated to learn Spanish while they are here, because without communication, living amongst locals in the Andes would be less enriching journey.
They are flexible and culturally aware, and sensitive to the different concepts and attitudes they encounter every day when dealing with local people.
Our typical volunteers are looking to make friends for life with ordinary Peruvian people, rather than tour guides or short term holiday chums.
They are honorable, professional, and respect the commitment they have made to a small family run business in the third world. They understand that we offer an experience to local people that can enhance and dramatically change their life prospects.
They take their role as being a meaningful contributor to their surroundings.
Our typical volunteers are not looking for a holiday.
They are looking for a reason to feel proud of what they have achieved while in Peru.
- Close knit team of staff, who are helpful and informative
- Other foreigners working alongside you, from a range of English speaking countries
- Chachapoyas is a small city, with virtually no crime – unparalleled in other parts of
. We have no gun crime, express kidnappings, or robberies. Peru
- Exceptionally cheap prices (prices are 80% less than you would pay in Lima or Cusco, and 50-70% less than cities of comparable size in Northern Peru, such as Chiclayo, Piura, Tarapoto, Iquitos)
- Peruvian – Anglo management, so cultural/communication issues are clearly explained and understood
- ILC offers formal job references in excellent English, so working at ILC doesn’t form a questionable ‘gap’ in your resume
- ILC offers help with finding accommodation close to your workplace
- Translation service, if you get sick or have problems, ILC can help you out
- Excellent place to learn Spanish through immersion, as virtually nobody in the north of
speaks any English Peru
- ILC offers Spanish lessons to staff at a discounted rate
- ILC Library (of movies and books in English) is available to staff without charge
- Friendly local community
- ILC Library of Spanish language learning books available to staff at a huge discount
- Detailed guidance in finding your way around the city, and on trips around Amazonas and the north of
- Help with visa renewals and immigration procedures, and also with securing work visas (the latter if you are staying long-term)
- Alumnus network of ILC staff and ILCN ex-staff who maintain strong links with the school, and can give advice on travel and employment in
- ILC is an established school, with a great reputation, since 2003
- ILC is the only school in the Amazonas region to teach interactively and communicatively,
- ILC is the only school in the Amazonas region to demand high standards of its students
- ILC gives you the opportunity to teach children, youngsters, teenagers or adults
- Opportunities to extend your experience in other cities at our satellite schools
- Help in learning about Peruvian cooking, or folk music, or dancing
- ILC has a strong history of helping staff find subsequent work through recommendations to other institutes in
- Form strong friendships with fellow staff (Peruvians and foreigners), and with students
- Supportive collegiate atmosphere
- Open to new ideas: if you have a project or an idea you’d like to try, ILC wants to hear about it
- Small school, with a personal feel
- Small classes, with the opportunity to make real friendships and connections with your students
- Attention paid to your needs
Read what our ex-teachers have said about working at ILC.
Email us for a list of Frequently Asked Questions.
Congrats on being offered a position at ILC¡ I was in a similar position to you when I decided to go travelling in South America, and working at ILC was definitely one of the best decisions I made - now I'm back home in the UK, and doing a 'proper job', I'm so glad that I took the time out to see a bit of the world before diving head first into the rest of my life (in truth, part of the reason I went travelling was because I didn't know what the 'rest of my life' would look like...and honestly I still don't!).
In total I spent two months, or two 'terms' at ILC, and I taught a range of ages and abilities, from infant school children to moody teenagers, and also did some private lessons with an English teacher at the local colegio.
How secluded is it? I mean did you travel on the weekends or have any trouble with being so far away from the rest of civilization!?
For me part of the charm of Chacha was its remoteness, it's a small town with everything you need, but it's not flooded with tourists as it is in the South.
I spent at least half of my weekends travelling, as there are some amazing sites just a short trip away, from the fortress of Kuélap to the Cavernas de Quiocta, as well as a 3 day trek if you're feeling adventurous. These tours can be arranged fairly easily with the local tour guides, though if you don't speak much Spanish yourself you might want to make sure you can go with someone who can translate so that you can get the most out of the experience. The only caveat to this are los derrumbes, or landslides, which happened a couple of times while I was there, and can block the access roads for a few days while they dig it out, sometimes longer.
