Tag Archives: Kuelap

Peru’s North-Eastern Route: Sonche Canyon, Kuelap and more fun in Chachapoyas.

The last 3 days have been intense. Lots of coincidences, nice places and people. We decided to stay at Hotel Revash, an old and pretty house on the main square. Our room with view of the colonial plaza. The next day after arrival I met with Michell Leon, who lives and photographs Chachapoyas and its birds on the surroundings. He recommended us to go to Cañon del Sonche on Huancas, a short 30 minute ride from Chacha (as locals call it). There is a lookout or mirador overlooking the canyon. Views are breathtaking, specially if you have in mind that all of this land was under the ocean some millions years ago. We found out that there is another lookout point on the other side of the mountain and we decided to walk there. It was longer than we expected and we burned under the sun for 3 hours to get there. On the way we had to pass right next to a high security prison, a huge structure with towers and walls that looks completely out of place on the beautiful countryside.

Sonche Canyon with Erick

There at the mirador we met with 2 Chilean girls and we ended up going back to Chacha with them. The night was a bit chilly but anyway we headed up to the mirador of the city with a bottle of rum to enjoy the full moon over the city.

Sonche Canyon

It was not easy to wake up the next day to go to Kuelap. Added to the rum a bottle of the local Milk Liquor was downed. The road to Kuelap is full of cliffs that will make people cry their hearts out if the driver manuvers a reverse, something that is not strange at all considering that big trucks go that way too and at stretches the road is a single lane.

The mountains here look different to any others I’ve seen. They are not as rugged as in Cusco, rather green and square-like, with flat tops as tableaus have. Waterfalls hanging down producing oasis of lush green cloudforest on the ravines. Kuelap for instance is located on a dramatic mountain top. The city extends for 600 meters length and 100 meters wide of walled construction. The outer walls measure 20-30 meters in height and inside around 500 round houses and buildings with beautiful designs on their rock walls are found. Houses are so well preserved one can still see the holes built on the ground with rocks that were used as refrigerators, as well as guinea pig corrals. The inner part of the city is divided on 3 levels, each higher than the other one, as in a pyramid distribution. Only 2 of them can be seen because archaeologists are still excavating the third one. Kuelap was, according to some, the last refuge of the Chachapoyans, who resisted for several months there the siege of the Incas until they ran out of food and water. Then the Incas sent the fierce Chachapoyan warriors to work as slaves (“mitimaes” in Quechua) in the construction of Chokekirao, a huge archaeological complex nearby Cusco. In fact, I’ve been to Chokekirao and I must say that the decoration on the walls and the stone work is very similar to that of Kuelap. The area here is full of archeological sites of the Chachapoyans, so many that here it’s called the northern capital of archaeology in Peru. Places like Karajia, the Gran Vilaya trek, Revash, Laguna de los Condores are all impressive burial sites and constructions.

On our tour we met more travellers and once we were back in Chachapoyas we headed to one of the local pubs. Our guide joined us. We tried Blackberry Liquor, Pur Pur Liquor and Chuchuwasi Liquor, all made from tree barks and fruits macerated with alcohol. After we headed to the local club to dance some salsa and 80’s music, something I have learned to live with since I’m not a big fan of 80’s music but in Peru they play songs like “Down Under” and “Money for Nothing” like they came out yesterday fresh from the studio. There are only 3 clubs in Chachapoyas and it was the weekend so the place was packed and people seemed surprised that 5 gringos showed up at their disco. Some of them wanted to have a beer with us. So far people have been very kind and friendly around here.

Needless to say the next day I didn’t go to the Gocta waterfall tour with Erick and Matt. I had been there before and I felt like sleeping in. On my wanders around the city I coincidentally ran into Jorge, a good friend from Tarapoto. We chatted a little about my idea of the agency and he expressed interest in be a part of it, a great thing because he is one of the people I wanted to work with in Tarapoto. Later that day Erick and Matt told me they met a guy from Tarapoto on their Gocta tour and we saw him, once again coincidentally, at the main square. He turned out to be another friend of mine, Chelo. We stayed talking with Chelo about our idea and things have begun taking shape. It’s as if the people who we could work this out are simply coming our way. And that always gives me the feeling that the universe is conspiring, that life is happening, that something has been set up to motion…

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Filed under Alternative tourism, Backpacking, Peru, Travel, Travel Stories, Travel Writing, Trekking