Locating the Original Moyobamba Route

From the Coast

This page gives a step-by-step description of the Moybamba Route from the coast to Cajamarca. The original route started in Trujillo and went up the Chicama Valley. After the Pacasmayo Railroad was built, that became the more common starting point for the trek to Cajamarca.

Trujillo to Contumazá

Trujillo and the ports of Huanchaco and Salavery can be found on maps. Likewise for Facala and Casa Grande; Roma and Chocope; Ascope and Sausal; Chicama, Cartavio, and Santiago de Cao; and Puerto Malabrigo and Paiján in the Chicama Valley.

The Gildemeister Mansion at Casa Grande is at (-7.745383, -79.186800). The back side can be seen from the adjoining street on Google Street View. The sugar mill is to the east. The Casa Grande Plaza de Armas (main square) is one block west and the municipal building and the old movie theater are marked. The ruins of the old social hall for the German workers is at (-7.747396, -79.186421) and the German neighborhood is the cluster of houses just west of it. This is a fun place for Google Street View.

From Trujillo, the Panamerican Highway (1N) runs in a straight line across the desert to the town of Chicama. It likely follows the old mule trail very closely as there aren't any obstacles in the desert for either trucks or mules. From Chicama the old trail would have more or less taken the same route as the road, along the south bank of the river, past Sausal, and then by the Hacienda Jaguey at (-7.66108, -78.9525). However, Ijurra's Germans and Joseph Steere traveled on the north side of the Chicama River, not the south. That side of the river is rugged and mostly unpopulated even today, but the satellite pictures and 3D view shows trails running there that likely date to the 1800s and before.

The trail along the river turned north from the Chicama River to follow the little river valley north to Cascas roughly where it does today. However, the modern road enters Cascas from below yet the historical travelers coming from the coast mention seeing the town from above first. Satellite view show a trail diverging from the highway at (-7.523490, -78.811025) and then climbing the mountain to join another trail running north to Cascas. I suspect that was the actual original route. In Cascas the trail followed what is now Jirón Progreso.

Immediately north of Cascas the satellite views show some trails on the hillsides above the road, although they eventually rejoin the road down closer to the river. As travelers gave different descriptions of this part of the route, I suspect both the lower and higher routes were used at different times. Eventually the road twists its way up the mountain, but the mules would have surely taken a straighter path.

Contumazá to Cajamarca

Here we have the first major difference between the modern road, which goes north to Chilete, and the historical trail, which took a direct path over the mountains to Magdalena. The area immediately to the east of Contumazá is heavily populated today and criss-crossed by dirt roads and trails, many of which could have been the old route. But further to the east the green valleys give way to the high sierra and there is a clear trail that begins around (-7.303694, -78.732772). It is the only visible trail going northeast over the sierra and crosses the river just below Magdalena at (-7.249589, -78.677485). This is easier to see by panning in 3D view.

I believe this trail over the sierra is the original one for several reasons. First, any trail in heavy use for centuries at these barren heights would surely have left a scar that would take centuries to heal. Second, the travelers reported crossing the river a short distance downstream from the town, so that end point fits their descriptions. Finally, there is a hint from Father Zahm, who wrote of stopping to eat at the Hacienda Chanta on the way to Magdalena. The deperu website lists a place named Chanta Corrales with the location of (-7.292897780, -78.72628014). That exact location is on the side of the mountain about a kilometer from a cluster of houses on the aforementioned trail. Chanta Corrales is also marked at about this location on the Contumazá provincial map at the Ministry of Transport website.

From Magdalena, a dirt road leads north to the Hacienda Ñamas, a small collection of buildings at (-7.230753, -78.638787). The satellite pictures show several straighter trails on the slopes above the road and one or more of those were probably used by the old arrieros. It's hard to say exactly where the trail was after Ñamas as the area is filled with small farms and interwoven with trails and roads. The Hacienda San Cristobal, where George Dyott stayed, is at (-7.21346341, -78.61537740). The two haciendas are only three kilometers apart on the map but the elevation changes from 1937 meters at Ñamas to 2846 meters at San Cristobal. The by-automobile distance between the two locations is thirteen kilometers, but the more direct mule path would have been no more than half of that. From San Cristobal the trail would have continued roughly northeast passing near the Cumbemayo (-7.190757, -78.577750). After Cumbemayo the trail and a modern dirt road run east to Cajamarca. The tour guide I had to Cumbemayo pointed out (-7.194321, -78.549674) as a place where the old mule trail crossed the new dirt road.

Reference Links

deperu - Chanta Corrales
deperu - Hacienda Namas
deperu - Hacienda San Cristobal

Pacasmayo to Cajamarca

Pacasmayo can be found along the coast to the north of Trujillo. Satellite views show the old dock, the empty train yard, and the old train station. These can also be seen on Google Street View. The old customs house is at (-7.400603, -79.572661) but the street in front is pedestrian only so it wasn’t recorded by the Google Street View car. From Pacasmayo, the old railroad would have gone north to the river, probably more or less along the same path as the modern road, which starts just behind the train station. Once at the Jequetepeque River the railroad continued along the river just as the highway does. The modern road continues to Magdalena and then to San Juan, where it turns north and climbs the mountain to Cajamarca.

Chilete, San Bernardino, San Pablo, and the Kuntur Wasi ruins are all marked on the online maps. The plaza in Chilete where the colectivos and combis gather can be seen at (-7.221526, -78.838531), but in the August 2014 Google Street View it's not nearly as busy as it was on any of the three times I passed through. The little town of La Viña which George Dyott mentioned is at (-7.23738428, -78.70245577). The Hacienda Maichil is at (-7.171290, -78.821761) and can be identified by the little keyhole shaped appendage in the swimming pool. The old NORDEN mine was just to the south in the area where the river meets the highway at (-7.187127, -78.823372).

Reference Links

deperu - La Vina

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Copyright 2019 Don Moore