Also, if you're thinking of a quick trip to Macchu Picchu one weekend, you may like to reconsider -- travel times are long because of the mountains, and it takes 24 hours to get to Lima alone. If you want to see more of Peru, I would certainly recommend travelling before or after your time in Chacha - I travelled for 6 weeks from Brazil to Peru with 3 friends from uni.
Without a doubt the chocolate cake in the San José bakery.
Haha, in all seriousness I think that my favourite part was to be able to actually live in a place and get to know it, without just passing through as a tourist. The people were lovely and friendly, but hardly any speak English, so it was a fantastic opportunity to use and improve my Spanish skills, from negotiating the price of chicken at the market (and exactly which bit of the chicken I wanted...) to speaking to tour guides and the children outside of class time.
The set-up at ILC was simple, but with all the materials you could need, and the working hours were not too onerous, with only 4 hours a day (though obviously some prep time was also required).
I think it also allowed me to grow up a bit, from cooking serious meals for the first time (previously my skills had extended as far as shop bought pizza and micro-wave meals!) to being responsible for the care and education of a whole group of students.
I did indeed teach English, as it's the only language I have apart from Spanish! There was no formal training for teaching the classes, but the materials available are very good - each student has a text book and exercise book, and you also have access to the teacher's book and CDs.
Vanessa is also on hand to answer any questions you have, and give some fantastic advice. I think that when teaching the younger ones more prep time is required to ensure that you have enough activities to really drum the lesson in (repetition is key!) and also make it fun/interesting for them. For older, more advanced classes, the need for activities is slightly less (though can be useful!) however the challenge there is actually understanding the concepts you're teaching yourself; a lot of the grammar in English we know instinctively, but trying to describe why you use a certain tense in a certain situation to someone can be really difficult!
That's a difficult question, and I think most people that have been to ILC would answer differently. I went and had an awesome time, but I know others that didn't enjoy it so much for various reasons. I guess for me the important thing is to go without too many expectations, and make the most of the time you have there -- it's not as comfortable as western living, I stayed with Vanessa and Fidel and my room was tiny, blankets instead of duvets, and the shower was only warm when it was set to dribble setting (any more power and the water was like ice!).
It's also important to understand that it is a different culture, so people will sometimes react or hold opinions that you wouldn't expect. It's a small town, and though there are some pretty cool places to go drink and dance, etc (I was a big fan of the fruit liquores - especially maracuya) the main pastime is gossip, and as an outsider you will be more watched than most, so you have to be careful you don't do anything that could generate malicious gossip, as this could make it less pleasant for you, and not great for the school's reputation.
I was lucky that the group of teachers I was with I also got on with incredibly well, and we had a fab time, as I'm sure you will too. I think if you want to it's also easy to make friends with students and other people around the town, though of course be mindful of not creating too much gossip if you spend lots of time with guys!
Overall I can thoroughly recommend ILC, I had a great time, and I think that part of the reason for this was because I fully embraced the opportunities open to me while I was there: I saw some amazing sites, appeared on local TV and radio, and made an utter fool of myself in the Friday karaoke sessions in class in order to encourage the kids to join in (Vanessa has video evidence should you require this...).
I think if you go in with an open mind, and appreciate that some parts of it will be challenging, hard work and sometimes a little dull, you will definitely have the most amazing time. Just reminiscing about it now makes me envious!
Carrie, 22, England
While you're working at ILC, you can study Spanish in Amazonas.
Remember that there are very few people in Amazonas (or even outside of Miraflores/Cusco), who speak English, so further travel will be made a lot easier if you can communicate.
You can study at beginner level, or intermediate level, or simply take conversation classes to make sure you understand the castellano spoken in
You can study daily at 3.30pm, or take a longer, more intensive class at any time during the weekends when you're not exploring the Amazonas region.
Normally, we charge students $7 per hour for Spanish classes, including materials.
