Where was I? Oh yes, about to cross the border into Peru – done, no issues, 90-day visa in case I stay more than a month, organised at around 3am after walking across the bridge/border at Macará, accompanied by NO SLEEP whatsoever on my first night bus of the trip. So breakfast in Piura was an unpleasant blur in my dazed and confused state! Had a different feel to it than Ecuador though – I could tell I was in a different country.
Swiftly on to bustling coastal Chiclayo, where the sun came out for a while and Mary and I killed a few hours in a cafe and at the Witches’ market (observed witches: 0; much-needed fruit stalls: ~200; shoes: ~2,000; party supplies: ~10,000; pineapple cart sponsored-by-Vanish: 1, obviously!?) before preparing for our second nightbus in a row to Chachapoyas… this time in a ‘cama’ seat – wider and fully reclining – hallelujah!
I had no idea what to expect but Chachapoyas is a lovely little town, and it reminded me quite a lot of Tibet. The morning we arrived we jumped straight on a minibus tour to Kuélap; many hours on a single-track road hugging the mountains through some spectacular scenery, with some great conversation, some chocolate and, admittedly, a little more sleeping thrown in! We had to go the long way round due to some newly-drying tarmac on the ‘short’ route, which added a pointless hour to the start of the journey.
In the picture above you can actually see Kuélap, top right just touching the last cloud, but we didn’t know that until we got there:
It’s the ruins of the centre of the Chachapoyas (people of the clouds) civilisation, conquered by the Incas, 3,000 metres above sea level, and it’s mighty impressive! It was rediscovered in 1843, long before Machu Picchu, but it gets far fewer tourists as it’s so remote.
The three steep entrances are wide to begin with, narrowing to only let one person through at a time
Inside there are different levels and around 420 round houses each having one window and one doorway. The whole family lived in one room, and when someone died they were buried under the house and the family moved out. The one below has been rebuilt as an example.
Patterns in the stonework apparently represented the eye of the puma, the eye of the gorilla (I think) and the serpent.
Obligatory Peruvian llama picture – probably many more to follow!
So many amazing views! Felt like being on top of the world! We could hear singing to a marching song from way down in the valley, which I’m told (thanks Daniel!) is a hangover from the military rule of the ’70s and ’80s. This country’s politics has changed a lot in 30 years but it’s not forgotten.
This ‘tintero’ (inkwell, due to its shape inside) was thought to be a prison but is now believed to be a solar observatory. Around the ruins there were characters carved into the rocks.
So the sun set on an amazing day! The only tarnish was the sore throat I developed…
The next day, despite the sore throat/firmly establishing cold, I joined the same people from the previous day on a hike to the 14th-tallest waterfall in the world, 771m tall, amid some more spectacular scenery!