Karajia, Kuelap, and Chachapoyas

Trip Start May 22, 2008
Trip End May 26, 2008

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Where I stayed
Hostel San Pedro

Flag of Peru  ,
Saturday, May 24, 2008

Imagine arriving to a small town at 430 in the morning, after a sleepless nine hour bus ride, and not being able to fall asleep. It happened to me. The bus ride from Chiclayo to Chacha gave me my first taste of the Andes. What a sight it was from seat 11 under the andean moon. We rose high and fast, and to my right were cliffs thousands of feet to the small valley floor. What a scary sight. The way the driver was drving would keep anybody up. I have slowely been able to accept Peruvian drivers. Albiet crazy and dangerous, they get the job done! After a few hours of paved highway we entered unpaved zone. For about 4 hours i was tossed around in my seat like my newly washed cloths were in the dryer. Arriving an hour early, and having no idea where the hell i was, i hired a taxi to take me literally three blocks to a very nice and expensive hostel. I elt bad waking the man in charge up at 430, but it was his job. We discussed price, and he showed me to my room. ill take it. and who is one to argue over a price and go and find another cheaper place at that time in the morning. not me. i get to my room and immediatly open my lonleyplanet already planning my four days in town. there is so much to see here. the first day was dedicated to getting to know the town. I walked to the top of a mountain here took some pictures, went to small museum to see mummies, and of course jumped on the internet. it never ceases to amaze me how much time fuoco and james spend on msn messenger. im glad they are always on, i know i have someone to talk to during the weekly busness hours! Went to bed early to get a good nights rest as i was to go see the sacarphgi at Karajia, another 3 hours away from Chacha.

Got up and decided I had enought of being dirty and wearing smelly, really smelly, dirty cloths. I brought them to the front desk to get them washed, and immediatly went back to my room to take a shower. Ah refreshed and ready to get dirty again. Here i come Karajia. Checked out of th expensive hostel, and made my way down past the plaza and the local market to where the collectivos leave for even a smaller town named Luya, a 50 min ride. There I would get in another taxi to cruz pata, a small outpost where the head of the trail is to Karajia.

While waiting for the taxi to Luya I made some friends with some older locals, and they asked me where i was staying. Well at that time i wasnt really staying anywhere, i didnt know where i was going to be placing my head that night. Luckily one of the gents owns a hostel right above our heads. He showed me the room, and after a close inspection i decided to take it. How much i asked, for three nights....25 soles he replied. Less than ten bucks for three nights, ya damn right im gonna take it. And to this date Hostel Lima in Trujillo has been the worst hostel I have EVER satyed in, but i still managed to adore it.