For ILC teachers, this is reduced to $5 per hour. There are further discounts available if you decide to study for a month or even longer.
If you and other teachers want to study in a group, then the prices reduce as follows:
2 people: $4 per hour3 people: $3 per hour
4 people: $2 per hour
Some of your fellow staff members will already speak Spanish well. Others will be confused by the rapid speed of Peruvian Spanish.
Yet others will be beginners, or wanting to brush up on things long forgotten.
If you are working at the same time as a non-Spanish speaker, it’s a good idea to get together to study at a lower price.
ILC gets about 20-30 applications for every vacancy we have, and last-minute vacancies usually get filled within 24 hours. This means that speed of response, and having (all ready and easy to read) the most persuasive details of your skills posted clearly on your resume are the two most convincing components of applying to ILC.
Stating your teaching experience,
- - if you have formal teaching experience, we want to know, and we'll value you all the more for it. Was it with adults, teens or children? Was it teaching EAL, EFL or ESL? (Find out the difference, guys!) Was it in another subject?
- - if you have informal teaching experience, that's almost as good. Did you coach a local group? Did you have to present or train groups of people in specific skills? Have you done any support for students in an official or unofficial capacity? Have you done any one-to-one tutoring? Have you ever had to explain to someone who isn't a native speaker of English how they could speak differently?
Stating your teaching qualifications ,
- - if you have a TESOL, TEFL, Trinity, or CELTA certificate, then say how many hours you have done in the classroom, and if you studied online or not.
- -if you have a degree or postgrad qualification in Education, you will probably go to the top of the list, so make that clear to us.
- - if you're a qualified teacher in your home country, say so. We love qualified experienced teachers.
- - If you don't have any certification, then say so, but be ready for us to ask you to get some before you start work with us. We want to be sure you're serious about improving our students' life chances, and not just a backpacker looking for a cheap holiday.
Describing any experience living, travelling or working overseas,
- - this is really key to your application. We've found that the teachers who succeed at ILC are those who have realistic expectations of living in the third world, and who make serious efforts to communicate with local people.
- - If you lived / travelled / worked in a remote region overseas, rather than in a major city, that's even more brownie points!
- - If you've never left home before, be honest about it. If your personality seems right for ILC, we'll be happy to give you a shot at it.
Stating your age,
- - Some teachers have gotten upset about this - "Why is my age relevant?" Fear not. We have employed people in their teens, and we have employed people in their sixties.
- - We get a glut of applications from gap year students and from people aged 24. (Why? nobody knows.) If you aren't 24, you have something a little extra to offer, just by being different from the others.
- - If you're over 27, you will have a ton of life experiences that will really help you to adjust to the difficulties of living in a remote location where few people speak English. We love people who've worked in EFL in other countries, or who've run their own business, or who know a little about marketing, for instance ... So tell us about it!
Stating your nationality,
- - It does matter to our students, because they want to know about the world. We don't want our teachers to be only Brits, or only Americans. We want our students to learn about the rest of the world through knowing you.
- - If your native language isn't English, that isn't a barrier to applying. A native speaker will assess your level of English via your application, and by phoning you. If it's not up to much, it's still possible that you could teach our kindergarten classes, for example.
- - Be honest if your English needs a little practice. Saying "I AM THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF THE ENGLISH" isn't persuasive. Tell us what qualifications you have, and what courses you have studied in English, and double check your emails for errors.
- - Foreigners are a little scary and a little intriguing for people in Chachapoyas, in equal measure. If you have latino heritage, you have a shortcut to your students' trust here. So tell us!
Stating what other European languages you could teach,
- - This is a biggie. If you can teach French, you will probably jump to the front of our shortlist. If you can teach German and want to stay for at least six months, likewise. If you can teach Italian, Russian or Portuguese, we can also offer you classes. And ... if you can teach Spanish, we might just have some classes teaching tourists we could pass on to you, too.
- - If you studied one of these languages, but haven't spoken it for a while, or haven't taught it ever, be realistic about your level. For example, Basic French might be more persuasive if you studied it within the last 2 years.
