The trek started at 5:30 AM, when the Australians and I met outside the locked door of Hotel Ravesh. Ten min later the door opened, and Carlos told us we didn´t have a guide. We drove to a guide´s house (Hernando turned out to be a good guide with mediocre English), we picked him up and were on our way.
Our first stop was Wanglic, which was a funerary site of the Chachapoyas people (name means People of the Clouds) and a water fall. The hike down took awhile and we chatted and got to know one another.
Back in the cab, we headed to Karajia, which used to be 8 Sarcophagi, but now there are only 6 (2 fell over). They are about 2 m in height and 20 meters off the ground.
We headed back into town for lunch at a famly´s home. We ate most of our meals and stayed mostly with people who where friends of Hernando. It was nice to get out of restaurants and into Peruvian homes. After lunch we headed to the Valle Belen, where we would spend the first night. The valley is impossibly green and a beautiful river runs through it. It is used to cattle ranching so we had to watch our step.
We were told we´d be sleeping in a lodge, which turned out to be a shack, a comfortable one mind you, but a shack nonetheless. Due to bad planning (or possibly no planning at all), the key was not there waiting for us. Both Hernando and I tried to be clever about getting in, but we ultimately resorted to Jared throwing a giant rock through the door.
The next morning three other folks joined our trek. Two of them were from the Israeli group I met on the bus, plus Philip, a Brit coming from Brazil via the Amazon. The trekking though the valley was not always easy (mud and stream crossings), but fun.
Most of our trekking that day was on a pre-Inca road.
Around lunch we stopped and took a side trail into the cloud forest, where we found the ruins of Pirquilla. These ruins are un-excavated and have been overtaken by the jungle. It was very cool to have these ruins to ourselves, a stark contrast to the Sacred Valley
We spent that night on a coffee farm and had delicious coffee. Our group bonded over several card games late into the evening. The next morning we set out on 2 horses and 3 mules (the Israelis chose to walk).
We stopped to see more ruins that day (Lanche), but they were not in as good a shape as the day before. My mule insisted on being in the lead. If he ever wasn´t, he would work to overtake the others. Once in the lead however, he took his sweet time. In the afternoon, his temperament changed and he moved very quickly, often not waiting for the others. The best part of the day was the racing. We ¨raced¨ mules vs horses up to the pass. I was in the lead the most of the afternoon. My mule would dart through the forest or take the road less traveled to insure we were in front. Unfortunately, when we got to the pass, my mule got trapped behind grazing mules in the path and the horses won. I think this is mostly because horses took orders, whereas the mules did as they pleased. It was good fun and we all had a good laugh.
The third night we slept in hostels in Maria, which was a beautiful little town, filled with very friendly folks. The fourth morning we were up early to visit Kuelap, which is a Chachapoyas forest. There is currently a National Geographic film crew there because there has been some new archaeological discoveries there. The ruins were quite impressive and definitely worth the trip.
The main entrance.
The built decorations directly into the walks.
The walls of the fortress are over 20 m high and in pretty good shape.
After the fortress we had to race down the 2 hour hike to Tingo to meet our bus. The racing came from the fact that they were closing the pass between Kuelap and Chachapoyas for 5 hours and several of our group wanted to take the night bus to Chiclayo. We made it we seconds to spare thanks to our driver´s lead foot.
I had planned to see more ruins in the area, but this trek allowed me to see more of the countryside and how people live outside Chachapoyas. This was an outstanding trek.