I’m not going to lie: I did this route by car.
A guy I met along the way needed some help with some papers to cross the border so I jumped into his ban to go to San Ignacio. Couldn’t solve it there, so we ended up in Jaen. But I decided to describe the route anyway.
Entering into Perú this way is not very nice at all (even though it may be nicer than entering some other way). Leaving may be better. Initially you get a false ilussion cycling next to the river that marks the border for first 3 kilometers: soon, first town you come up with is very depressing. The road from there onwards, even if paved, is too good. Good for cars. There’s almost no shadow and it gets extremely hot in this area, so better do it very early in the morning.
The uphill is constant, true, and that’s good, but it is very long (and again, very hot). Slight up and downs as well. There are some very small towns before you reach San Ignacio, 40 km from the border. I was thinking it would had been some hard biking day that one.
San Ignacio is an average town. You’ve got everything you need there, but there’s nothing special. I didn’t particularly like it. And, as it will happen almost everywhere in Perú, they try cheating on prices quite a lot (they tried it with fuel there).
The paved road finishes here and won’t come back for another 40 km. The problem is they’re doing some major roadwork there (but not paving it, though), and they completely close the road for an hour. This happened oj the downhill after San Ignacio for us; they say that’s usual. No car and no bike can go through. So you’ll be stucked in the middle of nowhere for maybe an hour. And it gets hot 🙂
The road gets nicer once you’re at the bottom of the valley, pass the downhill after San Ignacio (that’ll be some 15 km after San Ignacio). The river makes it very nice (you can stop for a swim in lots of spots), and the rice fields that start to show up make a good scenary. The surrounding hills get closer and it all turns nicer.
The unpaved road is not good. It’s not gravel, but some loose stones. Bumpy sometimes, these short bumps that appear once lots of cars drove through. It doesn’t end until Puerto Ciruelo, where the paved road comes back to stay.
The view, already quite dryer than in Ecuador (forests end in San Ignacio), turns even dryer here. Rocks take a desert-style look here. I heard this region is the hottest in Perú: it could easily be right.
And then, Jaen. Another big town with no much to offer. At least it solved Ben’s papers!!!
Now that I think about it, I don’t regret having passed this area by car, simply because of the heat. Nice scenary arriving to San Ignacio (but worse than that in the last part of Ecuador) and at the bottom of the valley past San Ignacio. The rest (and even there) too hot (and also dusty!!!).