Oroya: Butterflies, Boats and Gold Mining in the Amazon Basin

The village of Oroya straddles the Inambari River and is known for its gold. Spanish speakers may find this unsurprising as oro in Spanish means gold. Oroya, incorporating Puerto Manoa, lies adjacent the Interoceanic Highway in Carabaya Province’s San Gaban District.

Inambari passing through Oroya, Carambaya Province, Puno Region, Peru

Oroya/Puerto Manoa including a suspension bridge over the Inambari River, from near the Interoceanic Highway

Upon local advice in San Gaban town, we caught a mototaxi to Oroya for an October 2016 day-trip. Oroya, like San Gaban, lies at low elevation with a tropical climate and is part of the Amazon Basin.

Walking down into town from the highway we saw a monkey and several beautiful butterflies.

Monkey, Oroya, Peru This monkey briefly entertained us before scooting away

White, black and orange butterfly, Oroya, Peru

One of many colourful butterflies encountered in Oroya, this one is coloured black and blue inside its wings

Suspension bridge crossing Inambari River at Oroya

Clothes hang to dry on the Oroya light suspension bridge, the only bridge across this stretch of the Inambari River

Bug on fern leaf, Oroya, Peru

A pretty coffee-toned bug on a green fern leaf

Black and orange butterfly, Oroya

A black and orange butterfly on an Oroya road

Coca leaves drying on roadside, Oroya, Peru

Coca leaves drying on a roadside plastic sheet in Oroya; coca production is legal in Peru

Two chickens crossing the road in Oroya I don’t know why the rooster and chicken are crossing the road

After exploring the pleasant town we negotiated with a local man to take us on a boat ride. A young boy joined for the river cruise.

On the boat we passed people panning for gold and a bulldozer moving earth as part of a commercial gold mining operation. Gold prospecting in the area requires the holding of a license.

Amateur gold panners on the Inambari River near Oroya, Peru

Small-scale gold miners panning for gold on the banks of the Inambari River

Boy on boat watching commercial gold extraction, Inambari River near Oroya, Puno Region, Peru

The boy on the boat watching as we pass mounds heaped by a commercial gold venture

Motoring upstream along the Inambari River

Oroya’s biggest negative was the amount of rubbish, particularly next to the river. The litter blights an otherwise pretty location and damages the environment. It seemed that there was no waste collection service and the current solution was to throw it in the river.

Inspired by this visit, Rocío had a vision of combining local input and participation, education, design and technology together to create a sustainable waste solution. Oroya would then be an inspiration and role model for other Peruvian villages and the beginning of a movement to clean up this amazing country.

Rubbish on riverbank, Inambari River near Oroya, Carabay Province, Peru

Rubbish dumped next to the Inambari River

Boat moored on Inambari River at Oroya, Peru

This photo of a boat tied to a pole on the Inambari in front of the riverbank and mountains is one of my favourites

Following the boat ride we ate lunch at a local restaurant and began walking back to San Gaban along the highway.

Road sign with distances to San Gaban, Ollachea and Macusani, Interoceanic Highway, Carabaya Province, Puno Region, Peru

The elevation on the Interoceanic Highway rises in only 103 kilometres from 580 metres at San Gaban to 4,315 metres at Macusani

Winged seed on ground, Interoceanic Highway, Carabaya Province, Peru

This large, lightweight winged seed has evolved to travel significant distances in the air

On the way we saw a small snake stuck in the roadside gutter. I attempted to take it out of the gutter and place it into the scrub but it kept slithering off. The gutters were also huge as they need to be in a high rainfall, mountainous environment.

Small snake in Interoceanic Highway gutter between Oroya and San Gaban, Carabaya Province, Puno Region, Peru

A small snake in the Interoceanic Highway’s gutter

Bromeliads growing in tree next to Interoceanic Highway, Peru

Bromeliads growing on a tree

The Interoceanic Highway is not a busy road and few vehicles passed. A dual cab utility came and we hitched a ride back to San Gaban, sharing the tray with some bananas.

In dual cab tray hitching a ride back to San Gaban, Carabay Province, Puno Region, Peru

Rocío and I hitch-hiking in the tray of dual cab ute

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