Being specific about when you're thinking of coming to Peru, and how long you'd like to stay at ILC.
- - You'd be surprised at how many great teachers kibosh their own application by never tying their availability down to a specific time period. Give us your ideal timeframe, and then give us a Plan B timeframe you'd accept if necessary.
- - If we don't have any jobs within your preferred dates, it's possible we have a cancellation in the future. Let us know if you want to be on the Waiting List, and - if we contact you with a vacancy - try to respond quickly.
- - The majority of teachers stay 3 months or a year. The minimum time you can stay is 1 month.
- - If you want to stay more than 3 months, you need to reconfirm your intention to stay on once you've completed two months at the school. This means we know you're serious about what you're doing, and not just throwing wild promises about that will sting our students when you change your mind later.
... And stating your level of fluency in Spanish.
- - We don't demand that you be able to speak Spanish.
- - But ... if you can speak Spanish at intermediate level or above, you will shoot directly to the top of the pile of applications. This, and teaching certification, are the silver bullets that defeat the competition.
- - Again, the teachers who do well in Chachapoyas are those who are realistic about living in a third world environment, and those who manage to communicate with locals. 99% of the city do not speak one word of English. Without basic level Spanish you are going to find it hard here.
- - Even if you're happy to learn Spanish, be realistic about how you will cope - emotionally and socially - in an environment where you are totally immersed in the language. Will you see it as an opportunity, and try to find helpful friends who can coach you along? Or will you find it a little threatening, and find yourself only ever speaking to foreigners teaching English in the city? If it's the latter, you might end up learning very little about Peru.
- - If you studied lots of Spanish 30 years back, you will not remember it. If you speak 'ranch Spanish' you have some cultural attitudes to sort out before you get here. If we read the doom-laden phrase "I'm sure I'll pick it up quickly once I get there," we're going to put you to the back of the pile and roll our eyes; it's a red flag that you don't think integration into the local community is worthwhile.
- - We don't demand that you be able to speak Spanish. We do demand that you try to learn.
If your resume includes all of these things, you WILL be considered for the next set of vacancies, and we WILL be contacting you as soon as we can.
My time in Peru seems like lifetimes ago. I dream about Chachapoyas all the time. I seem to always want to return to my three months in the Andes everytime I close my eyes. I have albums full of pictures from my adventures in Peru, but sometimes it feels like I was never even there. My spanish is awful now! I understand why Vanessa never wanted to leave...
I loved waking up to the sound of a rooster each morning from my flat in Chacha- and waking up to the mountains surrounding me, usually covered in mist. My son has this machine that makes all sorts of white noise sounds to help him sleep and the one sound is of rainfall. Everytime I hear it, I am back in my single bed in my flat in Chachapoyas, listening to the raindrops pelting my metal roof. What a wonderful part of my life that was!
Cori, 24, Alberta, Canada
It isn’t obligatory to study Spanish at ILC while you are working here, but it is obligatory to learn. Most teachers come to ILC willing to try to learn Spanish. Once they actually get here, however, many find that learning a foreign language is harder, or more time consuming, or more expensive than they thought it would be, and lose impetus to try at all. We want to convince you to keep trying to learn the language that everyone around you is speaking.
We ask our teachers to speak the target language (usually English) for at least 90% of class time – but understanding what your students are saying when they are unable to vocalise in L2 is a major advantage.
Please be aware that if you don’t speak any Spanish,
- your students will have a harder time:
- it gives the impression to your students that you don’t care about their difficulties in learning English.
