Locating the Original Moyobamba Route

To the Selva

This page traces the eastern portion of the Moyobamba Route and the alternate route through Tarapoto. Also included are links to places that I visited.

Moyobamba to Yurimaguas

From Moyobamba the travelers wrote of traveling east for a short distance and the crossing the Mayo. Sandeman wrote that they crossed at Juningue and Google shows a nature preserve with that name at (-6.042781, -76.919052). Jesus del Monte is the only other place named by the travelers between Moyobamba and where the trail entered the mountains. One website lists it at (-6.083, -76.833), which is around where the MTC maps show it. It's probably the small circle of buildings a half kilometer to the NE. Google currently shows this as Nueva Tacabamba, Jesus del Monte.

A key point to understanding the route to Balsapuerto is (-5.910644, -76.638689). The river coming down from the northwest and then curving to the northeast is the Cachiyacu. Immediately to the west (left) is the Escalera, which can be more easily appreciated by going into 3D mode on Google and panning to look at it from the east. For travelers coming from the west, once they got here the going got easy. For travelers heading west, the hard part was about to begin. For even better pictures of the Escalera go the Field Museum link below and download the color plates section (or the full report if you prefer). If that link no longer works then I suggest searching for "Field Museum Rapid Biological Inventories" on the Field Museum website.

The question is, how did they get from Jesus del Monte to the base of the Escalera? There are no villages, tambos, or other easily identifiable places on the maps. Raimondi mentions a number of place names that are often repeated by various travelers: Punata de Schalca, Tambo Lopez, Mapatambo, Pincullu, Tacchacinamillo, but Google searches of these don't find anything useful. The trail must have gone to the northeast and crossed the mountains where they were lower at around (-6.005714, -76.746252). Several of the travelers wrote of crossing and recrossing streams multiple times. I believe they followed a stream down hill to somewhere around (-5.965998, -76.700921) then continued down the river to (-5.94167, -76.6503), which are the coordinates of the Pumayacu according to one directory I found. That makes sense, too, as the imagery shows a smaller stream joining the river here, which fits the description of the Pumayacu.

From the Pumayacu the trail continued on to the Escalera and then followed the Cachiyacu to the house at Cachipuerto. One website places Cachipuerto at (-5.884307, -76.616710), which is about a kilometer north of the river. Those coordinates are probably once again based on some early 20th century study. The MTC maps place it inside a bend in the river at (-5.884624, -76.602304). Just downriver is Balsapuerto.

From Balsapuerto the travelers went by canoe downstream to (-5.710589, -76.430378) where the Cachiyacu flows into the Paranpura. (On Google the Paranpura appears to be the smaller of the two when they join, but the river continues on under the name Paranpura.) Several of the travelers reported stopping at Varadero, just below where the rivers join. Varadero is marked on an 1865 map and must be San Gabriel de Varadero at (-5.7133900200, -76.4126909) according to dePeru. The town has grown from the little trading post it was a century ago. A Google search brings back pictures and videos from the village. It's even big enough to have a little Catholic FM radio station. From Varadero the journey continued down the Paranapura to Muniches at (-5.893234, -76.232288) and then on to where the smaller river flowed into Huallaga at what is now the northern limit of Yurimaguas.

A century ago when Yurimaguas was smaller, it was clustered in the area around the plaza, about a kilometer south of the Paranpura. Today there are landings all along the river in Yurimaguas but in the past all the traffic would have gone through the area near the plaza. One area worth looking at on Google Street View is the block of Calle Arica where the old tiled walls are For anyone visiting, I highly recommend the Mil Sabores Restaurant, a half block from the plaza, as the only place I found worth eating at.

Reference Links

Jesus del Monte
Field Museum Escalera Study
deperu - San Gabriel de Varadero

The Lower Mayo

After leaving Moyobamba, de Büren spent one night each in tambos at Era, Talavera, and Roque. I haven't been able to locate Era, but the second one must be Calaveras at (-6.319719, -76.805949) and Roque is at (-6.354882, -76.774948). These two locations indicate that in this area the Lower Mayo trail was south of the current highway. From Roque, de Büren wrote that they went to Portrero and then to Tabaloso. The only Portrero I can find is just outside Moyobamba so either he was confused or it was a place that no longer exists. Tabalosos is a sizable town along the main highway today. From there de Büren went on to Lamas, probably crossing the Mayo at about the same place as the modern bridge (-6.411783, -76.600757). On the far side of the river the old road to Lamas diverges from highway to go up the mountain towards Lamas. Satellite imagery shows some old trails also and the old trail could have been one of those.

Tarapoto, Juan Guerra and Shapaja, and Chazuta are all marked on the maps, as are the towns along the Huallaga that Smyth and Lowe, Herndon, and the others went by: Juanjui, Tocache, Uchiza, and Tingo Maria.

Joseph Steere traveled south from Yurimaguas first by canoe going upstream on the Shanusi River, which enters the Huallaga immediately south of Yurimaguas. He spent Easter at Shanusi, which is modern day Pampa Hermosa (-6.112940, -76.272662). From there he walked south along the river and into the mountains. He mentions a village of San Juan Loma. MTC maps show a town named San Juan in the vicinity of this unnamed village in the satellite imagery (-6.231108, -76.329117). From there he continued to Cumbaza, which would be San Antonio de Cumbaza (-6.408882, -76.405970) or the neighboring San Pedro De Cumbaza.

Sauce, which I visited for two nights while in the Tarapoto area, is on the far side of the Huallaga southwest of the city. The Posada de Sauce, where I stayed, is on the west bank of the lake.

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Copyright 2019 Don Moore