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Peruvian Middle jungle: Pucallpa

Rubber boom and driven natives - port and oil - tourist information - many attractions in and around Pucallpa - native villages - the trip from Pucallpa to Iquitos

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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from: Dilwyn Jenkins: The rough guide to Peru; Rough Guides, New York, London, Delhi; 6th edition September 2006; www.roughguides.com

Click for Pucallpa, Peru Forecast

History of Pucallpa: Rubber boom - Cashibo natives are driven away by settlers - port of La Hoyada - oil contracts since 1996 under Fujimori

Long an impenetrable refuge for Cashibo Indians, PUCALLPA was developed as a camp for rubber gatherers at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1930 it was connected to Lima by road (850km of it), and since then its expansion has been intense and unstoppable. Sawmills surround the city and spread up the main highway towards Tingo María and the mountains, and an impressive floating harbour has been constructed at the new port of La Hoyada. Until 1980 it was a province in the vast Loreto department, controlled from Iquitos, but months of industrial action eventually led to the creation of a separate department - Ucayali.

The end of financial restrictions from Iquitos, which exports down the Amazon to the Atlantic, and the turn of traffic towards the Pacific were significant changes. The new floating dock can service cargo boats of up to 3000 tons, and in 1996, the selling off of contracts for oil exploitation to foreign companies by Fujimori's government gave Pucallpa a further burst of energy and finance (though this particular effect has eased off in recent years) [...] If you stay a while, though, it's difficult not to appreciate Pucallpa's relaxed feel - or the entrepreneurial optimism in a city whose red-mud-splattered streets are fast giving way to concrete and asphalt (p.536).

Arrival by bus

From Lima, Pucallpa is served by several buss companies, all of which go via Huánuco (roughly the halfway point); the full journey is supposed to take approximately 24 hours but can take longer; note that it's often difficult to get seats on the buses if you pick them up outside of Lima (p.536). Buses from Lima to Pucallpa are going daily and need 14 hours, or 24 hours via Huánuco (p.568).

If you arrive with Tepsa from Lima (p.536),

Ticket office at Jirón Lampa 1237, Lima Centro, Lima, T. 4275642
Bus terminal at Avenida Paseo de la República 129 [motorway], T. 4275643 or 4271233 (p.122)

you'll get off [in Pucallpa] outside their offices at Jirón (p.536) Raymondi 649; Ucayali Express offices [in Pucallpa] are by the corner of 7 de Junio with San Martín; while if you travel with León de Huánuco, you disembark close to the Parque San Martín, at the corner of Jirón 9 de Diciembre and Jirón Vargas (p.537).

Arrival by boat

Boats arrive at the floating port of La Hoyada on the eastern side of town, about 2km from the Plaza de Armas ($1 by motokar, $2.50 by taxi) (p.537).

Arrival by airplane

Pucallpa airport (T. 061-572767) is only 5km west of town and is served by buses (20min; 35cents), motokars (15min; $1.50) and taxis (10min; $4-5). [The airlines] Aero Continente and Lan Peru operate flights between Pucallpa and Lima and Iquitos, and TANS fly here from Tarapoto, Lima and Iquitos once a week. There are also irregular services run by Air Taxis (T. 061-575221), based at the airport, from Cruzeiro do Sul just over the Brazilian border (p.539).

-- from Pucallpa to Lima are 5 weekly, a flight of 1 hour 30 min.
-- from Pucallpa to Tarapoto is daily, a flight of 1 hour (p.568).

Tourist information in Pucallpa

-- regional office on block 2 of Raimondi (T./Fax 061-571506, www.regionucayali.gob.pe)

-- Laser Viajes y Turismo, Avenida 7 de Junio 1043, T./Fax 061-573776 (p.537).

Accommodation in Pucallpa

Map of the town of Pucallpa with tourist
                          hotels and tourist information Map of the town of Pucallpa with tourist hotels and tourist information

Hotels (squares):
1. Barbtur
2. Mercedes
3. Sol de Oriente
4. Hostal Antonio
5. Hostal Arequipa
6. Hostal Komby
7. Hostal Sun
8. Sol del Oriente

Restaurants (points):
1. Jugos [juices] Don José

Hotel El Pescador ["The Fisherman"], no telephone
offers good if basic accommodation, offers off-season deals in the range.

Hostal Los Delphines ["The Dolphines"], T. 061-571129
offers good if basic accommodation, offers off-season deals in the range (p.539).

Addition: Hotels in Pucallpa according to Trotamundos (in Spanish)

Hotels in Pucallpa (Trotamundos), p. 208-209

Hotels in Pucallpa (Trotamundos), p. 208-209

You can also camp anywhere along the lake [Yarinacocha, 9km], though bear in mind that you'll need to keep a lookout for thieves (p.539).


