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Asian Moments, South American Distractions I'll just keep on exploring the planet, one town, one river and one mountain at a time. At least until inter-planetary travel becomes an option.

Kuelap, in Amazonas department of northern Peru

PERU | Saturday, 21 July 2012 | Views [1188]



I really loved this immense ruin complex in the north of Peru. I had travelled to the town of Chachapoyas the day before from the Peruvian border with Ecuador, so I came here on my second full day in Peru.

The trip from Chachapoyas to the ruins took 2-3 hours, with the last few minutes minutes being spectacular. You approach Kuelap from down by the Utcubamba river, and it's a long trip uphill on a narrow road; you can see the ruins on the faraway hilltop almost 45 minutes before you get there, which adds to the anticipation. It is 3000 meters, or almost 10,000 feet above sea level.

Kuelap used to be an immense fortress city, and is one of the largest pre-Colombian ruins anywhere in the Americas. It was built by the Chachapoyan people starting in the 6th century AD, and occupied by almost 1000 years. In the end it was conquered by the Incas, just like most everything else in Peru. Most of the construction stones were laid for circular or rounded buildings and fortress walls, until the Incas conquered and showed the Chachapoyan people how to build square structures with corners.

The thing that makes Kuelap so fascinating is that it was never restored. The ruins were discovered by Europeans in 1843, but because of the isolation and lack of funds, were not developed like Macchu Piccu, which was discovered 70 years later. The physical setting, sans Waynu Piccu, is just as dramatic as Macchu Piccu. But Kuelap is much more in keeping with modern archeological practices than Macchu Piccu can ever be, because that site was extensively and exhaustively reconstructed. Today's archeologists would never in a million years do to Macchu Piccu what was done in the mid 20th century, because the creed is now to preserve and protect the ancient structures, never to make unproveable assumptions and try to wholly reconstruct them.

So go to Chachapoyas and see Kuelap; you'll never need to fight with the other tourists for elbow room. And more than the famous reconstructed site in the south of Peru, Kuelap is the real deal.

Tags: archeology, chachapoyas, incas, kuelap, peru

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