Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chachapoyas and more

Once into Peru, we headed south with Chachapoyas as a goal.  We stayed in San Ignacio the first night, finding a great deal of 20 soles for a room (about $8).  All the roads are unpaved in the area, but are very well maintained and easily drivable.  There is still a lot of construction, but even in work areas the roads are in very good shape (they could teach those Ecuadorians a thing or two...).  Plus, the delays at the work areas were much, much shorter than in Ecuador.  The people, although still reserved, seemed happier and more curious to see us than in Ecuador.  These are some very rural areas, so we mainly saw farmland, farm animals, dogs, adobe houses, and people sitting around passing the day.

Just outside of Chachapoyas, Peru.

Just outside of Chachapoyas, Peru

Chachapoyas is a nice little colonial town with a good feel to it.  The main plaza is full of tour agencies offering to take you to the numerous archeological sites in the area.  There is a nice hotel with great parking just 1 block off the plaza (across from official tourism office that will provide you with good info and maps and not try to sell you anything) that offered rooms from 25 soles and up.  Perfect!  We decided to check out a couple of sites on our own before heading south.  The first place we went was los Sarcafogos de Karajia, about two hours away through some very small towns. 

Horses and people working on the way to the Sarcofagos de Karajia, Peru

The site is a 1 km hike from where we left the bike.  There are six mysterious stone sarcophogi literally built into a cliff.  How the builders of the site were able to access the cliff face is a mystery to us.  In the cliff we also saw what looked like another burial site, but without such obvious stone figures guarding it, and either a natural or man made face.  We also found human remains on the rocks we hiked by under the cliff.  It was a pretty powerful place.

Sarcofagos de Karajia, Peru

Sarcofagos de Karajia, Peru

Women working with wool outside of the entrance to the Sarcofagos de Karajia, Peru
(the woman on the left collects payment to visit the site ($2) and has never actually visted the site because it is too far away. The women were great, but a bit hesitant and shy to get their picture taken.)

The next day we left Chachapoyas for the Kuelap ruins, about three hours south, also on unpaved roads through very small towns.  Kuelap is known for being a high altitude fortress, built with very tall walls (up to 60 meters) with very narrow doors, and only 3 of them for the entire length (greater than 1 km).  If an invading army came, the community could both see them from a long distance and easily fight them as at most two soldiers could come into any entrance at one time.  They would be easy targets.  It is thought that over 1,000 people lived within the walls of Kuelap, and it makes sense - there is lots of evidence of dwellings withing the compound.  This site was truly impressive.

At the Kuelap Archeological Site

Inside the Kuelap ruins, Peru

The Kuelap ruins, Peru

The walls of Kuelap are much, much taller than Mike

Llamas enjoy the Kuelap ruins as well

An example of how a house would have looked, with ruins of several former dwellings at the Kuelap ruins

The Kuelap ruins, Peru

The hike to the Kuelap ruins

From there, we were able to make it south to Leymebamba, another small town. 
The next morning, we visited their archaeological and ethographical museum.  About a three day hike from the town is a volcanic lake called Lake of the Condors.  In this area, over 800 mummies were found at several burial sites.  The local population stole many of the artifacts from the graves, and ruined many of the mummies in the process, but the museum holds over 200 of the bodies.  The entirely community run museum (no government support, but some large private contributions) was extremely well done and worth visiting. 

The museum outside of Leymebamba, Peru

The Museum in Leymebamba, Peru is best known for this room, full of mummies

A fashionable hat made from feline remains on display at the museum outside of Leymebamba
(they also found this fashionable hat on site)

An intricate counting system was used by tying knots, as seen on this piece  at the Museum in Leymebamba, Peru
(an intricate knot tying system was used for counting, as shown on this piece)

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