October 14-22, 2021
In the mid-afternoon of day 5 of our trip, after fixing a flat tire on our trusty Toyota, we drove south, leaving behind the sweltering city of Pucallpa. Not too far from the city limits, we were stopped on the road by these military men checking people’s trunks and truck beds. I´m suspicious that they were looking for contraband materials… perhaps illegally harvested lumber, wild jungle animals, or maybe even drugs. Good thing we only had a few suitcases and the spare tire!
Breathing a sigh of relief as we were waved through the checkpoint, we continued down the road towards our next destination. However, in true Yanac McDonald family fashion, we didn´t really have a “next destination” nailed down yet… we just started driving and figured we would keep going until it seemed like a good time to stop.
If you look at the map above, however, you´ll notice that there really aren´t too many good places to stop along our route, so we ended up driving a very long distance on dirt roads through a stretch of jungle that had been cleared for cattle grazing land.
In spite of the unpaved roads (we’re used to this from driving in the mountains, although the roads there are rock and not dirt), and the fact that dusk was quickly approaching, this was one of the most beautiful drives on our cross-country trip so far.
The drive that was supposed to take just 40 minutes from the main highway took us well over two hours, and it was completely dark and raining by the time we arrived in the little town of Codo del Pozuzo.
There was a bit of grouchiness among the teen faction in the truck, and it seemed like our best option was to eat dinner as soon as possible, find a decent hotel, and get some rest. No one except for me (Mom, overly-enthusiastic homeschool teacher, tour guide, family cheerleader) noticed or appreciated the distinct Austro-Germanic feeling in this little town that night. (More about that in my next post.)
We woke up to cloudy skies and still-cloudy attitudes, and since our goal for this day was to take in the jungle views and enjoy the drive between this town and Pozuzo, we decided to wait a few hours for the rain to stop. This gave the boys time to do an online algebra lesson (which didn’t help much with the attitudes!) while Ade poked around town and found a small lumber yard where he took pictures of the owner’s pet sajino (peccary).
He also picked up two large slices of tree trunks, which he has since turned into a lovely tabletop, although we’re still trying to figure out exactly what to do with the table.
The internet was slow and the sky continued to drizzle, so Ade and I decided to take a few pictures around town while the boys finished their algebra. The large bronze bull in the town plaza attests to the main industry in this area, and I have to admit that I’ve always gotten a bit of a laugh out of Peruvians’ attention to anatomical correctness in their animal figures.
We left Codo del Pozuzo mid-morning once algebra assignments were finished and the rain had stopped. By the way, Pozuzo is the name of a river that runs through this area, and Codo means elbow in Spanish. If you look at the map, you’ll see that this little town is nestled right into the elbow of the Pozuzo River and that a smaller river branches off of of the Pozuzo. We followed the Codo del Pozuzo River out of town, climbing back up into the Rupa Rupa, or high jungle, as we drove. Ade was gracious about all of my photo-op stops, but there was a bit of complaining from the backseat. (That’s why you don’t see the boys in the next few pictures!)
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, our family isn’t too great at planning the details of our trips ahead of time. This means that we do miss out on some things… like staying in a cute, quaint hotel as opposed to something really basic because we’ve pulled into town in the dark and everyone’s tired and hungry and we just need to find a place to spend the night. However, our choice to NOT plan all of the details ahead of time leaves us free to take advantage of whatever interesting options appear along the way, and I happen to think that this is a lot better than staying in the quaint hotels. Take for instance this puente colgante that we saw hanging across the Codo del Pozuzo River.
With trailing vines and the dark jungle beckoning from the other side, we couldn’t resist this short detour in our plans. After all, how many of our Ohio family and friends have had the opportunity to walk across a suspension bridge hanging over a river in the Amazon? (This was my “mean mom” reasoning when I made the boys get out of the truck and follow their papi!)
And for those who are curious: Yes, those are wooden slats, and yes, the bridge swayed as we walked. It was a bit scary, but judging by telltale signs (manure on the slats) that this bridge was mostly used for cattle, I figured it was strong enough to hold the four of us as we walked across. However, I will freely admit to clutching the cables as I inched across! The cow path on the other side disappeared into thick trees but must have led into a clearing at some point. (This is just one of those experiences we might have missed out on had we been in a rush to reach the next village so we could check into a boutique hotel at a certain time!)
The best part about our drive this afternoon was that the mostly-unpaved passage through the Yanachaga–Chemillén National Park is definitely the “road less travelled.” We saw several toucans and other bird species, gorgeous Blue Morpho butterflies, and brilliant tropical flowers, but only a few other vehicles passed us on this road.
The highlight of the day was the only stop that we had actually planned ahead. I had seen the Catarata La Huanca on a map, and since gorgeous waterfalls are a hallmark of the high jungle, this was one that we didn’t want to miss. There was absolutely no one else in the area when we pulled over into the tiny parking space, and it felt like we climbed out of our truck and stepped into the Garden of Eden. Colorful tropical flowers graced the path up to the falls, and huge Blue Morpho butterflies swooped and danced, seeming to purposefully evade my iPhone camera. If you look very carefully, you can see one in the mist in the middle of this picture.
We spent about an hour in this enchanted place… with the waterfall and jungle birds providing background music to our perfect day. I honestly felt like I could have died and gone straight to heaven at that moment, because it seemed like we were already halfway there!
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.Psalm 29:3-4
NOTE: Our swim in the waterfall did not end the day, but it's a good place to end this post. Join me again soon for an interesting history lesson about the Germans & Austrians who immigrated to this area in the 1800s. Meanwhile, check out the links below for some interesting scientific information about this part of the Amazon.
Conservation Area Protects Rare and Endemic Species in Peru – Andes Amazon Fund, July 24, 2021 – this describes a new conservation area in Codo del Pozuzo
Reforestation in Oxapampa: Peru’s Challenges and Priorities – this article has some interesting information towards the end of the article about the Yanachaga–Chemillén National Park, as well as good info about de- and reforestation in the area.
Indigenous Cacataibo of Peru threatened by land grabbing and drug trade – the area mentioned in this article is very close to where we were driving on this leg of our trip