We left the Gocta Andes Lodge at 9 AM for a full-day tour to the ruins of Kuelap (#2 on map below) and the small city of Chachapoyas. We back-tracked down to the Rio Utcubamba valley, and then drove south and upstream, until we came to the turn-off for Kuelap.
Northern Peru Area Map (click on map to enlarge)
We stopped only a little distance up the road, to view some ruins across the narrow valley.
We continued a short ways to the town of Nuevo Tingo, at an elevation of 6457′, and then climbed steeply westward into the narrow and precipitous valley of the Rio Tingo, with Kuelap situated on a mountaintop, directly across from us. At places, the road was hewn into cliffs, like nothing you will see in the US. We headed the valley and crossed the Rio Tingo at the town of Choctamal, at an elevation of 8648′. Then, we reversed direction, and began climbing to the east, passing through little villages and steeply-perched farms. The Visitor Center at Kuelap sat on a saddle, at an elevation of 9619′. From there, one walked up a trail along a ridge to the ruins, which occupied the top of the mountain.
Rounded wall at the southern end of the fortress
Looking out at the vast extent of the Northern Highlands. The people of Peru seem to prefer living and farming at these higher elevations – probably because water is in greater supply here.
Cultivated hillside adjacent to the ruins.
We bypassed this entry and continued to the northern end of the fortress
We pass a little farm on the way
This entrance was used by people and llamas both, to resupply the inhabitants of the fortress
Looking down the passageway
Bromeliads, in the trees that have colonized the ruins
Looking back to the valley of the Rio Tingo, and the road we followed to Kuelap. The blackened fields have been burned prior to planting.
Ridge crest, at an elevation of 9984′
Rock work detail
Round structure with holes to accommodate timbers
The decorative motifs seen below appear on houses everywhere in the region.
Two round structures
Inverted cone structure
Clustered round structures
Looking down the ridge to the Visitor Center. On our return there, I bought an authentic wine-colored woolen poncho from a woman who was selling her artisanal weavings. This I will treasure. We also took note of the beginning stages of construction of the top terminal of a tramway, which will span the distance from Nuevo Tingo to the Visitor Center.
As we drove back through Nuevo Tingo, we noticed the towers and other materials that would go into the making of the tramway. Progress marches on!
We turned back north along the Rio Utcubamba, and drove 10 miles to the Chachapoyas turn-off, and then an additional few miles into the city.
Kathy, in the Plaza. Chachapoyas is a pretty colonial town, at an elevation of 7654′.
A pedestrian street, where we got some tasty ice cream. This town is popular with “backpackers”, of which we saw a few.
We then returned to the the lodge, and left the next morning for the Huembo hummingbird station and the city of Moyobamba, the Orchid Capitol of Peru. Here is the link to the following post: