Category Archives: Chachapoyas


It takes over two hours to get to Kuelap. Most of the road is dirt, bumpy, and frighteningly  narrow  as it  winds around the mountains. It felt like a Jules Vern Journey. Along the way our minivan shared the road with sheep, llamas, motobikes, and horses, most carrying burdens of wood, or goods to trade. Once I saw a child of 4 or 5 and his older sister, by a couple of years trying to coax an unwilling horse along the edge of the highway.

Kuelap is mind-boggling from anyone’s viewpoint. Looking at the massive stone wall, you can see why the dead were buried in it. It makes the perfect mausoleum. The round houses, had living space, kitchen, with large grinding stone, and small place to keep guinea pigs. The Chachapoyan architecture was only recognized in 1843! Roaming around on the site were llamas and  horses probably owned by the folks who live on the mountain. El Tintero is the circular turret in the shape of an inverted cone, said to be a challange to the laws of gravity. It’s placed  at the south end of the oval shaped fortress, and used for religious ceremonies, that, yes, involved some human sacrafice, but not as much apparently as the Incas who managed to subdue the Chachapoyan warriors about 800 years later! Dates Known  by the Inca pottery.

Kuelap, a mountaintop fortress city, rivals any ruins in the new world and comes complete with living quarters for thousands of residents and a stone wall fortification reaching 60 feet high running in circumference to the city 110 meters in width.
Kuelap is considered the largest stone ruin site in the New World and is comprised of massive stone blocks nearly 10-times the volume of the blocks used in the Giza Pyramid. The fortress of Kuélap consists of massive exterior stone walls containing more than four hundred buildings. The structure, situated on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley

in northern Peru, is roughly 600 meters in length, 110 meters in width, and is thought to have been built to defend against the Huari or other hostile Peoples. Archaeological evidence shows that the structure was built around 500 AD and occupied until the mid 1500s (Early Colonial period). (when the Spaniards showed up.)

Truly fascinating and important history. There are many articles on it inc. one from Nat Geo you can google.




Sunday Morning Coming Down

One of Johnny Cash’s most poignant songs is about being an addict and alone on Sunday morning.

“And there ain’t nothing short of dying’  As half as lonesome as the sound, Of a sleeping city sidewalk, and Sunday morning coming down.”



Yesterday morning I was sitting on a bench  in the lovely Plaza de Armas, Chachapoyas, Peru. It’s a clean, safe park, filled with families, tourists, kids and sadl stray dogs looking for a handout. I was thinking about how the mountains and sky change throughout the day. At  7:40 am it’s quiet, and the clouds were so puffy and dense I might have been covered with a down comforter.

I was thinking about the poor dogs in every country that were domesticated and then forsaken when they weren’t needed, thinking about how grateful I am to be here-really, to be anywhere when  so many of my friends and family have already passed on.  Sitting on a park bench beckons one to reflect, observe, & frequently communicate with those who sit beside you. I love park benches. I seek them out wherever I am in the world.

Kids shaking down a tree in the park.

Kids shaking down a tree in the park.

At exactly 8 am church let out. Throngs of the devout poured into the park. Among them was a pathetic man wearing a filthy, brown, wool poncho. He headed straight for me. Still,  I didn’t get up immediately. As he got closer I saw that his eyes were rummy, his mouth crusty, his head as if it had been greased. As he sat he mumbled something about cervesa. Of course he wanted a beer. I might have given him a couple of soles, but suddenly the stench of him made me gag. I jumped up and moved across the park.

From my new bench I noticed that the devout passed him as if he was invisible. Johnny’s song rang in my head. I thought maybe “somewhere this guy  heard “a lonely bell ringing, echoing through the canyons, like disappearing dreams of yesterday.” Then again, maybe he just wanted a beer.