Having failed in my mission to meet Pacha Mama via the ancient inca methods of ceremonies and hallucinogenic plant forms, I decided it was time to revert to my old ways of getting close to Mother nature. As there is a serious lack of Welsh forestries in Peru, I had to settle for the Amazon.
You won’t find Chocachanta on the map. It’s 22 inhabitants are blissfully hidden in the misty amazonian cloud forest about 6 hours out of Cuzco. While everyone else headed North to Machu Pichu, I headed east, back over the Andes and down in to Kosnipata Valley and Manu National Park. Here in Chocachanta I would meet Jose, a 60 something year old who, as far as I could make out, has spent most of his life travelling the world studying insects. Jose is a Majorcan who settled here about 6 years ago. His friend and partner in crime is 30 something year old Paolo, from Barcelona, who joined him 2 years ago after coming for a short visit and accidentally falling in love with the place. Together they set up Reserva Tierra Linda. This would be my home for the next two days.
I didn’t quite know what to expect when I arrived, but first I had to find the place. The ride over the Andes was a real treat. The tarmac ended after about an hour and I almost had the road to myself. Twisting through the glorious peruvian mountains I easily forgot the chaos of the Cusco traffic and the hoards of holiday makers that permanently frequented the city. This was more like it. The crowds and diesel fumes wonderfully replaced by fresh country air and livestock.
I found my way to Paucartambo, a small town on the edge of the Andes and here, after some debate with the locals I found myself being directed up another mountain track. I checked the map and it seemed I was going in the right general direction. The track got narrower and the obvious signs of landslides more frequent but all was well and I continued on my way safe in the knowledge that there was a town nearby. If I got lost I could always head back there for shelter for the night.
About half an hour in, I found a landslide that covered most of the road. There was just enough room to sneak through by bike if I didn’t look down and so that’s just what I did. On the other side though, a lot of the road had been torn away and what was left looked precarious at best. I could possibly have made it through but I didn’t fancy my chances and without knowing what was coming next I decided to ride back down. I was sure there must be another way, otherwise how would supplies get through to the settlements on the other side.
I was right. After Paucartambo was another town called Challabamba, and here I found the track I was looking for. Again I climbed and twisted through the mountains, crossing streams and muddy patches until I arrived at the entrance of
I began my decent down the narrow dirt track, with no real idea how far Chocachanta was. Everytime I saw someone I stopped and asked. Each time I got a different answer. The longer I rode the further away people would tell me it was! Did it really exist? There was clearly nothing else down this road but jungle. If I kept going and found nothing, I would have a long ride back up and if I lost the light I would be well and truly stuffed with no headlight and a drop that would not forgive any mistakes.
I continued for two hours, deeper in to the jungle and further in to awesome riding territory. This road was spectacular. It was just as exciting and beautiful as Death Road in Bolivia and yet no one was talking about it. Why had no one told me about this place before? It seemed, judging by the lack of traffic and particularly holiday makers, that no one knew about it! This place should be full of adventure riders and thrill seekers but not a single one! This made it even more special and I felt I was riding in to some lost world!
As the road flattened out I saw my first building and a white haired man stood outside. As I slowed , he waved and I realised that it was Jose coming to greet me. I’d found him!
Jose’s house was amazing. A wooden building filled with trinkets and glass encased insects from all over the world. Beatles, butterflies, stick insects and wonderfully colourful moths of all shapes and sizes. All beautifully preserved and catalogued. His garden was designed to attract them and his whole life clearly revolved around them. Jose IS the insect man of the Amazon!
After an hour or so, Paolo turned up with two other people from Cusco. I was told to leave my bike here as the track to the lodge was extremely hard going. I considered insisting that it would be fine but decided to take their advice on this occasion and go in the truck. After all I had no idea what was coming up.
The 4km to the lodge took us the best part of an hour to cover. It really was dense jungle and although there was a track, it was extremely rocky and the jungle would not be held back for anyone. It would have been quicker to walk! It was dark by now and I was surprised when the track ended at a river and Pablo announced that we had arrived! It had been raining for the past few hours and the river ahead of us was flowing fairly quickly. It seemed we were to cross the river by foot with our luggage.
Paolo lent me some wellies but they were soon full of water as I tried and failed to find the shallowest parts with my torch. Once safely on the other side we were greeted by a small dog, about 6 months old. He belonged to Paolo and apparently lived here in the jungle as his companion. I was impressed that they both slept out here alone! I’m not sure I would be so brave! Not only does this jungle have Puma’s and Jaguars but also poison frogs and snakes not to mention the indigenous tribes and drug runners who also frequent the jungle. It may be a big jungle but I would hate to meet with any of them in the dead of the night on my own with only a small sausage shaped puppy to protect me!
That night I slept on the open platform in my sleeping bag with a mosquito net for cover. The only sound was the flowing river nearby and the insects. It was a peaceful night. I slept like a log.
I awoke early as usual and took a wonder around before getting a lift back to my bike and heading down some tracks to see what I could find. What a great day. There are 3 settlements down here and they were all very friendly. I needed oil for my chain and found someone tinkering with his bike outside his house. By now I had learnt the Spanish for “chain” and “oil” and so he pottered in and came back out with a little oil can. I held the bike on its side while he did the honours. He would not take any money.
The jungle is beautiful and the area is mostly undisturbed by tourists, although I did spot a couple of higher end lodges nestled in some of the most beautiful spots. I guess if you have money you can come and stay here in luxury. You can take a guide, have hot running water and no doubt keep your feet dry. I don’t have the option but I
My ride back was just as magnificent as the ride in and I would highly recommend a visit if you find yourself with a motorbike and some spare time in Cusco! Get out of the city and expensive tourist attractions and head for the jungle. You won’t regret it! The ride over may be long but it is up there for me as one of the best roads I have travelled.
Thanks so much to Paolo and Jose for having me as their guest and I look forward to seeing your new project growing and flourishing over the coming years.
If you would like to join these guys at the lodge and maybe offer some help in their conservation work in one of the most biodiverse parts of the world then you can find them here www.reservatierralinda.com