Travel Story #8: Rodriguez de Mendoza

Rodriguez de Mendoza

For our last 3 days in Northern Peru, Phima Voyages organized for us a short stay in Rodriguez de Mendoza, a city about 3 hours from Chachapoyas.

To get there, you just take a collective at the public bus terminal of Chachapoyas. Starting at 5 am, there is a bus leaving for Mendoza every hour and costs 10 soles (3 dollars) per person. No need to book your ticket in advance as in the big bus companies, in the worst case, if there is no more space, you have to wait to leave with the next!

The blog section of Phima Voyages is a mine of information on places to visit in Northern Peru. Do not miss the publication of our articles and to have our Free Guide of the 10 places to visit in the North of Peru. Click here.

We arrive at Rodriguez de Mendoza; Roberto, a local who arranges personalized tours and excursions, especially to discover the Huamanpata lagoon, greets us.

We leave our baggage in the only hotel in the city, (very clean with Wi-Fi, but unfortunately there was no hot water in our room) and after eating a sandwich, we take a taxi (15 soles for half an hour, or 5 dollars) which takes us to the entrance of the Cave of Omia, our afternoon tour.

Cave of Omia

It is to be understood that the cave is not at all a tourist place. You can’t just come, buy a ticket and go. The owner must be informed in advance, Cesar, who is the one who has the keys to the entrance and serves as a guide. Cesar lives in a house on the edge of the road about 500 meters from the entrance of the cave. Ask your driver, he will stop in the right place.

Cesar joins us with his bike, to open the door for us. A few steps and you will reach the entrance of the cave. Cesar distributes flash lights and gives us some recommendations. Now is the time to contort to pass through the small hole, which is like an entrance. And a feeling of claustrophobia can make you panik a bit. As during the visit of the Cave of Quiocta, we are in the dark, because we only have a small lamp that Cesar gave us to be able to light our feet. But this time, we go with our own flashlight that illuminates even better.

A second narrow passage leads us directly underground, but from there, the cave widens and the tension disappears a little (although I do not forget that several cubic meters of earth are above me!). The cave of Omia is full of stalactites and stalagmites and Cesar tells us a lot of anecdotes about the various forms that can be guessed. There are hundreds of them over our heads – it is really impressive.

This cave is completely dry; the advantage is that you will not need boots for the visit. On the contrary, we realized that the environment is perfect for a species of giant spiders, we saw several. Now I know why the lights of Cesar do not light very well: do not be scared to see these monsters (they were bigger than my hand!)

The tour lasts 1 hour, after which we accompany Cesar to his house. After sharing a drink and some fruit, we return to our hotel.

Visit to the Coffee and Panela cooperative

The next day, we meet Roberto at 9 am to visit the coffee cooperative that is located only 5 minutes by moto – taxi from the centre of the village. Peru is the 8th largest coffee producer in the world; there are many cooperatives of this type throughout the country.

Coffee Cooperative

First, we visit the production plant that handles the process of selecting coffee beans and drying them before packing them in huge bags of 60 kilos. Everything is automated and only 4 workers are needed to open and pour bags on the machines, but the work is very physical.

Next, we visit the analysis laboratory for the coffee quality, where we are entitled to a demonstration of the process. A small sample of grains are taken from one of the bags, ready to be toasted. Once toasted, the different samples are poured into the cups, which are then added boiling water to measure. After shaking the mixture, a person is in charge of analysing the smells and flavours of each cup. The objective is to determine the category of coffee.

Towards 11 am we return to the center of Rodriguez de Mendoza to take a colectivo to Santa Rosa. That day I was lucky. The driver wanted to make sure that the only European woman of his minibus is located next to him. Instead of cramming with the others in the back, I found myself a very comfortable place in the front of the minibus! However, there was no mercy for my partner who finds himself a little trapped among the many bags of Peruvian food and the roof of the van.

After one hour of stony track and some selfies with the passengers (and yes that is universal) we arrive at Santa Rosa where we were already expected to visit the production plant of Panela.


Panela Production

The panela is a product based on sugar cane. The stems are harvested by hand. Then they are crushed by a craft press to collect the juice of the sugar cane. This juice is placed on plates where it is heated in order to remove the water. Once the water evaporates, we obtain “blocks” of sugar, called “Pan de azúcar” or “Panela”. Nothing is automated here, all done by hand. In addition, nothing is wasted: The shredded stems are used to feed the fire under the plate or used to make compost. Molasses in turn serves as food for animals.

This plant is an árt of the village cooperative, which includes 24 families producing pineapple, coffee and sugar cane. People who have chosen to create a cooperative to share their resources and be able to sell throughout Peru. They protect their environment and fight against deforestation. They also want to promote this lifestyle and organize information meetings for the other people.

After the visit, the owner invites us to have lunch at home with other workers. On the menu: soup + pork served with rice and bananas. A good hearty meal to continue the hard work of the day.

For us, it is the way home that waits for us. However, there is no a car in sight to take us. The town is very isolated and there is almost no one passing through here. Roberto, our guide, decides to walk a little (about 40 minutes) to get to the next village. But after waiting more than one hour in the square of the same town, we have only seen 3 cars passing (all crowded). So we decide to continue the journey on foot. We still had to walk 01 hour 45 minutes, before a car finally stops and takes the 3 of us. Finally, if you are going to visit the cooperatives in Santa Rosa, it is better to have a driver waiting for your return.

After this long day, it is time to return to the hotel and take a good shower (always with cold water unfortunately!)

The next day, we are on our way back to Chachapoyas. This time will take the car and it takes us 2 hours for 15 soles ($ 5) per person.

It is also the end of our stay in Chachapoyas and the trip that we won with Phima Voyages and Voyage Peru. We meet with Philippe and Martina at their house. This is where we will spend the afternoon, because our bus from Chachapoyas departs at 20 hours. We make a small resumen of these 15 days; they really went too fast and were wonderful. Everything was very well organized and we are delighted!

However, our stay in Peru is not over yet. We have decided to extend the discovery of this country for another week ! Tonight we are taking the bus to the coast and Chiclayo. You can continue to follow our route in future articles!

Useful Information

Chachapoyas – Rodriguez de Mendoza: Depart from the bus station, starting at 5 am, a collectivo every hour, 1o soles (3 dollars per person), 3 hours trip.

Cave of Omia: Trip by taxi, 15 soles (5 dollars) 1h30 trip, advice the owner Cesar in advance, Cave tour 1 hour.

Coffee Cooperative: Trip by moto-taxi: 2 soles per person, 1h30 tour.

Panela Cooperative: Trip by collective, 1 hour to get to Santa Rosa, 1 hour tour.

Hotel PLaza: Simple room, 35 soles the night, Wi – Fi.

This article is an English translation of the article of  Voyage Peru: Recit de voyage: Rodriguez de Mendoza

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