We're finally going round the world! travel blog

El Tingo village




Walking the pre-inca road!

The outer defensive wall of Kuelap


The main entrance to Kuelap




The second entrance into the 1400 year old structure



The lowest of Kuelap´s three levels, where the not-very-important people lived


We came up that road down there

Circular house ruins by one of the entrances to Kuelap




A pretty flower



Some of the houses were decorated with designs






Da the Chachapoyan cook





Inside these holes they kept their food


More houses


El Tintero, an inverted cone-shaped turret challenging gravity at the south end...












These designs and faces were by the inside entrance path

A duck / dog type animal?



Another pretty flower

Having lunch overlooking the valley


The horse gives you an idea of how large the fortress is



That's Kuelap from a distance...

...and there it is all the way up there at about 3000m

We arrived in Chachapoyas at 5am, but even at that hour, when we found a hostel there was a tour guide at the door telling us all about a tour leaving later that morning! In the end, we decided to get some sleep(!) and go on the tour to Kuelap the next day instead. Kuelap is described as 'the Machu Picchu of Northern Peru' because of its size and impressiveness; but unlike Macu Pichu it doesn't yet have crowds - we had it pretty much to ourselves! It's a fortress, approx 600m long and 110m wide, perched high on a ridge (at 3000m above sea level) overlooking the Utcubamba Valley. It's associated with the Chachapoyas culture (another Pre-Inca one in Peru - there are lots!), and was probably built around 800 AD to defend against the Huari or other hostile peoples. It has massive stone outer walls (19m high!), multiple levels or platforms, and more than four hundred buildings, mostly circular - apart from one restored house, just the bases remain, some with decorative friezes. It was occupied until the Early Colonial period (1532-1570). We spent a couple of hours there with our 'guide' (taxi driver), being awe-struck by the scenery, the number of structures on the lowest level, and the very impressive entrances: there are three of them - two giving access, and one that opens onto the cliff edge and would have been an exit to the abyss, so probably provided access to a sacrificial place. The best preserved, principal 'doorway' is like an alleyway with huge walls that narrow sharply as it rises, so that it's only wide enough for one person to enter at the top. They think that the shape was defensive - although it's also been speculated that it symbolizes an immense vulva(!). Some of the houses are remarkably well preserved, and we could see big worn pestles and mortars and the holes where food would have been kept. Work to restore and discover more about the site is ongoing: the higher levels were more difficult to appreciate because they're still very overgrown (mostly we saw lots of bits of walls as we clambered through the undergrowth!). When we'd finished exploring, we stopped for lunch at a lady's house with a fantastic view of the valley, and then made our way back down the narrow roads, picking up and dropping off people as we went (no reason why our guide shouldn't do his usual job at the same time as taking us on a tour!). Back in Chachapoyas (which is pleasant, but, like all the Peruvian towns we've seen to far, very dusty!), we got an early night because our next bus was leaving at 2am! (why??!).

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