Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chachapoyas & Kuelap Ruins - Peru

We stepped off our overnight bus in Chachapoyas and almost immediately were greeted by a man offering tours to the ruins of Kuelap for a very reasonable price, but it was leaving in under an hour.  There was barely time to visit the indoor market to get some provisions for the day.  Inside were ladies on the stairs selling guinea pig or ‘cuy’ as it is known here, in various states.  On the floor opposite them was a bag full of live guinea pigs and on their laps they had trays of the prepared versions that were ready for cooking.  They didn’t look too appetising but we vowed to try them before our time in Peru and South America was over.  We ran back round to the plaza and hopped on the bus with a few minutes to spare and we were soon climbing up winding mountain roads and soaking up the majestic views once again.  Although the day was overcast by the time we reached the peak of 3000 meters there were great views from the path to the ruins down towards the valley.

Last minute breakfast sandwiches

Bags full of live guinea pigs and chickens

Guinea pigs prepared for cooking

The great views on the journey

Taken on the path to the ruins

From outside, the ruins looked pretty impressive although quite a way away from being in the same league as Machu Picchu.  Once inside our guide took us to various points of interest in the site although unfortunately the information was only in Spanish and whilst our Spanish abilities had come on leaps and bounds we still weren’t so good when it came to specific subject matters such as ruins.  There were a couple of people who could speak some English and we had various bits translated so we got the gist of most things he was saying.  It could have been built to defend against the Huari or other hostile peoples however evidence of these hostile groups at the site is minimal. Radiocarbon dating samples show that the structure’s construction started in the 6th century AD and the site was occupied until the Early Colonial period (1532-1570).  The ruins were interesting to look at and they were varied and numerous, spanning the considerable area of the complex.  One of our favourite types of ruins on site were the houses that contained a covered stone trough which historians suppose was a pen to keep guinea pigs before they were killed and prepared on the flat stone to be cooked and eaten.  It began to drizzle as we made our way round the site, finishing up at el Tintero.    

La Atalaya at the north end of Kuelap

Overlooking the ruins in my Peru national football shirt

Remains taken through a gap in the wall

The living area with the guinea pig trough and large pestle and mortar

Overlooking the ruins and the cliff

The living complex

El Tintero

The diamond patterns could represent feline eyes

Ultimately the site was definitely worth a visit but it was a shame that we didn’t have better weather and that they didn’t have English speaking guides which would have made the day a lot more fulfilling.  The ruins were in great condition and were a great way to spend a day.  Whilst they didn’t inspire the feelings of awe they Machu Picchu did for me it is surprising that the ruins aren’t better known as they were amongst the best we had seen in Peru.  After our day trip we were back in time to take our third overnight bus in a row, this time to Trujillo where we would be taking a short connection to stay for a few days in the quiet seaside town of Huanchaco.

The route out of the complex

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