No one gets through

Trip Start Mar 11, 2010
Trip End Jul 31, 2010

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Flag of Peru  , Amazonas,
Monday, May 31, 2010

Getting deeper and deeper in the northern Andes, and after an even more gruelling bus ride I reached the village of Maria, about 4 hours from Chachapoyas from where I would visit the ruins of Kuelap. With a friend made during the long journey, we headed up early morning by foot – normally a 2h30 upward trek, quickly replaced by a 4 hour meander as we got lost in the trail network known only to the local farmers!

Dating back to the 6th century AD and belonging to the Chachapoyas culture, this citadel/fortress is considered to be the second most impressive ruins in Peru after the obvious Machu Picchu. Although the Sachapoyans did fall under the Inca empire in the mid-16th century, it is said that Kuelap itself never fell by force, but by isolation only. It makes sense as the complex was perched on top of a very steep mountain, had 20m high protective walls and three narrow entrances wide enough for one person to pass at a time – a real death trap. The Incas lost a lot of men that way, only for the locals to toss them over the cliff on the other side of the fort!

One clear peculiarity was the circular constructions – all the houses were round with straw roofs. However even more intriguing is the fact that each house had a deep pit in its centre – no, not a fire place, but a burial chamber for the families dead. In addition they would place bone fragments and skulls in the walls and ground to stay close to their loved ones after death.

What was the most striking in this still overgrown ruin complex was the lack of tourists. We had the site to ourselves (and about 20 archaeologists) which was a welcome change from the tourist ridden sites with better access. As we depended on the tour buses to get to Chachapoyas, we were relieved when a group of 12 made its appearance at midday! Pheww!
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