Cloud Forests of Udima, Peru; Escape the Gringo Trial
by Stu Llewellyn
Friday, August 4, 2017
Head in the Clouds
Until a friend showed me a video on Youtube I had never heard of Udima or it’s Cloud Forest and I’m willing to bet you haven’t either. But a few weeks later, we took advantage of some bank holidays and got absorbed into the breathtaking scenery with near exclusivity being the only visitors the area. Udima and the surrounding area is entirely off the traditional tourist radar and wall trodden gringo trial. If you want to experience unique views looking down on blankets of clouds, recently discovered old civilisation and amazing local hospitality and culture, make the journey to ‘Los Bosques de Neblina de Udima’. Though to get there is not physically demanding, you’ll require a certain level of determination to arrive, as there aren’t any tours or translators where you’re going, but the rewards are worth the effort. I’ll allow you to drool over the Cloud Forest photos for a moment.
Mirador El Balcon – Viewing point El Balcon
Vista from below ‘Mirador El Balcon’
A short walk up to the viewing point ‘Mirador El Balcon’ (20 minutes drive / 3km outside of the town of Udima) gives a perfect viewpoint to look down onto the cloud forest below. As you travel around the region (usually by hiring a local and his motorbike), these view becomes commonplace, a layer of clouds in the valleys beneath you, which never stops being special, with the occasional cascading waterfall on the valley side.
In the town of Poro Poro, is possibly Peru’s most understated archaeological site, whilst in ‘El Pulpito’ (the pulpit) a sculptured granite boulder in the surrounding area the has been known and observed for years, more recent excavations have discovered a courtyard like complex buried underground for years. Our guide, a forest park ranger explained that the key indicator to the archaeologist that something lay underneath was the worked granite rocks protruding out of the ground. After wondering around the small complex that’s been unearthed, you’ll soon realise that the entire area is full of similar human-altered granite stones, protruding out of the ground. There’s so much culture in Peru, that in PorPororo you can quite literally fall over it. If the site ever secures the appropriate funding, Peru could have another amazing archaeological complex to rival the likes of Kuelep in Chachapoyas, or Machu Pichu in Cuzco, fundamentally changing the community around forever.
El Pulpito – The Pulpit
A short ride away is the beautiful ‘El Pulpito’, this impressive single piece of granite has been carved and shaped, you could imagine various ceremonies or proceedings of ancient cultures, with an amazing backdrop of the opposite side of the valley.
La Guitarra – The Guitar
‘La Guitarra’ engraving, Poro PoroIn the opposite direction, another short motorbike ride away is ‘La Guitarra’ (the guitar), a detailed stone carving, engraved into the rock face on the side of the valley. The character faces south and is holding a type of staff, or as it’s locally referred ‘La Guitarra’.
It’s possible that given the multiple spherical carvings on a slab below ‘El Pulpito’, it could have been used as a stand or observation platform for astrological purposes. Similar techniques can be seen in later discovered civilisations such as Chavin in Huaraz, and the infamous Machu Pichu, where the carved bowls are filled with water, so the stars reflection can be observed. It’s been hypothesised due to this, and other channels found, that water was a very important resource in the culture found in Poro Poro
How to Get There
Bring your sense of Adventure, and your Spanish skills, (or at the very least your phrase book and patience), because where you’re going there won’t be any English speakers.
The area borders two provinces of Peru, Lambayeque and Cajamarca, in the region of Santa Cruz. Travelling along the Panamerican highway, make your way to the city of Chiclayo. On Avienda Jorge Chavez number 1330 is the bus company ‘Transportes Pasamayo ‘ (Telephone: 074 503099) where you’ll take one of their buses to the town of Catache. Next, you’re going to need to ask around in Catache for a ‘combi’ (small minibus) to Poro Poro. This may take place over the course of two days, depending on current timetables.
Small fincas in between villages
It would be possible to hike between some of the villages, a tourism poster suggested a range between 8 – 12km along the road between small villages. However, you can also to ask around locally in Udima or Poro Poro and you can hire a motorbike and driver to take you to the villages. In Poro Poro, ask around for the park rangers, (details below) where they kindly showed us around the various distributed points of interests.
Where to Stay, Eat and What to Bring
I’d recommend staying in Poro Poro, as a central location, but there are no hostels or hotels set up. We got the name of one of the cloud forest rangers and found him in the town, and he was kind enough to rent us a room in his house. Ask around for either of the two Poro Poro park rangers (Guardanos del Bosques); Cristobal or Theodoro. Cristobal’s lovely wife also provided us with meals at a really cheap rate. There is the potential to bring your camping equipment and camp under the stars, camping on top of ‘El Mirador El Balcon’ would be a fantastic spot above the cloud forest. There are no restaurants in Poro Poro, but you will find one in Udima, along with a few basic lodgings. Stocking up on snacks in Catache or Chiclayo may be wise. These small villages have ‘bodegas’ (small shops) but choices will be somewhat basic, but that’s the reason you’ve decided to come to get away from the gringo trial remember. Due to the altitude it can get cold, so bring warm layers
Given the transportation involved and the timings they depart, it’s advisable to take a leisurely 3/4 days.
If you can spare the time, another place to visit is the thermal baths in Chancay. From Catache take a combi to Santa Cruz, then ask around for Banos thermals de Chancay. They’re basic, and the sulphur is smell is quite strong, but with a 5 soles entrance you can’t really complain.
If you want a mini adventure, where tourists rarely visit, and the local hospitality I’m sure will leave its mark, go put your heads in the clouds of Udima for a few days. I’m sure to visit again and attempt a village to village hike over a few days to really savour the scenery.
by Stu LlewellynFriday, August 4, 2017
Stu is Research and Development engineer for a Peruvian NGO that deploys Wind Turbines in rural communities without access to electricity. He has spent the majority of his time overseas since the end of 2013, travelling consecutively for 17 months, through Latin America, Oceania and Southeast Asia. More recently he's volunteered and worked on worthwhile overseas programs including the International Citizen Service in Nicaragua, and with Engineers without Borders UK in Peru. Where after his volunteer post he currently lives in Trujillo, Peru and works for the NGO WindAid Institute.Read more at citizenstu.com