At an elevation of 180 meters, Yurimaguas is the northeastern gateway to the Amazon rainforest, accessible from Tarapoto via a two-hour drive on a 120-kilometer, serpent-like highway that crosses the Cordillera Escalera.
Founded by the Jesuits in 1710, Yurimaguas is a sleepy town that still contains remnants from the golden rubber boom days on Avenida Arica. It is popularly known as La perla del Huallaga, “the pearl of the Huallaga River.” Nevertheless, the main reason to go to Yurimaguas is to hop on a cargo ship and head towards Iquitos or the Reserva Nacional Pacaya Samiria, via Lagunas.
Depending on what time you arrive from Tarapoto, you might have to sleep overnight to catch your boat.
Cargo boats from Transportes Eduardo (Elena Pardo 114–116, tel. 065/35-1270 or 065/35-2552) are recommended and depart Yurimaguas around noon, with accommodations ranging from covered decks for slinging hammocks (US$30 pp) to cabins with huge beds and private bathrooms (US$145 pp). The company has seven boats and different services available on each. Even if departures are confirmed boats get delayed quite often. Be prepared to stay overnight in this town.
Accommodations and Food
A budget place to stay is Hospedaje Lucy (Atanasio Jáuregui 305, tel. 065/35-2139, US$5 s, US$10 d), a block away from the market, with clean but spartan rooms, private bathrooms, TV, and a fan.
Posada Cumpanamá (Progreso 403, tel. 065/35-2905, US$27 s, US$30 d, with a/c) is a nicer place with 13 rooms, swimming pool, and a very helpful manager named Nieves Romero. Internet costs US$1.50 an hour, and breakfasts range US$3–4.50.
Puerto Pericos (San Miguel 720, Malecón Paranapura, tel. 065/35-2009, www.puertopalmeras.com.pe) is the top-end hotel in town; you will probably stay here if you hook up with a travel program at Puerto Palmeras in Tarapoto.
There are budget restaurants around the marketplace, but El Dorado (Aguirre 126, Barrio La Loma, tel. 065/35-1023) is worth visiting for a superb lunch if you want to try some of the exotic Amazon delicacies. The decor is surreal, with stuffed carachamas (a prehistoric-looking armored catfish) hanging from the roofs. Specialties include huevos de charapa (turtle eggs), guiso de majás (a stew made out of a medium-sized rodent), chilcano de carachama (carachama soup). There is also fish, chicken, and pork for the less adventurous.
Getting to Yurimaguas
Transportes Gilmer (Víctor Sifuentes 580, tel. 065/35-3361) has daily departures to Tarapoto, every hour 5 a.m.–6 p.m. (US$5.50). The journey to Tarapoto takes two hours along a 120-kilometer paved highway.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition