Made It!

Trip Start Nov 10, 2007
Trip End Nov 15, 2009

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Friday, May 15, 2009

There is nothing much to recommend Pedro Ruiz but I had a good nights sleep after a long travel day and was looking forward to heading to Chachapoyas - again by collectivo.  The road there is now paved so it was an easy ride and we arrived at about 11.  We found Hotel Casa Vieja and settled in.  Chachapoyas was the third town settled by the Spaniards in Peru.  It used to be a major crossroads but these days is a pretty laid back town of 20,000 in the middle of an amazing range of mountains.  My main goal here was to visit the pre-Inca ruins of Kuelap. 

There are innumerable archeological sites in these mountains,  Hundreds are known and who knows how many others are still undiscovered.  This is an area of wild and difficult to navigate mountains with few roads.  There are several tour agencies in town selling tours to the main sites but, being the independent soul that I am, I decided to head to the sarcophogi of Karajia on my own.  According to the book...when will I learn?...this site can be reached by taking a collectivo to to Luya and then changing to another collectivo to Cruz Pata.  Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?   When we were in the collectivo to Luya we asked the driver about where to find the one to Cruz Pata.  He told us that we might be able to find one but getting back would be nearly imnpossible as very few go there.  Great.  So we decided to hire a private collectivo to ensure we'd get back to Luya. 

The roads here are rough dirt roads. The kind of roads that 4-wheelers in Colorado negotiate for their weekend fun and games.  Here they are the only roads and there are few cars and only  a handful of collectivos.  In fact, I'm not sure I saw a private car the whole time I was in Chacha!  What you do see is people walking on these roads and you have to wonder how far they walk!  Some have burros or horses to carry their loads (and occasionally ride on).  Although electricity has reached this area, it's basically a pretty primitive and traditional life. 

We got to Cruz Pata, parked the car and our guide led us to the steep trail to the site.  The hike out would be a killer...but on we went.  The sarcophigi of this site are perched high on a cliff above what used to be a Chachapoya village.  Chachapya means "People of the Clouds" and were a pre-Inca culture who lived in this area.  It is believed that this site was where the leaders and upper class of the town below was buried.  It's really unique!  The human shaped burial urns contained the remains of the dead as well as various arts and crafts belonging to the deceased.    The skulls above the sarcophogi are believed to be trophies of enemies.  Although  much of the site has been pillaged by robbers, the images are still very powerful to behold and I was once again struck by the amount of difficult work our ancestors did to bury their dead.  Amazing.

We headed back to the car and, as predicited, it was a tough hike at over 3000 meters elevation.  But we made it and headed back to Luya.  As expected, there were no other collectivos in evidence so good thing we hired the car.  But I decided that I would definitely book a tour to go to Kuelap.  The bus there leaves at 4 am.  I don't think so!  Tour it is!

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