- your students will probably complain to the director that you don’t understand what they are saying when they are having difficulties
- your colleagues will have a harder time
- some of your colleagues will have to help you every time you need to communicate with the secretary
- you will only be able to teach the more advanced classes, who can communicate more easily in your language, and your colleagues will be relegated to permanently handling the basic courses
- your colleagues will be pressganged into translating every time you need a medicine or want to try some new food
- your Peruvian colleagues will feel you do not care about their opinions or their lives
- your experience of
will be very limited Peru
- you will have a much harder time making friends with local people, if you do so at all
- you will pay gringo prices at every turn, and find transportation a bit of a nightmare
- you will be reliant on the tastes and preferences of other foreigners, instead of finding things out for yourself
- the new cultures you encounter will remain unexplained and people will be frustrated by their inability to tell you their stories
- people in the sierra are rather timid, and are rather scared of foreigners. If they think they can communicate with you, however, they will prove some of the most welcoming, generous people you have ever met
- in our experience, those teachers who get the most of their time in Peru, and enjoy themselves, are those who are prepared to accept the reduced living circumstances inherent in third world countries, and who make an effort to learn peoples’ language and communicate with Peruvian people
It isn’t obligatory to study Spanish at ILC while you are working here, but it is obligatory to learn - at least Basic level Spanish.
If we think you’re avoiding the issue, or if students and parents complain about you not understanding them, we will oblige you to take two classes per week in the subsequent semester.
Yes, I was in Chacha during the summer of 2007 I believe. It was such a wonderful experience! However, I was there primarily as a missionary working with one of the local churches and just volunteered at the ILC, so my experience and perspective were probably a bit
different than yours will be.
What I can tell you about Chachapoyas is that the people there are some of the sweetest, kindest people you will ever meet. They would absolutely love you and be so eager to learn from you! The ILC would be a great place to work! Vanessa and Fidel are awesome people, as well as the others that teach there. Spending time there would definitely be a cultural experience and would greatly help your Spanish skills.
Like I said, I was just a volunteer at the ILC. All I did was have conversations with the more advanced students as a native speaker.
I'm from the south, and Vanessa liked the students to experience a different dialect (since the students learn British English there). I am also an education major, so teaching comes natural to me. But if you are a native speaker of English, you will have no trouble teaching students how to speak it. As far as I know the ILC has curriculum and materials for you to use, and the staff can give you ideas on how to teach.
Chachapoyas is very rural compared to Lima, but not near as rural as other places I have been in Peru or other parts of the world. There is an internet cafe, a few restaurants and shops, and some travel guide places. It might get pretty dull during the week, but there are several places to go see during your stay in chacha. There are famous inca ruins nearby, one of the larger waterfalls in the world. Most of these places to see involve trekking. I only stayed there for a
couple of months. It might be hard to stay there for a longer period of time, but i'm sure there will be opportunities to get out and travel. When I went, the only way to get to chachapoyas was a 20 hour bus ride from lima. I know they have an airport in chachapoyas, but it was not open when i was there.
Overall I would say GO to Peru. It will be a great experience!! If you have any other questions please feel free to ask!!!!!
Meredith, 18, Charlston, USA
While you're in Lima, you can register with your embassy, and .. well, there's not a lot to do except shop and eat. Visitors arriving in Lima sometimes are underwhelmed by theexistence of such delights as arange of restaurants and shops - believe me, when you go back that way after months in the wilds of the rural north, you'll be looking at Peru's only Starbucks with different eyes! :)
Currently most direct buses leave around 8ish (this can change without notice), and take 22-24 hours to get to Chachapoyas, arriving around 7 in the evening. They cost about 120 soles. You'll miss the sight of the shanty towns that circle Lima, and the desert, but you will get a daytime view of the Andes - much the better option.
Basically, you need to reserve and pay for a bus with Movil Tours at least five hours before you travel. That's something you have to do in person, with cash. Movil Tours is by the ‘Stadium Nacional’ in La Victoria, Lima, in a not particularly salubrious area. A taxi from Miraflores will cost about 8 soles, and takes 30-45 minutes. Don’t wander around outside with a rucksack. The bus stations themselves are safe, and have security guards.
The smartest thing to do is to book in the morning and come back in the evening to get on the bus.The Movil Tours address is on their website, but the schedules on there are unreliable. http://www.moviltours.com.pe/
Other bus companies, like Civa, and GH, do the same route for a lower price, but with less comfort or security. This route goes via Chiclayo, and after that point, will travel through both very hot and very cold climates, so you need to cater for both in what clothes you take on the bus with you.
