Category Archives: Chaparri

5 Reasons to Visit North Peru

Tucman

Tucman

Away from the much visited tourist centers of Cusco, Machu Picchu and Colca Canyon, is the very varied and surprising north of Peru.  From ancient pyramids to surf beaches, and the best mountaineering in South America, North Peru makes a great addition to your Peru vacation.  Get off the beaten track and away from the crowds in adventurous North Peru.

Chan Chan

Chan Chan

Trujilo

Heading up the coast the first major city is Trujilo.  Peru’ s third city has probably the most impressive main square in the country.  Nearby are some beautifully restored colonial mansions such as Casa Ganoza Chopitea . The main reason to visit, though, are the incredible pyramids made by the Moche people around 1500 years ago.  The tombs, called Huacas, were built to house important members of society along with belongings, servants and family members; much as the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt did.  In Huaca de la Bruja are the remains of an important female shaman and in Huaca de la Luna has incredible,  intact,  colorfully painted friezes; preserved for centuries by the dry desert.  The main part of the largest adobe city ever built still stands at coastal Chan Chan.  The Chimu civilization who lived here before the Incas decorated their city with dramatic shapes and symbols; all easily visited from Trujilo.

Peru's Paddington

Peru's Paddington

Chiclayo

Chiclayo is also a good place for visiting Moche pyramids including one of the most important finds of modern times.  At the Lord of Sipan site, archaeologists unearthed a treasure trove of gold, silver, pots and even some weavings.  All these are on display at the purpose built museum in Lambayeque; and the Huaca of Sipan itself has a small but very informative museum.  On a visit to Chiclayo, don’t miss the wonderful reserve of Chaparri to spot all manner of wildlife including the Specactled Bear ; the Paddington  of Peru.

 Chiclyao and Trujilo Tour

Huaraz

Huaraz is a small town in the Andes that has become world famous as the access point to the best mountaineering in South America.   It is the location of Peru’s best school for mountaineering guides and a Mecca for lovers of trekking and climbing.  Huayhuash is the location of a stunningly beautiful 8-10 day trek as well as the incredible story of Joe Simpson in ‘Touching the Void’.  Peaks in the Cordillera Blanca include what’s known as the most beautiful mountain in the world:  Alpamayo.  Huascaran, the highest peak in Peru, and Pisco,  a popular climb for beginning mountaineers,  are also accessed from Huaraz. The 4-5 day Santa Cruz trek is popular and there are some beautiful day trips to lakes, mountains and glaciers in the area.

Ask about tours to Chachapoyas, Huaraz and Mancora

Chachapoyas

The Chachapoyan people were ‘the people of the clouds’ and the city of the same name is a pretty place located in the cloud forest, a 8 hour drive from the coast of Peru.  Few visitors get this far but numbers are growing as more and more people are enchanted by this very laid back and friendly place.  There re plenty of possibilities for horse riding, hiking and Indiana Jones-style exploring here.  If you are looking for untouched, centuries-old ruins, just peeking out of dense forest; then take the trek to Kuelap and watch out for hidden forts.  Kuelap itself is a stunning, extensive site perched on a mountain top.  Unlike Machu Picchu, Kuelap has been left mainly as it was.  Although dubbed the ‘Machu Picchu of the north, Kuelap is hardly visited by tourists; most visitors being Peruvians.

Mancora

At the end of all that exploring you’ll want to rest on a beach.  Mancora has year round sun shine, excellent sea and kite surfing and some funky beachfront hotels and spas.

Think out of the box and look into North Peru as a real alternative for your Peru vacation!

The Truth About Paddinton Bear: meeting an angry lady bear in northern Peru

Paddington is a very polite little bear who comes from ‘Darkest Peru’.  The Brown family found him on Paddington Station in London with a tag around his neck saying ‘Please look after this bear.  Thank you.’   – so they did.

Paddington Bear soft toy

Paddington Bear

Paddington wears a blue duffel coat and a large black hat under which he hides his marmalade sandwiches; much to the amusement of generations of British children.

Growing up, this was my entire knowledge of Peru:  it’s where Paddington comes from, and there is a place in the jungle called Lima where Paddington’s Aunt Lucy lives.  I thought Peru was full of bears in blue duffel coats.

When I go to the UK, people always ask me if I’ve seen Paddington and I have to regretfully reply no, I haven’t  – until now that is!

If there’s any real bear that could possibly be Paddington, it’s the Spectacled Bear – or sometimes called the Andean Bear.  And Chaparri Reserve and Bear Rescue Center is the best place to sport the bears in their natural habitat.

Chaparri is accessed from the city of Chiclayo on the north coast of Peru. The area is famous for the rich remains found in Moche tombs, but more on that in another posting.

