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.