Chachapoyas - Last Week of Archeological Sites...

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June 26th 2010
Published: July 13th 2010
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Playing football with the local kidsPlaying football with the local kidsPlaying football with the local kids

Pedro Ruiz bus Terminal, Peru
Hi all,

We leave the coast region of Peru, heading to Chachapoyas, situated more than 14 hour ride east from Trujillo, in the mountains. We intend to spend a couple of last days exploring another aspect of Peruvian ancient cultures. Our goal is the fortress of Kuelap. We arrive at 0530 in the morning, but no worries - Peruvians are early birders so there is no problem at all to find a descent hotel, adjacent to the Plaza del Armas (main square), and set a guided tour to 2 interesting archeological sites, not far from Chacha' (local nickname for the city). Pueblo del muertes ('city of the dead) and Karajia, are 2 burial sites, located in the remotest places one can imagine. Both burial sites are clinging to sheer cliffs, and it took us a 2 hour van-ride plus an hour mini-trekking to reach each of these ancient sites. The first one was not very well preserved, but beautifully located in an isolated area. The second one was much more preserved so we could see hanging high above us 4 sarcophagus, each in a form of human body. The access to these sarcophagus are long ago vanished or destroyed, so
Walking on the edge...Walking on the edge...Walking on the edge...

Village of the Dead, Peru
it remains a riddle how the Chachapoyans reached to these heights in order to conduct the burial ceremonies. The way up, back to our van, was to much for most of us, so Lilach and Nitzan were so happy to find out that their best friends (2 horses...) - are already waiting for them at the exit from the site. Less then a 1$ each, and there they go, marching up the road, leaving me behind, dusted and exhausted...

We return at dusk, taking a long shower, and rushing to the best recommended meat restaurant in town, praying recommendations in Lametayel Web Page are true - We locate “la Tushpa” right away, and within the hour we devour 3 great Quadrils (steaks), chicken and cow-udder skewers, vegetable salad and crispy french fries; it was simply a GREAT MEAL! we could not believe we are in Peru ...

Next day, we join the same group and guide as yesterday, this time our destination is the immense fortress of Kuelap. Only a 2 hour ride and we reach this spectacular site, beautifully located on top of a ridge, 3000 m above sea level, overlooking the surrounding great mountains as well as Utcubamba Vally deep below us.

To understand its measures, imagine a castle which is roughly 600 meters in length, 110 meters in width and huge fortifications 19 m in height. Kuelap, so we learnt from our knowledgeable guide, remained ignored by the outside world until 1843, when a local judge made a survey of the area and took note of Kuelap's great size, guided by villagers who had known of the site for generations.

The function of Kuelap - though no complete response exists, was to serve as a "fortress", because of its place and high walls that support its primary level. Some scholars believe that Kuelap, was more than a fortress, that was protected against intruders: taking into consideration the socioeconomic needs, it is concluded that Kuelap could be basically a pre-inca sanctuary. A powerful aristocracy lived in it, whose primary mission was to administer food production and provide religious leadership. The structures construction started probably back in the 6th century AD and occupied until the Early Colonial period (1532-1570).

Kuelap consists of massive exterior stone walls containing more than four hundred buildings. Some calculations show that the constructors of this fortress used three times
Back on the HorsesBack on the HorsesBack on the Horses

Karaija, Peru
more stones than used for the construction of any of the Egyptian Pyramids! Up until today, 3 distinct platforms were discovered
within the complex, holding more than 400 cylindrical constructions, considered to be typical Chachapoyans houses. Unfortunately, time took its share and we can see today only bases remain. In some cases, there are decorated walls with chains of friezes of symbols, seemingly depicting eyes of the powerful Jaguar as well as birds. We are entering the fortress through the best preserved portal and probably the principal one. It is 3 m wide at its base and is flanked by high walls, resembling an alleyway. It narrows sharply as it rises, culminating into a space large enough for one person to enter (forming the shape of a pie slice). Scholars believe this was defensive in nature; We could also see designs snakes and heads carved into the blocks of the inner walls. Inside our guide showed us some enclosures, that may have served as food storehouses; We also visit the main temple, the guarding tower and the inner massive walls, in which hundreds of skeletons and various artifacts were found, believed to be part of sacred rituals conducted by the inhabitants of this great fortress - city, once a lively center of worship, administration and royalty.

We return to Chacha, and once again, pay a visit to our already favorite restaurant - ordering same great dishes as yesterday... We're in no mood for variations nor any new experiments...

Tomorrow - We are leaving Chachapoyas, heading towards one of our most significant portions of our trip - cruising the Amazonas River, all the way from Peru east to BRASIL!

Until the next entry,
Miss you all,

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Additional photos below
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House BasesHouse Bases
House Bases

Kuelap, Peru
Main EntranceMain Entrance
Main Entrance

Kuelap, Peru

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