San José de Lourdes Travel Guide

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Plaza de Armas in San José de Lourdes

Plaza de Armas in San José de Lourdes

joosts

San José de Lourdes is a district in the north-eastern part of San Ignacio province. The capital is merely a small village on a dirt road. The town can be reached crossing the river Chinchipe close to the point where the Jaén-San Ignacio highway heads west into the mountains.  

The friendly people of its capital aren't the main reason to visit this place - nor their fresh bananas and home-made coffee. More important is that it is on the road - dirt track - to the valley of the river Chirinos. The road itself is an attraction, if you've got a robust stumache. First it goes on up to an altitude of over 2000 meters. I like to call this highest part of the route Little Ireland because of it's grassy plains and rolling hills. The locals call it Los Llanos. You could just get out of the collectivo here and try to rent a horse somewhere. There aren't many houses around though. About ten kilometers further it goes down again, into the valley. Vegetation changes completely again, down into cloud forest patched with small plots. Halfway down the valley you reach the first village, after about four hours of roads that make the strong meek.  

As tourism is a very exotic phenomenon, you'll have to rely on mountainfolk hospitality here. Don't worry about that though. In any village,  a good idea would be to ask for the local Ronda president: he'll be able to help you find a place to sleep.  The Ronda's are village organisations that spontaniously developped to counter rampant theft and crime in parts of the country where the state is hardly represented. Over time they have acquired more functions, such as local justice and policy. Restaurants are available: a good opportunity to try the specialty of Guinnee Pig! The best way to explore this valley appears to be on horseback, unless you've got your own transport you want to ruin. Public transportation is available, but only on a daily basis. Hamlets aren't very far apart, and cars only take half the time a horse needs.  

Going ever deeper into the valley, plots and hamlets become smaller and the forest becomes denser. In the end the forest is everywhere, and you reach native territory. Some 3000 indiginous people of the Apo tribe live here. Most of them don't speak Spanish.

You'd want to hurry visiting this place: you might be the first and last tourist to see this place in all it's glory, as almost the whole forest has been given in concession to foreign mining interests. If you're interested in the social movement that has arrisen to protest this, and their reasons to fight, a good resource is www.vima.org.pe .

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April 23, 2006 new by joosts (8 points)

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