After settling in, i jumped in što the taxi to Luya. What an awesome ride. Up and down over huge mountains that never seem to end. We came to a complete stop. Poeple started getting out, but this didnt look like a town it looked like a construction site. I asked Luya and one of the other four passsengers in the taxi said no and made a follow me gesture. turns out the bridge totally was not in commision and they were in fact building a new one. so into another taxi we go. Up and over more mountains to Luya. I ask around for a taxi and found on ewithin minutes. Hop into yet another taxi. by this time it must have been around 130 and some nice lady in Luya told me to be back by 515 that was when the last collectivo back to chacha was leaving. so i had about a 50 min ride to cruz pata, a 45 min walk to the sarcophigi, and then another 50 min ride back to town....if everythign went right. ok well if worse comes to worse ill just get a place somewhere or just do a new episdoe of man vs wild  in the northern andes. i had a lighter, some cigerettes, and a camarea. it would be a great episode. Up yet another unpaved road. i dont think the engineers at toyota thought that their cars would go through this much punishment! but they made it. we dropped of some people at some town along the way. the taxi driver was able to let me know that this was in fact his home town, and that we were to continue on to cruz pata. 15, 20, 30, 45 min pass, nothing. The finally wehn we reach the absolute apex of a huge mountain i see a sign for Karajia! oh my god, i go that same feeling from when i was baout enter chanchan but times that by 10. CruzPata, what a small outpost it was. I think there may have been 4 houses there, but each and everyone of them had a view worth millions of dollars. The loals there are in charge of the site, and charge a dollar to walk down and see the sarcophigi. They manage to sell me a key chain for one sole. i dont know who to give it to yet. Not knowing exactly sure how i would get back to Luya in time for the 515, the taxi driver came through like a champ. he said he would go down to the site with me and take me to Luya. SCORE!! I would get back to Luya, hopefully, in time to get back to ChaCha. He parked his car, and we started running down the gill. Not knowing how the trail went or how long it really was to the cliffs that they sit on, I kept on running with some much excitment I could have ran back to Luya. We staretd to drop and drop switch back after switch back, and then I see alittle bench with the sign Karajia, could it b close...i run turn th corner and see a huge cliff face, and there they are six tall sarcophigi  standing together looking out over the valley below. They were perched right in the middle of this cliff. unbelivabe site. A huge smile crossed my face as my taxi driver turned around and pointed above us. Chills ran up and down my spines. It is widely believed that kings and priests are cemented into this huge chambers. Two have recently fallen to give insight as to what was inside these chambers. There are a few skulls above the sarcophigi which are either tribute or skulls of pat rivals who were slain during battle. This little area was a awesome. a small waterfall fell from the farmalns above the cliff giving way to a micro jungle. hot and humid green parrots flew overhead screaching as to let the long faces of the sarcophigi know that there were two vistiors. unbelievable, this truely was one of my must see┤s while i wa touring peru. how did they get those massive structures up there i kept on wondering to myself. simply magnificent. after about an hour of looking around my taxi/guide and i started our way back up the hill. 45 min later sweaty, out of breath, and hella tired i crashed into the front seat of the cab, and fell asleep for the bumpy hour ride back down to Luya. No probem gettinmg a taxi in Luyta although I did have to wait about another hour before the taxi was full. Made it all the way back down to the river where we had to switch taxis to find that there were no taxis about, but there was a crowd growing. not knowing what the hell was going i on i calmly lit a cigerette and let time go by. After about 45 i gathered that the road was closed for an hour while all the workers were getting off the road. shortly thereafter an army of taxis came buzzing down the hill. I knew i would be back in chacha shortly and pizza and beer were calling my name. amongst the buzz of nearly a dozen taxis arriving i had no idea which one to jump in and i started to watch one by one go back up the hill to chacha. i started asking the older couple i drove down with from Luya where to go but they were of little help. and as i turned around after finishing my conversation with them a sweet young lady who was also in the taxi from Luya grabbed me, confirmed i was going to chacha, started dragging me a few yards up the hill, and threw me in a taxi that was chacha bound. what a sweet person. she definatly saved the day. once in the taxi i put together a bit of the locals converation and it wernt something like this...ah tourist...he would have been stuck down there all night...he was looking around and had no idea where to go...and they proceeded to laugh and i joined along with them. made it to chacha safetly. That night i went out to celebrate a job well done. in loinelyplanet they suggested this place called 505 for pizza and beer, sounded great, but pizza was definalty not on the menu. instead i kicked back drank a couple of beers couped with a hamburger and watched a dvd that played 80s rock music live from arena tours, sweet dvd. talked with a young local who has traveled much of peru and plans on opening a pub in chacha. he gave plenty of tips for my travels. he was very proud of his people, and i spoke very highly of them as they have been nothing but helpful, interested, and all around very caring people.

