Chanchamayo: Rainforest just six hours from Lima
By Nick Rosen
Chanchamayo’s greatest claim to renown is that it is easy to reach from Lima, which made it all the more bedeviling that my first two attempts to get there were thwarted. First, I was stymied by the holiday weekend crowds that gobbled up the last bus tickets minutes seconds before me, and then by a stomach bug. On my third try, I finally got to enjoy a trip to Chanchamayo, and it was worth the wait.
Chanchamayo is the nearest jungle region to Lima, a warm, green slice of the selva just six hours from cold, gray Lima. It is a popular weekend destination, especially during Lima’s winter (which coincides with Chanchamayo’s dry season), and a small tourism industry has developed there.
Among Chanchamayo’s principal attractions are its waterfalls. There are a bunch, as this is where the Andes tumble down into the jungle, but the most popular are Bayoz and Velo de la Novia. The two falls are separated by less than a kilometer of rainforest, and make for a great excursion. Visitors can swim at the base of the Bayoz falls, and it’s a popular spot for locals on the weekends.
A more adventurous way to get into the water is by rafting on the Chanchamayo River. During the dry season, the rapids are class I-II, which are perfect for a first-timer. When I went, the guide used the downtime between rapids to give classes on steering and guiding the raft. During the rainy season, the volume of the river picks up, and the rapids get significantly more daunting. Expect to spend about an hour or so on the river.
There are a number of other attractions around Chanchamayo, especially around the Perené River. There are visits to indigenous Ashaninka communities (the visits set up by mainstream agencies in Chanchamayo often feel a bit exploitative, but there is an agency run by the Ashaninka themselves, which can provide a more authentic experience). Visitors can also visit some of the coffee farms and processing plants in the region, or take trips on the lancha boats in Pichanaki. Chanchamayo is a center of citrus production, and there are whole villages that smell strongly of oranges.
There are two major population centers in Chanchamayo: San Ramón and La Merced. Most visitors choose to stay in the latter. Both are quiet, safe towns, though there is not much to do in either one. There are a handful of restaurants around La Merced’s plaza that serve authentic jungle cuisine, including bush meat. The best meal to be had on the square, however, is at Fuente de Soda Pepe’s, which looks like an old malt shop and serves tasty juanes and delicious jungle fruit juices so large that they come in two glasses.
One alternative to staying in La Merced is to stay in one of the lodges outside town. Fundo San José, for example, is an old Italian coffee plantation that has been converted to a hotel. On its grounds there are a pool and walking trails through the jungle. It’s a relaxing spot just a short mototaxi ride away from La Merced.
The drive to Chanchamayo takes about six hours, or slightly longer by bus. One of the best options is Transportes Junin, whose bus cama buses leave from a station near Av. Javier Prado every night.
Chanchamayo is no substitute for a visit to Iquitos or Pucallpa, much less Manú or Tambopata. But for a quick, easy jolt of the jungle’s warmth and energy, it’s good to know that it’s just a few hours away from Lima.
SOURCE: peruthisweek.comTerug naar het nieuwsoverzicht