-- Exchange: Banco de Credito, Calle Tarapaca, two blocks from the Plaza de Armas towards the main market by Parque San Martín

--  cambistas [money changer] on Calle Tarapaca, where it meets the Plaza de Armas, for good rates on dollars cash (p.537).

Post office
[Jirón] San Martín 418 (8am-7pm Mon-Sat) (p.537).

Phone and Internet in Pucallpa

Payphones: Telefónica del Peru, [Jirón] Ucayali 357 or Jirón Independencia

Internet: There are several internet cafés but the best is probably the ISTU, Avenida San Martín 383 ($2.50 per hour, itsu@pol.com.pe) (p.537).

Transport in Pucallpa

One of the best ways of getting around Pucallpa is as the locals do, by motorbike; these can be rented by the hour (about $2) from the workshop at [Jirón] Raymondi 654. Otherwise, colectivos leave from near the food marker on Avenida 7 de Junio, while motokars ant taxis can be picked up almost anywhere in town (p.537).

Eating in Pucallpa

Like all jungle cities, Pucallpa has developed a cuisine of its own;one of the unique dishes you can find in some of these restaurants in inchicapi - a chicken soup made with peanuts, manioc and coriander leaves (p.538).

Restaurants are fairly plentiful.

Chifa Han Muy
Jirón Inmaculada 247
wonderful blend of Peruvian Chinese and tropical jungle cuisine

Hostal Inambu
[Jirón] Federico Basadre 271
for steak or chicken dishes, best quality

Restaurant El Golf
Jirón Huascar 545
excellent fish dishes, slightly cheaper than Hostal Inambu

Restaurant El Alamo
Carretera Yarinacocha, block 26
excellent fish dishes, slightly cheaper than Hostal Inambu (p.538).

is probably the best restaurant. The extensive menu includes caiman (p.539).

Try the local [fish] specialty patarashca (fresh fish cooked in bijao leaves), or the delicious satapatera (soup in a turtle shell) (p.538).

Towards the waterfront are most of the liveliest bars (try El Grande Paraiso ["The Big Paradise"]); if you fancy something quieter, the lodges around the lake make a good spot for an evening drink (p.539).

Tourist attractions in Pucallpa

Tourist week in September: The annual festival for visitors - the Semana Turistica de la Region Ucayali [Tourist Week of Ucayali region] - is usually held in the last week of September;mostly artesanía and forest produce markets plus folklore music and dance (p.536).

Markets: If you have an hour or so to while away in the town itself, both the downtown food market on [Jirón] Independencia and the older central market on [Jirón] Dos de Mayo are worth checking out; the latter in particular varied stalls full of jungle produce. The port of La Hoyada and and the older nearby Puerto Italia are also bustling with activity by day (p.537).

School of Painting: The only other attractions in town are the Usko-Ayar Amazonia School of Painting, at Jirón Sanchez Cerro 467 (Mon-Fri 8am-5pm; free, the home of the school's founding father, the self-taught artist Pablo Amaringo. Once a vegetalista-curandero [vegetarian healer], Dom Amaringo used to use the hallucinogenic ayahuasca, as do most Peruvian jungle healers, as an aid to divination and curing; his students' works, many of which are displayed at his house, display the same ayahuasca-inspired visions of the forest wilderness as his own paintings do (p.537).

Local Museum: On Calle Inmaculada, the Museo Regional de Historia Natural, or the Regional Natural History Museum (Mon-Sat 9am-6pm; $1.50), exhibits dried and stuffed Amazon insects, fish and animals and has good displays of local crafts, including ceramics produced by the Shipibo Indians, plus other material objects such as clothing and jewelery from local Indian tribes. There are also works by the Pucallpa-born wood sculptor Augustin Rivas, who once ran an artists' haven at Lago Yarinacocha, but now runs ayahuasca sessions in the Iquitos region (p.537).

Artesanía shops in Pucallpa

Artesanía shops can be found at:

-- Jirón Mariscal Cáceres, block 5
-- Jirón Tarapaca, block 8
-- Jirón Tanca, block 6 (p.537).

Tours and many attractions around Pucallpa

José Silva Nube, Jirón Aguaytia 145 (opposite the Hostal Los Delfines [The Dolphins], T. 061-597143) offers his services as a local-guide in the area and has his own boats (p.540).

Zoo of Barboncocha 6km

Some 6km out of town, along the highway towards Lima, there's a small lakeside settlement and zoological park at Barboncocha. Known as the Parque Natural de Barboncocha (p.537) (daily 9am-5.30pm; $1), it consists of almost two hundred hectares of lakeside reserve with plenty of alligators, birds (particularly parrots and macaws), boa constrictors and the usual caged monkeys and black jaguars. Colectivos to Barboncocha (25min; 60 cents) can be caught from near the food market on Avenida 7 de Junio; or hail a motorcycle taxi (20min; $3) from anywhere in town (p.538).

