Friday, March 7, 2008
Beetle, Llamas, and Kuélap
Chacapoyas, Perú Friday March 7th noon
All right, so I´m updating the blog often because I can, and I have fun stuff to say. If you haven´t been here in a while, check below as I blogged twice yesterday because I finally got computer access.
After spending the nite at a nice hostal in Leimembamba, we took a car (taxi) to Tingo, the town at the base of Kuélap. There were no trucks to hitchike with, thus the car. Arriving after a pleasant 2 hour car ride we were in Tingo. Not 30 seconds after getting out of the car a blue Toyota truck passes, and we thumb it to ride up the mountain. So lucky!!! I think we had the luck because I had changed my underwear that day.
So we hop in the bed of the truck and ride up the mountain. Well we rode until the road stopped due to another landslide! This one was huge! I´m talking boulders in the road! Look at the pic above. (Later that nite we heard and saw them using dynamite on the road) Well we crossed the landslide by foot and then hopped in a taxi on the other side to María.
In María we just chilled and ate well. We did go to the town square where we saw the local kids playing with BEETLES! They were big, with bodies the size of large walnuts, and then long legs and wings to accompany. Well these beetles didn´t sting at all, but they wrestled each other. The kids had collected probably sixty, and they were all in a big wrestling match. Royal Rumble or WWF Smackdown couldn´t hold a candle to this match of beetles. Well then a kid goes to throwing a beetle at another kid, which stuck to his shirt. This escalated into a full out beetle fight. Kids throwing them everywhere! There were no casualties, but I did get hit in the face and had like 5 or 6 stuck to me at one point. It was hilarious! Such a good time!
So there were two reasons we have taken this incredible adventure over the past week. One is for the adventure. The second is to see Kuélap. Kuélap is a huge pre-Incan ruin. City to 3,500 people back in 500-600 AD, it was conquered by both the Incas and the Spanish. No one travels there except backpackers because of the difficult route to get there and because all foreigners just go to MachuPicchu to see their ruins. They average 10-15 tourists a day.
Let me say that the mountains surrounding MachuPicchu are far more impressive, but I can honestly say I prefer the ruins of Kuélap to the ruins of MachuPicchu.
Well we wake up in María and start hiking at 6:30 am towards Kuélap. After a two hour uphill yet easy hike, we arrive atop the mountain only to be greeted by about 15 wild llamas. Gorgeous creaturs, and different from the planted llamas of MachuPicchu. These were huge and muscular. At one point two started scuffling and it was just incredible. They were beautiful with their different color markings and faces.
Well after they got out of our path we headed up to the ruins to find a man who looked like he worked there. Turns out he was the only one working there that day. He asked if we wanted a guide and we said yes. So he left the ticket office, walked to a hill and literally yodeled, ¨Rigoberto!!! Guía!!!¨ like 4 or 5 times. Eventually Rigoberto, who looked like an ant half a mile down the mountain looks up and waves his arms. So we got a guide.
Well once Rigoberto arrived he took us on probably the best tour of my life. All in Spanish, he was an excellent guide. Kuélap. The pre-Incan city has hardly been restored. I feel only pictures can do it justice. With the trees, tunnels, stones, everything about it made me feel like Indiana Jones. At one point we pulled a rock out of a wall only to find a chamber full of human bones. On top of it all, throughout the entire city there were only three people present, Merrill, Rigoberto, and me! It was surreal. The ruins are gorgeous and seeing how over half of them have never been touched it just felt so authentic. Contrasted with the manicured MachuPicchu ruins, these made me feel more like an explorer than a tourist.
Leaving the ruins, we had two options to get to Chacapoyas. One, hope a car could carry us from Kuélap or two, hike down the mountain and hitchhike from Tingo. We saw a mini-bus arrive to Kuélap but it was carrying several backpackers who had rented it. They still had to tour Kuélap so we decided to hike down the mountain.
It was steep! And it was hot! Two and a half hours with a 40 pound pack on you back is no way to go STRAIGHT down a mountain. But we did it. Crossing people´s farms, meeting horses along the way, we went to the bottom. By the time we arrived in Tingo, with my legs feeling like spaghetti, we threw our packs against the wall of a general store and sat down exhuasted leaning against them. The people outside the general store couldn´t help but notice how hot and sweaty we were, and they simply started laughing since they knew the feeling.
We sat there for about an hour until a station wagon passed by and we hopped in the way back with our packs. Now this was easily the worst car ride I´ve ever taken. We were so tight back there it hurt. Coupled with the dirt roads, and the cardboard covering the metal bottom, it was just awful, miserable! We rode for about an hour, the trip supposed to take and hour and twenty minutes, when the car broke down. I almost rejoiced seeing how I could now get out of the car. Who rejoices when a car breaks down? We tipped the driver and started walking/hitching. Eventually we see a minibus coming up the mountain and they pull over to let us in. Who is it? None other than the same minibus in Kuélap. I laughed myself into stitches when I got on that bus knowing how hard we had worked to get to where they had comfortably rode. 10 minutes later we were relaxing in Chachapoyas. It was a beautiful day, full of memories!