The last part of the route is quite treacherous, so I would recommend not skimping on bus price. Movil will feed you sandwiches twice and let you watch one or two DVDs while you're on board, but you'll still need sweets (to cope with lots of altitude drops), toilet paper, and water. (See the footnote about night buses in Peru.)
BUS VIA CHICLAYO
Transportes Linea and Movil both do good night buses to Chiclayo.
Both stations are near the Stadium Nacional in La Victoria, Lima, in a not very safe area, and any taxi driver should be able to get you there for 8 soles from Miraflores.
It's about 12 hours journey and should cost you about 55 soles for a bus cama, with enough space to sleep in.
One of Fidel's relatives can, if you need her to, pick you up from the bus station when you arrive in Chiclayo, and help you find a cheap hotel to recover. It's best to book your onward ticket as early as possible: the two best companies are Movil Tours, or Kuélap.
Any taxi driver will take you to the main Tepsa bus station - Movil is one block away (walk left from the Tepsa station).
DON'T get a ticket with the Zelada bus company, their safety record is too shabby.
A ticket to Chachapoyas should cost around 35-45 soles, depending on demand. Taxis around Chiclayo cost 3-4 soles. A taxi to the beach at Pimentel costs 10 soles.
The Chachapoyas leg of the journey is the most difficult, with the most sudden changes in altitude and temperature. Take a sweater! There are only night buses, which take around 9 - 12 hours, and leave around 7.30pm.
PLANE THEN BUS
You can get a domestic flight to either Chiclayo, on the coast, or Tarapoto, in the jungle, then travel on by bus to Chachapoyas. LANPeru offer 35 minute flights online for around $85 - but prices tend to be cheaper on the spanish speaking website.
From Chiclayo, you have fairly easy night buses to Chachapoyas, plus we have relatives in Chiclayo city to help you out if you have problems. The night bus is about 9 hours (see above). One of Fidel's relatives can, if you need her to, pick you up from the airport when you arrive, and help you find a cheap hotel to recover. An airport taxi shouldn’t cost more than 5 soles.
It's best to book your onward ticket as early as possible: the two best companies are Movil Tours, or Kuélap. Any taxi driver will take you to the main bus station - Movil is one block away.
DON'T get a ticket with the Zelada bus company, their safety record is too shabby.
A ticket to Chachapoyas should cost around 35-45 soles, depending on demand.
The Chachapoyas leg of the journey is the most difficult, with the most sudden changes in altitude and temperature. Take a sweater! There are only night buses, that take around 9 - 12 hours, and leave around 7.30pm.
From Tarapoto, there's a quite rapid Movil Tours bus to Pedro Ruíz (7 hours). Get a taxi or a mototaxi from the airport to the Parque (taxis aren’t allowed into the center), where there are cheap hotels and a tourist information, then a 3-5 soles mototaxi to Movil Tours, on the edge of the city.
Tarapoto is in the jungle, and has some really interesting sights – particularly the thermal springs, and the native Quechua speaking community at Lamas. Your bus to Pedro Ruíz will have a rest stop for twenty minutes in Moyobamba, where you can buy some snacks (coins only) and stretch your legs.
Pedro Ruíz is an uninteresting junction in the road, two hours outside of Chachapoyas. You would need to get to Pedro before 8.30pm to be able to get a colectivo (12 soles) or a combi (8 soles) to Chachapoyas. There are some crappy hotels (with fleas) in Pedro, if you get stuck.
The Movil Tours bus station is a short ten minute walk outside of central Pedro Ruíz, so you'd need to turn left outside the station and carry your bags for ten minutes until you hit a bridge on your right, where you can negotiate a colectivo to Chachapoyas.
One of our teachers did this route in 07, so you can also ask him for tips; there are about ten different decent bus companies that do the Tarapoto - Pedro route. (Ask us for Jamie's contact details).
BUS VIA CAJAMARCA
This is really the long way round, and is for people who have left themselves several days for the journey and want to sightsee on the way.
A night bus from Lima to Cajamarca takes around 15 hours. Cajamarca is at around 2800 metres above sea level, so the pointers below about Andean night bus ride conditions apply: be prepared for extreme warmth, extreme cold, and delays en route.
