From Tingo María to Pucallpa there are 282 kilometers—a five-hour drive. The highway, also known as Carretera Federico Basadre, is paved but with some sections that are constantly being repaired.
Once you pass by Boquerón del Padre Abad, a river gorge that cuts through the southern tip of the Cordillera Azul, the jungle opens into a flat plain of endless vegetation, passing through the town of Aguaytía before reaching Pucallpa.
Pucallpa, which means “red dirt” in Quechua, was entitled as a city in 1883, during the rubber boom. Today, it still is underdeveloped despite being the Ucayali region’s capital city. Tourist attractions are limited to Yarinacocha, an oxbow lake 10 kilometers northeast of the city, with boat rides available to go fishing or visit nearby Shipibo communities.
Pucallpa is the last town where you can get provisions and money before embarking in a cargo boat to do a river cruise on the Río Ucayali and the Amazon River towards Iquitos. If you decide to stay for a day or two, there are comfortable lodgings and good restaurants.
The city has a wide range of hotels for all budgets. Hotel Los Gavilanes (Ipuatía 370, Yarinacocha, tel. 061/59-6741, www.losgavilaneshotel.com.pe, US$25 s, US$29 d with breakfast and airport transfer included) has rooms with fans and air-conditioning, cable TV, minifridge, swimming pool, bar, and restaurant in a relaxed atmosphere.
Another good option is Foresta Inn (Av. Centenario Km 4800, tel. 061/57-7167, http://forestainn.com, US$28 s, US$32 d), which has comfortable rooms with air-conditioning, cable TV, flat screens, WiFi, and ample gardens. Bungalows with double rooms are available, too.
On the Puerto Callao lakeside village in Yarinacocha there are some inexpensive restaurants. The better ones are Anaconda and Puerto Rico on the waterfront.
In Pucallpa Parrilladas Orlando (Aguaytía y 28 de Julio, tel. 061/59-6577, US$3–8) has superb grilled meats including majás.
Chez Maggy (Inmaculada 643, tel. 061/57-4958, US$3–6) is a good option for pizzas and pasta.
Restaurante Golf (Huáscar 545, tel. 061/57-4632, US$3–7) has delicious river fish dishes including doncella and paiche.
Getting to Pucallpa
Pucallpa has daily flights from Lima, but the trip can also be done by bus. It takes around 17 hours, from desert coast to rainforest, on a nonstop bus directly to Pucallpa.
Boats from Pucallpa to Iquitos leave from the wharf. Gilmer I, IV and V, owned by Transportes Eduardo, and the Baylón I and II are recommended boats for this travel. There is no office or phone available to book a ticket. You need to approach the decks and talk to the captain or the second in command.
Both companies sell tickets offering closed decks to hang your hammock on (US$29 pp); there are also cabins with a bunk bed, TV, and private bathroom in the Baylón boats (US$64 pp) and better cabins on the Gilmer boats (US$145 pp).
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition