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Tingo Maria to Tarapoto, Peru - Road Notorious For Bandits & Robberies

Peru travel blog by Mark Berman - October 2016   » View Photoset (105 Photos)

Mark Berman, South America backpacker for 10yrs!
From the photos, the journey between Tingo Maria and Tarapoto looks like a pleasant drive through the jungle and cloud forest, which it is, but it could have
Peru Photo - Boy selling ice-cream rides around the plaza in Tocache.
Boy selling ice-cream rides around the plaza in Tocache.
been much different! This road is notorious for bandits and robberies and is known as one of the most dodgy routes in Peru. This is the heart of Peru's drug production and trafficking activities. The threat must be real, there were men with guns at several points along the road who were acting as security from something that's lurking out there in the jungle. I took my chances, what were the odds, flying wasn't going to be an option!

Co-op Taxi from Tingo Maria

I decided in Tingo Maria that I would do the trip in 3 legs by staying a night in Tocache and Juanjui, however in the end I did it in 2, staying just in Tocache. How long does it take? From Tingo Maria to Tocache is around 2hrs 20mins, Tocache to Juanjui (the worst and most dodgy part) is around 3hrs 20mins and from Juanjui to Tarapoto takes 2hrs. That's 7hrs 40mins all up! Transport is by car with a company and an experienced driver, these companies are easily found in the city streets. When
Peru Photo - Road out of Perla Mayo heading north to Juanjui, a natural tunnel.
Road out of Perla Mayo heading north to Juanjui, a natural tunnel.
the car has 4 passengers they leave and of course the best seat is the front, which I got on both legs of this ride (for photography). The cost for the whole trip from Tingo to Tarapoto is about $90 Soles ($27USD).

The Journey Leg 1

So now I will give you a rundown of how the journey plays out. A sealed road out of Tingo Maria into a tropical region of palm trees, banana palms and rice paddies. Bridges over rivers, secluded wooden houses hidden among tall trees, small towns, plenty of houses and people, long stretches of road, open and wide views, a police checkpoint, road sealed all the way to Tocache, problems on this leg are unlikely.
Peru Photo - Spinach maybe, anyway there is lots of it growing south of Tarapoto, crop country.
Spinach maybe, anyway there is lots of it growing south of Tarapoto, crop country.

The Journey Leg 2

OK, Tocache to Juanjui! I chose to leave early in the morning while the bandits would still be hungover, on the road by 6:30am. It's a journey of about 100kms in total, doesn't seem like much. Within 40mins in the town of Pizana is where things start to get a little dodgy, sealed road becomes a gravel road and remains a gravel road until Balsayacu, 43kms before Juanjui. This gravel road takes 2hrs and goes straight through the middle of the Pacota Forest (Bosques de Pacota). This road is extremely remote with less people and only the occasional community of houses. Winding road climbing into the dense green hills, cloud forest, blind corners, isolation, no police, random people (security) on the roadside with guns, a perfect place to be held up by bandits! I was glad when the road became sealed and we raced through to Juanjui in 40mins from there.

The Journey Leg 3

By the time we arrived in Juanjui I was thinking I might as well keep going. Tarapoto was only 132kms away!
Peru Photo - 2hrs 20mins by road from Tingo Maria to Tocache.
2hrs 20mins by road from Tingo Maria to Tocache.
Bellavista (36kms) and Picota (73kms) are a couple of notable towns along this road and yes it's sealed! This leg has some nice open views of the terrain and river and less dense forest around. Crop fields and livestock, watery rice paddies, large birds like the spoonbill, jabiru and white storks can be spotted. Picturesque rows of palm trees backed by distant hills, trees with bright yellow leaves scattered around, this is the easiest and fastest leg, bandits unlikely.

The Black and White

So in conclusion, the road between Tingo Maria and Tarapoto is what it is, you would never travel the middle section at night and if you do by day you will most probably be fine, but on the other hand, there is a risk of being robbed and losing all your valuables. This is the story in black and white of the road from Tingo Maria to Tarapoto.

     

View all photos in the Tingo Maria to Tarapoto Photoset


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Distances & times (if available) from about halfway from Tingo Maria to Tarapoto (Peru) to:


Map location: Tingo Maria to Tarapoto, Peru. This is the most notorious road in Peru! You do it knowing that you could be robbed by bandits! The worst section is the middle! Anyway, I did it in Oct 2016, stayed in Tocache along the way and have it all in photos!
 A : Huamachuco to Caraz - Peru 119 kms 119 kms straight distance
 B : Huamachuco - Peru 125 kms 125 kms straight distance
 C : Cajabamba - Peru 131 kms 131 kms straight distance
 D : Yungay & Caraz - Peru 149 kms 149 kms straight distance
 E : Tingo Maria - Peru 170 kms 170 kms straight distance
 F : Huaraz - Peru 176 kms 176 kms straight distance
 G : Leymebamba to Celendin - Peru 180 kms 180 kms straight distance
 H : Tarapoto & Lamas - Peru 182 kms 182 kms straight distance
 I : Pucallpa to Tingo Maria - Peru 194 kms 194 kms straight distance
 J : Cajamarca - Peru 202 kms 202 kms straight distance
 K : Huanuco - Peru 213 kms 213 kms straight distance
 L : Chimbote - Peru 217 kms 217 kms straight distance
 M : Chachapoyas - Peru 230 kms 230 kms straight distance
 N : Huanchaco / Trujillo - Peru 233 kms 233 kms straight distance
 O : Pucallpa - Peru 253 kms 253 kms straight distance
Driving times are accurate but approximate and are listed in the order of driving distance! Drive times are always affected by weather conditions, the terrain, time of day, altitude, dinner and bathroom stops, animals on the road, protests, a fast or slow bus driver, police checkpoints, border and river crossings, dropping off and picking up passengers etc. These drive times are obtained from Google Maps and are meant as a guide. Note however, times quoted in the main text of this page are exactly as the author experienced it.


My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Tingo Maria to Tarapoto, Peru:

Residencial Rey, Tocache, Peru - Large Photo
Residencial Rey, Tocache, Peru (September 2016 - 1 night) - I got a nice room overlooking the plaza with a great powerful fan to keep me cool for $40 Soles ($12USD). Perfect apart from the fact that their router is misconfigured and it's impossible to connect to their wifi, add to that the fact that their password for it is unreadable. But after you go down to reception several times to confirm what the password is, connecting is still impossible due to their misconfigured router. Don't stay here if you want wifi!

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Tingo Maria to Tarapoto, Peru - Road Notorious For Bandits & Robberies. This is the most notorious road in Peru! You do it knowing that you could be robbed by bandits! The worst section is the middle! Anyway, I did it in Oct 2016, stayed in Tocache along the way and have it all in photos!

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