Chaparri Nature Reserve is not easy to get to.  They said I could get to the nearest town by bus and then the guide would accompany me from the park office.  Didn’t happen to mention that the park office and the reserve were more than an hour apart on a road that looks impassible, but the trusty motor taxi managed to bump and shake all the way to the lodge.  Our guide for the visit was, a very  keen and knowledgeable student, was trying to give me lots of information all at once about the environment and where the water comes from,  while I tried to focus over the noise of the motor  taxi and stop O from being flung out of the side.

Rooms surrounded by plants

Rooms are built to blend into the environment

All the trouble of getting there and the hassle of the city, however, left as soon as we reached our room.  There’s nothing and nobody.  Lots of birds and that’s about it.  You really do feel instantly comfortable and relaxed as there’s not much to do apart from look at the wildlife.  Elizabeth came to ask what we wanted for dinner.  I wondered what would happen if I asked for some exotic spread here in the middle of nowhere but just said I’d have whatever was available.    She made a special soup for O,  so happy all round.

After a short rest to get the vibrations of the bike out of my bones, we went for a walk as it was getting dark.  I asked about our chances of seeing bears.  The rescued bears who are in enclosures –  fairly good ; a wild bear…you’ll be lucky.

There’s lots of birds – big ones, yellow ones, one was definitely a woodpecker.  Our guide explained about the park and its special role in rehabilitating bears and we walked along as it was getting dark …and there she was – a wild bear.  Blocking the path,  not too happy to see us and in no way letting us get past.  So not what I had expected.  I thought if we saw a bear it would be from a distance as it scurried off in fright – they are know to be quite shy after all.

Bear standing by tree

She just looks cuddly, but this is one angry lady bear.

Our bearess  was having a good chomp on a pile of insects when she saw us.  How on earth do people stand up to grizzlys?  She’s only about my height but she looked annoyed and it didn’t help that the guide didn’t want to get any closer either.    We turned around and went back.

Child in carrier with guide and bear beyone

O thinks - 'but that doesn't look like my toy bear'

Chaparri used to be a place where people went to hunt bears and deer, and is now the only place in Peru where bears still live in dry forest – there are other bears living in cloud forest but the dense vegetation makes it  difficult to spot them.  Heinz Plenge used to be a hunter in the area but in a radical career change to found a reserve and protect the bears instead.  In the restaurant, you can flick through old photos of him as hunter with his killed deer.

Chaparri has had immense successes in increasing the number of wild bears in the area, including the birth of Pierre in the last year.  As well as protecting wild bears, the reserve also has a programme of rehabilitation for bears previously held in captivity.

Where possible, bears  previously kept as pets or treated horribly in circuses,  are gradually reintroduced into the wild.  Cuto, unfortunately, can’t be reintroduced.  He was a dancing bear in a circus.  In his previous life, Cuto would be forced onto a metal plate with a fire underneath.  It was his burning feet that made him jig up and down and appear to dance for the spectators.  My guide told me that when he arrived in Chappari he still instinctively danced when he heard music.  Cuto’s teeth and jaw were so damaged in the circus that he wouldn’t survive in the wild, so lives happily in a large enclosure in Chaparri.

sleeping bear

Oblivious Cuto

Cuto’s age and bad teeth didn’t stop our wild bear from having a crush on him though!    She was still there the next day, outside his enclosure waiting for the old bear to wake up.   A crush, our guide said, was the only reason why the bearess would be hanging around for so long, and be so protective as to stand up to us – to defend her bear man.

This time she ambled over to take a look at us and went back to hunting for grubs.  We tentatively moved closer but she was surprisingly agile and standing straight up, stuck out her tongue at us.  We took a detour and left her to pace the fence, gazing longingly at Cuto.

bear walking alongside fence

Pacig the perimiter

standing bear

Bear love

So there we have it  – yes I did see a Paddington in Peru.

More stuff about Spectacled Bears

What’s with the glasses?

No, they don’t wear specs but they have whitish or yellow rings around their eyes that make them look like they are wearing glasses.  These markings are unique like a fingerprint.

Do they like marmalade?

Well yes, fruit is the main part of their diet.  Plus a tiny bit of honey – so that bit is true.   They are also partial to a bit of fish.

Are there still bears in circuses?

It is now illegal in Peru to keep bears in captivity – in circuses or as pets.  The film “Manos and Garras” by Bernie Peyton is the story of Yinda the bear, taken to Chaparri by her owner who then stayed on the reserve in a tent until Yinda her pet was happy to go off and fend for itself.

Where else can I see the Spectacled Bear?

There is a chance to see the bear on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, or in the small sanctuary in the grounds of the Pueblo Hotel near the site.  In Ecuador communities are working to preserve the cloud forest habitat of the bears in the north of the country.

And Finally…

We went to Chaparri to see the bears but really appreciated the calm, relaxed atmosphere, the great guides, and the myriad of other animals, birds and reptiles.  You would never believe for example that the White Winged Guan is critically endangered from the way it hops about the kitchen roof.  Please contact me if you would like any more information on Chaparri or the bears.

Small fox

This fox came to check out what we were having for dinner

Donkey standing in a clearing

Could this be the happiest donkey in Peru?