Cajamarca is a beautiful colonial city, where the last Incan king, Atahualpa, surrendered to the Spanish, so there’s lots to see there. From Cajamarca you can get a 10 hour bus to Celendín, in the mountains, then another 5 hour bus onwards to Chachapoyas.
Celendin is a one horse road junction town, but you can get food and a basic bed for the night. The bus to Chachapoyas runs twice a week. The road from Celendín to Chachapoyas is one of the most beautiful you’ll ever see, but is not paved, so expect a very bumpy ride, in a rather crappy bus.
If it’s the rainy season in the sierra (Jan till March), I wouldn’t recommend this route.
PLANE VIA ECUADOR
If you arrive in SA in Guayaquil, in Southern Ecuador, you can travel to us on a very pretty, very under-used and untouristed route, overland.
Only try this route if you have several days (possibly a week) to spare, and you speak at least a little Spanish.
From Guayaquil, catch a bus to Cuenca or to Loja. (Cuenca was the Incan capital at the end of the empire, and is a stunning colonial city.) To Cuenca the bus is 7 hours. If you’re short of time, go direct to Loja (around 8 or 9 hours). Cuenca to Loja is about 2 hours, and can be done by combi. From Loja you can get a bus to the paradisal village of Vilcabamba (5 hours). We recommend kicking back a few days here to explore the Valley of Eternity on foot or on horseback, and relish your last good coffee and banana pancackes, it’s lovely.
From Vilcabamba, there’s a 1.30am bus to Zumba (6 hours), then a camioneta (pick up truck ride) to the border at La Balsa, where you cross a river to get to Peruvian immigration.
It’s possible to get from here to Chachapoyas in one day, by a series of combis, colectivos, etc. Change dollars to soles with the dodgy money sellers at La Balsa – there’s no ATM until Bagua or Chachapoyas, so change around 200 soles.
From La Balsa, get a colectivo to San Ignacio (which has hotels for 27 soles, if you like) (1.5 hours). Then go to the combi station on the other side of town for a bus to Jaén (4-5 hours). Cross Jaén by mototaxi, and get a colectivo to Bagua Grande (not Bagua Chica) (2 hours). Get a mototaxi to the colectivo company for Chachapoyas (3 hours, 22 soles).
Remember colectivos and combis don’t leave until they’re full. In combis, luggage goes on the roof – keep a sharp eye on your pack when the combi stops.
HOW TO DECIDE: spin a coin. It's a judgement call, balancing cost versus hours spent in uncomfortable buses, really. Let us know what you're going to do, and when you're travelling, so we can meet you from the station.
WHEN YOU GET TO CHACHAPOYAS
If you arrive early or something, get a taxi (flag down a big white Toyota, and pay 2 soles max) or walk to the 'parque', eat something at the Mini Market café or Chacha restaurant, then ring us from the locutorio (phone shop) there.
If there's any problem and you can't find us, remember Fidel's cellphone number. There are coinphones and credit card phones in the airport, and if not, then a public phone stand is called a 'locutorio', and you tell them 'para llamar un celular, claro'. ('to call a cellphone, on the Claro network). They will ask you for the number, dial, pass you a cellphone, then charge you around one or two soles, after the call is done.
It’s just as likely to work if you ask people where Fidel and Vanessa are. Before you get on any bus, make sure you have in your hand luggage all the contact numbers and addresses you can collect of the school - and remember that a taxi in Chachapoyas is never more than 2 soles.
HOTELS IN LIMA:
We recommend The Friends' House (45 soles) in Miraflores for budget level dorms, or The Hostal Larco, (55 soles) for private rooms, at Larco Mar on Avenida Larco, right behind the British Embassy. Both are in the welathier district of Miraflores, where it's safe to wander about.
It’s best to telephone and reserve, but not to expect that to be binding. Pay in cash, when you arrive.
