Leymebamba to Abra Barro Negro to Balsas to Hacienda el Limón to Celendín to Cajamarca (2-5 Oct)

After leaving Abra Patricia, we drove to Leymebamba where we stayed at the outstanding (and well deserved!) Hotel Laguna de los Condores. The next morning (3 Oct) we drove about an hour upslope and birded a remnant cloud forest patch ca. 2300m elevation in the chilly drizzle. We then continued up to between 3200m and 3500m where we birded the cold puna/paramo/pasture habitat and then over Abra Barro Negro (Black Mud Pass -- ca. 3500m) to descend the western slope of the eastern Andes to the Rio Marañon at the town of Balsas at 950m elevation where it was hot and dry! (This 2500m decent was 150% deeper than descending to the bottom of the Grand Canyon!)

"Puna" describes a high elevation dry, bunchgrass type of habitat. "Paramo" refers to a similar but wetter habitat, often including more shrubby vegetation. It was occasionally difficult to determine the exact natural habitat type because most of the habitat we could see from the road was controlled by grazing and turned effectively into pastureland.

After birding in Balsas, we then drove up the eastern slope of western Andes to the fairly arid town of Hacienda el Limón, where we camped next to the soccer field for the night. The morning of the 4th, we birded the area near town for about 90', then drove east & south up over another pass (ca. 3000m) and then to the town of Celendín by late morning, I think. We spent the afternoon driving through more puna/paramo habitat (ca. 3500m) and then arrived in the famous town of Cajamarca by late afternoon. Cajamarca is the site where Pizarro conquered the Incas in 1530s.

Gazing down the Marañon Valley

Lots of nifty lizards with bright orange around the face & throat were found here.

We saw this desert moon driving out of Balsas.

Roadside shops in Celendín

Another desert landscape en route to Hacienda el Limón


Perhaps a Eupatorium sp. in the mid-elevation semi-arid Andes?

roadside vendors en route to Cajamarca

A flock of Puna Ibis in the pastures of the puna! The elevation here was over 3200m. To get to Cajamarca, we went over a mountain pass around 3600m, driving through much puna/parama/pasture habitat.

Finally arrived in the famous Cajamarca at the Hotel Prada.

From left to right

Back: Derb, Daniel, Harry, Juan, Lucho

Middle: David, Jeff, Julio

front: Blan, Goyo

The next morning we birded an area just outside Cajamarca for Gray-bellied Comet (got it!). It flew in and perched on this Agave "fence". The landowners around here build "live" fences by planting rows of impenetrable Agave. I sure wouldn't try jumping this fence! (It averaged probably 4 feet tall!)

This little Torrent Tyrannulet was hunting from the bridge overlooking the river at the same place where we saw the comet.

Heading into a valley of a just a little tributary of the Marañon River on the road to Yanasará! Notice Lucho's vehicle ahead of us in the middle of the picture.

Many thanks to Mary Manders who provided me with this photo of the resorts at Yanasara! I wish we'd gotten there during daylight hours!

Cajabamba to Yanasará to El Molino to Chaguál to Yacuabamba (Oct 5-7)

After leaving Cajamarca we headed South toward Cajabamba then along a mid-elevation plateau (ca. 2600m) in the mountains, finally ending up in the remote valley town of Yanasará. No electricity in this town, but Goyo found nearby an oddly fancy resort at some hot springs. The resort had its own generator, so, although none of us ventured the group bathroom showers, at least we had somewhat comfortable beds and lights! (Unfortunately, we arrived there after dark and left in the morning before light, so I got no photos.)

Leaving Yanasará we drove up to El Molino, a great birding spot where we saw Purple-backed Sunbeams, White-cheeked Cotinga, and other great birds. The road then from El Molino to Chaguál provided not only some spectacular scenery but also some of the most interesting driving conditions . . .

En route to El Molino, we drove through a lot of this typical "puna" habitat, ca. 3500m, seen here.

Nice little bridge to cross . . .

Make sure those tires are lined up properly on the bigger logs!

And this was even more impressive!

Some roadside birding was in order after that bridge!

Bombax trees are native to this fairly arid portion of the Andes.

Nice flowering Bromeliad nestled in the cactus.

We left temps in the 50s at El Molino to descend 2000m to Chaguál where we found a shaded "porch" of this house for our lunch spot. The temps in the shade were approaching a hundred degrees F here!

Julio's hungry!

Close-up showing the construction (from the underside) of a typical tile roof in this part of Peru.

Typical mountain road encounter

While we were driving, I took this and the next picture from the back seat looking straight down at and beyond the crumbling road edge . . .

A beautiful valley along a tributary of the Marañon. This valley is rich in minerals leads to a very extensive mining operation, specializing in gold mining.

Typical mining town in the mountains of Peru.

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Created on ... November 11, 2003 | jeffpippen9@gmail.com