Kuelap Ruins, Second Only to Machu Picchu

Trip Start Jul 14, 2010
Trip End May 18, 2011

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Flag of Peru  , Amazonas,
Monday, January 10, 2011

Let me just start by saying that the views from the road between Cajamarca and Chachapoyas were spectacular!  The bus ride was 12 hours long, though on the map, it looked like it should only take five.  Like the bus ride to Cajamarca, this road wound up and down mountainsides in the stunning Andes.  Unlike the bus ride to Cajamarca, this road was very narrow and had sheer drop offs on the side with no guard rails.  I´m going to guess it was Peru´s equivalent to the Death Road in Bolivia.  Eventually, we stopped on a mountainside for some lunch, where we met up with Roger´s bus, which was about to leave the lunch spot.  We exchanged stories of the amazing sights we´d seen, then planned to meet up at a specific hostel in Chachapoyas.  Our buses played leap frog the rest of the way to Chachapoyas, until we took separate roads into the city to our respective bus terminals.

When we met at the hostel, Logan and I decided we didn´t want to pay 45 soles per night for a double with a shared bathroom, so Logan went in search of a cheaper option while I stayed with our bags in the first hostel.  While waiting, a guy came into the hostel and said hi to me as if he knew me, then figured out I wasn´t the person he thought I was and that was that.  Logan came back a little while later, having found a hostel for 15 soles for the two of us.  Nicely done, Logan!

Culinarily, we found a great product unique to Chachapoyas: Juanes.  Juanes, the singular of which is Juane and not Juan (because that would be weird), are boiled yucca filled with vegetables and meat.  We tried them at a few different places, and every time it was a little bit different.  I liked how they tasted at the first place the best, as they reminded me of the dumplings in chicken and dumpling soup.  Yum!

The next day (our first whole day in the Chachapoyas area), we went on a tour of the Kuelap ruins (with Roger).  The tour was all in Spanish, but we were able to get the main gist of things.  Not much is known about the history of this site yet, as excavations and research are still underway.  The Chachapoyan people constructed this city way before the Incans came, and for an unknown reason, they all left at the same time, burning and destroying their city as they left.  They had lived there for generations, which is apparent by the various layers of round houses that archaeologists have been able to dig up.  What is understood at this point is that after one generation was over, they would bury the houses in dirt all the way up to the tops of the walls, then they would construct new houses on the new foundation of dirt.  They did this at least four times throughout the existence of Kuelap.  In the center of each house, there was a circular hole that looks like it should be a fireplace, but actually contained the bones of the previous generation.  Each house also had a stretch of stones that created a sort of subterranean path.  This was for breeding guinea pigs.  Interesting, right?

Anyway, all in all, Kuelap was well worth the trip out to Chachapoyas and the 30 soles for the tour.  As a funny little side note, one of the girls on our tour had a friend who had planned to hike up to the site (another cheaper option, but a very steep, tedious climb up) to meet her, who ended up being the guy who thought he knew me in the hostel in town.

The day after Kuelap, Logan and I stuck around in the city, while Roger and two German siblings from our tour (Natalie and Thomas) went on a tour of a waterfall that was just recently ¨discovered¨ as it was previously thought by the local indigenous people that it was inhabited by a man eating snake/angry gods.  But when a random explorer returned unharmed from the waterfall five years ago, the waterfall was put on the Gringo Map.

That night, we met up with Roger, Natalie, Thomas, and two others who had gone on the tour, one of which, Juliana from France, was on vacation, but lived in Huaraz, where Logan and I planned on going to get some good climbing in.  A few hours later, Roger, Natalie, Thomas, Logan and I all hopped on the same bus to Trujillo, a beach town with some more ruins.
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