· Friends’ House, Jiron Manco Capac 368, Miraflores Tel: 01-446-6248
· Hostal Larco, Avenida Larco 1247, cerca del Parque Mar, Miraflores Tel: (01) 447-5374
TAXI FROM LIMA AIRPORT:
A taxi to or from the airport should cost 25 - 30 soles. From arrivals, if it's late at night, it's possible taxi drivers will charge a little more - you should set a maximum of 50 soles. (Flights from Miami tend to arrive 4-6 hours late, at midnight. Flights from Madrid can be delayed by up to 14 hours. Flights from Amsterdam arrive more or less on time!)
If you arrive with some US dollars in cash, you can change these into soles in the arrivals hall at one of the official exchange places. You can't sell pounds in Peru easily, and you can't buy soles in the UK.You’ll need around $100-$150 to change into soles to cover taxi, hotel, food, and transport the next morning. If the exchange places inside the airport are closed when you arrive, then taxis and restaurants in Lima will accept small denomination dollars (they need to be looking crisp and new), and there are plenty of banks in most Miraflores streets, which will change dollars to soles the next day. In other words, bring a small calculator and know the dollar exchange rate, just in case.
FINDING MOVIL TOURS IN LIMA:
Movil Tours is in La Victoria, in the north of Lima, by the Stadium Nacional, and should cost 8 soles by taxi from Miraflores. It's not a particularly safe area, so you should be alert while there, and keep an eye on belongings, or wait out delays inside the bus station, which has a guard.
NIGHT BUS JOURNEYS:
I don't know how accustomed you are to 9-22 hour bus rides, but the bus to Chachapoyas will go through several different altitudes, and climate zones on its way north. You will be roasting at some moments, and freezing at others. If you wear several T shirts, and take a very warm sweater, then you can cope with the cold, have a sweater for a pillow, and can cool off easily without too much trouble. You only need one small bottle of water - the idea is to avoid using the onboard bathroom – I won't go into why! Some candies too, are useful. The bus stewardess will feed you twice, but that will be some crap pasta and then nothing for about 20 hours, so you might want other snacks.
Bear in mind that any hand luggage you have with you will be between your legs so if you bring a big bag, it can affect your posture quite severely! There'll be a movie or two, possibly in spanish - but if you bring an ipod or something, it's best to be discreet with it, and to make sure your hand luggage has padlocks. Most peruvians, even the rich ones who can afford to travel by Movil Tours, will be tempted by open displays of wealth, and you will be asleep for a good part of the journey. For example, if you bring a camera to snap the journey, a little, unobtrusive one is better.
The roads, once you hit the mountains, are unsealed. That means the bus will bounce, and a lot. Try to get seats in the center of the bus to avoid the worst potholes, because unsealed roads can actually have you hitting the roof on bad patches. Sleeping is possible if you are accustomed to being beaten like a Swedish politician throughout the process - you might want to bring an eye shade or something to aid that process!
Believe it or not, travelling like this is something most Peruvians look forward to, as it takes people a long time to save the funds to visit distant family or towns, so all this will be approached with a lot of good humour and tranquility by the locals. And out of your window, you will be watching some of the most stunning landscapes the world has to offer pass by.
Mountain roads are valley hugging windy things, alongside white water rivers, so they tend to have avalanches, or floods, or accidents, or problematic road rebuilding after avalanches. We will have warned you of any current avalanches – telephone us when you arrive in Lima to check the bus company will be able to get you there. But also be aware that there are often roadblocks of up to 2 hours en route if there is some problem. If you encounter a serious road blockage, get off at the closest large town (Jaen, Bagua and Pedro Ruiz are en route to Chachapoyas and have hotels), and be prepared to wait. If you fuss and argue a lot, you may indeed manage to be the first person to get across the fresh avalanche – and that would be a seriously scary experience for you. Better to be patient and telephone us for more information.
If you have a confirmed job at ILC, then you're already famoushere in Chachapoyas - your photo has been on the television in our adverts for some time before you get here, and students are already jostling for which class gets to be taught by you. A taste of Amazonas: http://images.google.com.pe/images?hl=es&q=chachapoyas&gbv=2
If you can think of anything else you need to know, either telephone us (00 51 41 478883) or email.