Lago Yarinacocha 9km: huge lake - dolphin watching - river channels to Shipibo natives and tourist lodges

Map of Yarinacocha lake with tourist
                          indications: Puerto Callao, Restaurant /
                          Hostal El Pescador ("The
                          Fisherman"), Bus Terminal, Hostal Los
                          Delfines ("The Dolphines"), the
                          Maroti-Shobo Artesanía Co-operative, the
                          Summer Institue of Linguistics (SIL), and the
                          Cabaña Lodge only reachable by boat. biggerMap of Yarinacocha lake with tourist indications: Puerto Callao, Restaurant / Hostal El Pescador ("The Fisherman"), Bus Terminal, Hostal Los Delfines ("The Dolphines"), the Maroti-Shobo Artesanía Co-operative, the Summer Institue of Linguistics (SIL), and the Cabaña Lodge only reachable by boat.

Some 9km from Pucallpa, and easily reached by bus or colectivo (20min; 30-50 cents) from the food market on the corner of [Jirón] Independencia and [Jirón] Ucayali, LAGO YARINACOCHA is without doubt the most beautiful place to stay near Pucallpa. The lake is gigantic and, apart from the tiny main port where the buses drop off, is edged with secondary forest growth around most of its perimeter. Dolphins can usually be seen surfacing and diving into water; but this is best witnessed by hiring one of the rowing boats (about $1.50 an hour) available daily from the lakeside.

Around the [lake's] port itself, and to a lesser extent, hidden behind the vegetation elsewhere, there is considerable settlement, but most of it is rustic and wooden. River channels lead off towards small villages of Shipibo Indians and the limited range of tourist lodges (p.538).

Tourist lodges around the Yarinacocha Lake

The lodges are around the lake Yarinacocha. The lodges are far more expensive than a basic hotel, but are wonderfully positioned with individual chalets, mosquito-proof restaurants and offering organized trips onto the lake and into the forest.

-- La Cabaña - possibly the first jungle lodge built in Peru - is an excellent place to stay though the management requests bookings in advance, not least so that they can send their boat to Puerto Callao to meet visitors; they have an office in Pucallpa at Jirón 7 de Junio 1043, T. 061-616679, Fax 579242

-- La Perla (no telephone)
which has highly recommended restaurant for patrons, is located more or less next door to La Cabaña but is slightly more expensive, with the price including full board; accommodation (in bungalows) is similar to that of La Cabaña, though it's a smaller place with a different, more intimate, (p.539) atmosphere. Like La Cabaña, it can be reached only by boat (p.540).

-- Jana Shobo, T. 061-596943, www.janashobo.tk
has a restaurant, library, comfortable rooms and will pick up from Pucallpa airport (p.540).

-- Medical center
Not a lodge at all, it is sometimes possible to stay in the Medical Center at the village of Nueva Luz de Fatima ["New Fatima Light"], a small settlement a little further down the same bank of Yarinacocha, beyond La Perla lodge. Gilber Reategui, an English-speaking neighbour of the Medical Center, can arrange for meals if required; he is also a jungle guide and has a peque-peque called Mi Normita, which is usually beached at Puerto Callao on the lake when not touring. Write to Sr. Gilber Reategui, c/o Ruperto Perez, Maynas 350, Yarinachocha, Pucallpa, Ucayali, Peru, for advance bookings (p.540).

Puerto Callao [Callao port]: Chicha music - best artesanía of Shipibo and Conibo natives

The port, which is where most travelers stay, is PUERTO CALLAO, a small town known locally (and slightly ironically) as the "Shangri-la de la Selva" [Tibetan monastery of the jungle]. Here, the bars and wooden shacks are animated by an almost continuous blast of chicha music. The settlement boasts one of the best jungle Indian craft workshops in the Amazon, the Moroti-Shobo Crafts Co-operative - a project originally organized by Oxfam but now operated by the local Shipibo and Conibo Indians. Located on the main plaza, it sells some beautifully moulded ceramics, carved wood and dyed textiles, most of them very reasonably priced.

Native villages: San Francisco, Nuevo Destino, Santa Clara and more far away

Various excursions to see wildlife, visit Indian villages, or just to cross the lake, are all touted along the waterfront. The standard day-trip goes to the Shipibo village of San Francisco ($10), sometimes continuing to the slightly remoter  settlement of Nuevo Destino and Santa Clara (around $15).

San Francisco is now almost completely geared towards tourism, so for a more adventurous trip you'll do better to hire a peque-peque canoe and boatman on your own (from around $30 a day); these canoes can take up to six or seven people and you can share costs, though if you want to go further afield (say on a three-day excursion) expect prices to rise to $150 a day.

