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The Mysterious Department of Amazonas

Amazonas - hidden part of northern Peru combining jungle, cloud forest and Andes slopes.
Peru’s northern jungles are about the least known part of the Amazon.  Other than Costa Rica, Ecuador gets the most serious eco-tourists.  Ecuador’s diversity reaches its best near the remote borders.  However across the Peruvian border the jungle gets even better but is the part of the Amazon which has the least visitors.  This is the mysterious department of Amazonas where the Chachapoyan Cloud People lived in the Ceja de la Selva (eyebrow of the jungle) cloud forest overlooking the Amazon Basin from the slopes above. This province is not to be confused with the huge department of Loreto, which contains the lower rainforest jungle and 40% of Peru's land surface.

Now the really unique zone is a heavily forested belt high up above the valleys, and below the bald peaks. This is called “La Ceja de la Selva” or “The Eyebrow of the Amazon”, because it is like an eyebrow overlooking the Amazon Basin.  In this exact zone lived the Cloud People.


Chachapoyas the capital of Amazonas with friendly and welcoming inhabitants
The northern half of the department of Amazonas is lower jungle, whereas the south has the high slopes of the Andes. Chachapoyas is its capitol with a mild altitude of about 2000 meters and is said to have the friendliest and most honest people of Peru. It was almost void of people 35 years ago before the first road, so now there is plenty of farming potential. The way of life is easier and the natives are not hungry or begging. They certainly are innocent and not used to tourists so have not developed schemes to take advantage of travelers. There are vast tracts of  the least known, probed but semi-unexplored Andes, in which today pioneers are beginning to move in and stake a farm. 


Huge variety of ecological zones within the Department of Amazonas
The unique position Amazonas creates a huge variety of compact mini-ecological zones. Naturally the lower portion is typical of the Amazon Basin, but being near the equator, it is more tropical and has more diverse jungle life.  Now the Andes slopes are a different story.  The lower valleys are very dry, and next to the River Maranon, cactus is the prominent life. The peaks are bare of trees and look like grassland, but are in reality covered with small flowering bushes, which are adapted to the nightly freeze at those altitudes. 

The variety of weather systems in the department of Amazonas
The clouds of the Amazon Basin don’t come from the Pacific, but rather the earth’s rotation causes these rain clouds to come from the Gulf of Mexico.  As the moist air is pushed up the peaks, clouds appear and droplets start forming. Then just when the clouds drop down the other side of the peaks, the air warms and absorbs the moisture, and the clouds evaporate. This makes a phenomenal rain of a few meters deep on the peaks, (where orchids, bromeliads, and “Australian Tree Ferns” cover the citadels, requiring a few meters of rain per year). Then a couple of kilometers vertically away there is no rain, and the valleys may get only 10 cm per year. Now the temperatures and moisture vary with altitude and sun exposure, and this creates all of these mini-eco-zones close together so, the life and ecology is adapted to each of these biosystems. There is a rainy season from November to April, and a drier season from May to October. Clouds come and go quickly, so in the ceja you need a rain poncho at all times to protect you from droplets in the mist, even in the “dry season”. Surprisingly the night temperatures drop below freezing on the tops of the cordillera, but even there the day temperature is absolutely perfect.


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