Today's theme: Danger.
We were greeted at the bus station and escorted to our hotel a few blocks away. We got private rooms, and a comfortable bed after sleeping on the bus was welcomed. After very short naps, we ate breakfast at 7:45 and walked to the tour agency at 8:30.
We met our tour guide, Geoffrey, who spoke English to our foursome and Spanish to our European counterparts. The 8 of us, plus Geoffrey and our driver piled into a van and took the scariest drive any of us have been on.
We raced along a paved, then dirt road at a speed that had us holding onto our seats. Aside from the adrenaline rush and silent prayers, the drive was gorgeous. We traveled up and down winding roads on the sides of the mountains, and along a tributary of the Amazon River. We stopped about an hour in to order our lunch from a small restaurant for the trip back. The drive continued another hour to our final destination of Kuelap.
The inhibitants of Kuelap were the Chachapoyas or "People of the Clouds" who occupied present day Chachapoyas from AD 800 to 1470 before they were conquered by the Incas. Thought to be fierce warriors, shamans and prolific builders who were responsible for one of the most advanced civilizations in the Peruvian jungle.
The ruined city of Kuelap sits atop a limestone mountain, southeast of Chachapoyas. It is the best preserved and easily accessible Pre-Columbian archeological site in the district. It is often over shadowed by the similar Machu Picchu, but the lack of tourists made for a very serene day.
Built between AD 900 and 1100, this well preserved city is made up of more stones than the Great Pyramid of Egypt. A 700 meter long, 6 to 12 meter high wall surrounds the oval city. It has 3 entrances, with walkways so narrow that you have to enter single file. This was a defense tactic; a single file line of attacking soliders were very easy to defeat. The expansion of the Inca Empire in the 15h century was met with great resistance from the Chachapoyas.
Inside the city, it is approximated there were 400 circular structures that housed up to 3500 inhabitiants. A Canadian archeologist, Morgan Davis, reconstructed a model of one of these homes that is present today but will destroyed in the future to return the area to it's original state. The homes still have stones where food was prepared, rocks laid into pits in the ground where food was cooked and even areas where they kept the guinea pigs (to eat, not just as pets!)
El Tintero (Inkpot) is a cone like structure that was filled with animal bones, thought to be sacrifices to their God. Recent advancements also indicate it may have been used as a solar calendar.