In the mid-19th century, a group of Austrians and Germans decided to seek their luck in Peru. The new emigrants had been hit domestically by successive years of crop failures resulting from a temporary twisting climate. (too dry summers and too cold winters) The then government of Peru offered them the opportunity to build a new life in Pozuzo, located in the Peruvian highland jungle.
And so a group of about 300 people boarded in Antwerp for a long sea voyage that would take about 4 months. The Panama Canal did not exist at the time. To get to Lima, we had to sail along the southern cape of the continent. Once ashore, course was set towards Pozuzo, which is almost 500 km inland. A long, tough hike on foot over high mountain passes and along deep gorges. A journey that lasted about 2 years. The group that eventually managed to reach Pozuzo was almost halved. Some died on the way, others decided to leave the grueling journey and look for work along the way.
Pozuzo, the promised land
The 165 go-getters who reached the ‘promised land’ are now buried in a small cemetery in the middle of the village of Pozuzo. A small museum next to the cemetery shows you how the founders of this ‘ colonia austro-alemán ‘ must have lived based on old photos, documents, and utensils.
” We are very proud of them, ” says Kristel, a descendant of these Austrian and German settlers. ” They arrived here with almost nothing and built Pozuzo with their own hands,” she continues in rapid Spanish. Whether she also speaks German? ‘ A little bit, we were taught it at school, but because you hardly ever use it, you forget most of it.The Lima student of economics is briefly back in her hometown to participate in the annual festivities in honor of the founding of Pozuzo in July 1859.
Tyrol in the jungle
What is immediately noticeable when you walk through Pozuzo is that many houses are built in Tyrolean style. As if you ended up in a winter sports village. But then in the middle of the highland jungle, the selva alta. Pozuzo, at an altitude of 800 meters, has a warm climate with an average annual temperature of around 25 degrees. It is mostly dry from May to October. The rainy season is from November to April. Especially between January and March, sometimes intense rain showers make roads impassable, and residents have nowhere to go.
Pozuzo can be reached from the capital of this region, Oxapampa. It is an extremely spectacular ride to say the least on a narrow, winding unpaved road, twisting here and there along deep gorges.
Yanachaga-Chemillen National Park
Pozuzo is part of the Yanachaga-Chemillen National Park. An area characterized by a varied flora and fauna. Around Pozuzo, which means something like salt water in the native Indian language, several rivers flow, one of which indeed contains salt water. The tropical rainforest in this area is rich in waterfalls. It is also the home of the jaguar, spectacled bear and the giant otter. In addition, there are more than 300 species of butterflies and 320 species of birds.
Flaunting chest above the rainforest
One such bird species is the gallito de las rocas, the red cock-of-the- rock, a quite rare species. The males have a beautiful red breast that they like to show off. Every evening, around an hour before sunset, they visit the highest treetops and sit there to impress the females and to argue with fellow machos.
A farmer from Pozuzo discovered that these roosters lived on his estate every day. He recently created a special uphill path that makes it possible for visitors to view the birds. A steep climb of more than an hour over sometimes very steep paths leads you to just under the treetops. At first it is still quiet but then you suddenly see them appear. The males, chest out, raise their voices, A cacophony of sound descends over the rainforest. Still panting from the climb, you can enjoy the impressive spectacle in silence and admiration.