The next morning was an earlt one. alarm goes off at 430 in hopes of getting on the 500 collectivo to the base of Kuelap. no way i was getting up, hit the snooze and changed the alarm for 630. ill make my way down there by 7. get to the area where they taxis gather to find no more tais to kuelap. taxis were trying to charge me tons of money to take me there and back, no thanks pal i am on a budget and i cant blow it. that only meant one thing. a STRENUOUS 6 mile hike from the town of tingo to the ruins of kuelap high on the top of a mountain. An hours ride from chacha and i wa sin tingo tyhe base of the hike. get out of the taxi and start to pump myself up. the locals told me it would take three hours, but i never put to much weight in timetables here as they are always off. lonleyplant said it was a hot tough climp for 9.8 km. okay here we go. started off flat as it made its way out of own and then hell started. ripped the sweatshirt and long sleeve off down to just my t and shorts i start dripping sweat looking at the mounatins across the river it looks like i am in for one hell of a hike. one hour pass┤ doing alright, two hours pass starting to feel it, approaching 3 hours i am stopping at every switch back. i finally make it to the crest of the mountain, but i still dont see the huge fortress that rivals machu picchu, that has been made of more stones that the pyramids themselves. where the hell was it. small farms dot the vast land below and around me. i see a small boy and ask him how much longer. he said 30 min, i wa almost there. i was pretty much dead at this time couldnt move anymore, stopping every few feet. i was sweating so much my daypack has salt stains on it from my sweat. he andean sun was burning every bit of exposed skin, it was absolute hell. WHERE THE HELL WAS KUELAP! 30 more feet brought me to the top of another ridge with amazing views of the valley below and now i am starting to see the tip of mounatins miles and miles away.  turned my head 90 degrees and there she was. Kuelap. one of the most impentrable fortress of all of peru. hidden form the great inca empire, the chachapoyan people knew how to hide there emerald high in andean mountains surrounded and hidden with the environment it sits in. 40 more minutes brought me to the front entrance where i was met with a pack of llamas. well worth the 3.5 hour, gaining 4000 feet, 6 mile hike. the locals who look after the site asked me how long it took me to walk, i replied 3.5, not bad for a tourist they said, it takes them two hours...i felt real good about myself. i check in with the gate keeper and look at the guest book. only four people had been there all day. how can such an amazing site, the best i have seen so far get only 5 people in one day. when looking through the book i thought of the 3000 poeple that went to go see mach picchu that day, i was spoiled after such an insane hike. i had the whole fortress to myself. it was huge! the views were amazing, the fact that llamas are their lawn mowers and wandered through the site freely blew my mind. at 10000 feet the people that once inhabited thi site had some of the mot amazing views i have seen to date. this fortress is one of the most impressive things i have EVER seen. i was simply blown away. the words in my vocabulary dont even begin to describe what Kuelap really is. magical, amazing, powerful, all of those and about 10000 more adjectives i can think of. one word for every foot it was above sea level.

Tired, not wanting to hike back down and hope that there was a taxi in tingo, i walked a short way to the other side of the site where there was two taxis waiting. oh man i hope there is room for one more. ill sit in the trunk ill give you 20 soles, anything. i just didnt want to hike back down and pray that there would be transportaion back to chacha. get to the parking lot and woke up a driver, can you give me a ride o chacha, si senor quince soles. excuse my french, but FUCK YEAH! sat down took my shoes off and waited intently for 20 min until some other vistors finished there tour. ah chacha here i come, big dinner tonight here i come, not doing a damn thing tomorrow and playing on the internet here i come. 3 hours later i was standing, with a smile plastered on my face, in one of the coldest showers i have ever taken. it was everyhting i hoped for and more Chachapoyas and the region that surrouds it is truely amazing and it is off the beaten path, but every bit worth the extra effort.

That night i met up a canadian named simon and we went out and had a great dinner. apps, main course, dessert, beers for all under 5 bucks. i could get used to this.

well the plans have been extended a bit. i think i may stay in chacha one extra night. i want to go see how much a tour to gocta waterfalls would be. simon got a tour fr 40 soles, not bad considering that i was to spend about 30 to 35 soles on each expedition. gocta is the worlds third highest waterfall and was only discovered  by the western world 3 years ago. looks amazing and hopefully i can make it there. the amazon is around the corner, and within a couple f weeks ill be workng in ayacucho. it feels like a i am worlds aweay from home and i got here in only two weeks. in a weeks time i will be even further away...on the amazon...on a cargo boat heading for iquitos...no tv...no internet. just observing how the people on the worlds greatest river live. should be exciting! well hopefully i can download some pctures as it has been really tough to do so. 

miss everyone and think of each of you everyday. thanks so much for the messages they put a smile on my face. im glad that you can be enjoying this experiance with me. three cheers for the internet!

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ecraig on

Great Blog! You and Jamie and Rob are my favorite adventurers to read. Hmmm I do not know how I feel about our neighbors to the north. Personally I haven't found a trustworthy canook(sp?) but I guess you have to be open to new experiences. Miss you all the time BP. I hope that short course in salsa dancing I taught you in dance production serves you well in those late nights with those fiery women south of the border....I hope you take them all to pumptown, usa. Miss and love you!

Mrs. C

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