Botanical garden 45 minutes by peque-peque

There's also a pristine botanical garden, the Jardín Botánico Chullachaqui (daily 9am-5pm; free) on the far right-hand side of the lake. To reach it you have to take a peque-peque canoe, a 45-minute ride ($2) from Callao Puerto [Callao port] , then walk for a little over half an hour down a clearly marked jungle trail. On (p. 538)

arrival, you'll find the garden in a beautiful and exotic location with over 2300 medicinal plants, mostly native of the region (p.539).

From Pucallpa downriver to Iquitos

Several days in a hammock

There are several boats weekly from Pucallpa to Nauta (a trip of 5-6 days) and Iquitos (a trip of 5-7 days) (p.568).

Traveling from Pucallpa to Iquitos on a boat is a trip of over 1000km of water and can be good or bad depending on the boat. [...] However, if you are going that way, you may want to relax in a hammock for a few days and arrive in the style the rubber barons were accustomed to.

[The trip from Pucallpa to Iquitos is 1000km long because the rivers in the Amazon basin are absolutely natural and have kept their meanders without any correction and violation of the white man. So the ships pass every meander and the trip takes it's time.

The price for the trip from Lima to Iquitos by bus and boat (14 days) or by airplane (1 1/2 hours) is more or less the same ($90) so most Peruvians from Iquitos take the airplane and by this mostly tourists are on the boats. So when you love the forest and want to get the jungle feeling take the boat and try it out, but not at a cheap price because then the standard on board will be very low. The boats downwards are coursing in the middle of the river, the boats upwards are coursing near to the river bank where the flow is not so strong, so one sees more of the river bank when one is traveling upwards].

Ports in Pucallpa, boats an prices: Large riverboats generally leave Pucallpa from La Hoyada port, 4km from the Plaza de Armas along Avenida Mariscal, while smaller launches and canoes tend to go from Puerto Italia, which is slightly nearer.

It should cost around $30 per person, including food, but if you want a cabin this can rise to about $50. Few [of the cheap cargo] boats on this stretch of water actually have cabins, though, and while they're useful for storing your gear [luggage], you'll probably be more comfortable (and certainly cooler) sleeping in a hammock, strung under some mosquito netting.

Find a boat

[As a tourist go to a travel office in Pucallpa and ask for a trip to Iquitos, it's a very common trip, so you have a reference and can be sure the boat will leave in time and you know what is inclusive or not].

The cheapest and most effective way of finding a boat is to go down to the ports and ask around. Try to fix a price and a departure date with a reputable-looking outfit; [but this is very riskfull].

[Peruvians with only little money are speaking with the captain and string their hammocks up on the deck of the boat even days before leaving. By this also tourists can save money because they don't spend money for a hotel, but theft risk is very high]. At the same time there will be less risk of the boat leaving without you.

Paperwork: Depending on how big the boat is and how many stops it makes, the journey amount of paperwork to go through, since this is a commercial port and one of the main illicit cocaine trails; you'll have to show your documents to the port police (PIP) and get permission from the naval office (your captain should help with all of this).

If the captain asks for money upfront, don't give the whole bundle to him; you may never see him or his boat again. Additionally, even when everything looks ready for departure, don't be surprised if there is a delay of a day or two - boats leave frequently but unpredictably.

Food on board: Food on board [on big boats is generally good, on little and cheap boats or on cargo ships food] can be very unappetizing [mostly you have to bring your plate and spoon yourself and there is only one menu], so it's worth taking some extra luxuries, like a few cans of fish, a packet or two of biscuits, and several bottles of water. [When there is no plate make a bowl out of an empty water bottle when you have a knife. The Peruvian spoons are formed very sharp so you also can use them as a knife for food].

The trip with it's stops and possibilities: En route to Iquitos, boats often stop at the settlements of Contamana (10hr; $7) and Requena (a further 4-5 days; $20). In theory it's possible to use these as pit stops - hopping off one boat for a couple of days while waiting for another - but you may end up stuck here for longer than you bargained. There isn't much at Contamana, on the right bank of the Ucayali, but it's okay to camp, and food can be bought without any problem. A better stopping point is the larger and more pleasant Requena, developed during the rubber boom on an isolated stretch of the Río Ucayali, a genuine jungle town that is in many ways (p.540)

like Iquitos was just fifty years ago. There are a couple of basic hostels here and one quite good one (contact the Hostal Amazon Garden in Iquitos; or you can camp on the outskirts of town. For those going downstream, it's about a day's journey from Iquitos, with boats leaving regularly (around $15 a person). You  can also access Pacaya Samiria National Reserve by boat from here, though most people reach it from Lagunas. A few hours to the north, just a few huge bends away, the Río Marañón merges with the Ucayali to form the mighty Amazon (p.541).

[When you are on a cargo ship the ship is welcomed 10km before Iquitos already by "flying merchants" on fast boats who are bargaining about the price of the goods].

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