Since we are travelling in a big group we’ve decided to introduce guest bloggers (as we’ve introduced guest photographers). Today it’s Sally’s turn:
We were up early preparing to say good-bye to our wonderful friends in Leymebamba. The morning was bustling by 7 am because the Harvard Professor Gary Urton and his entire summer archeological field class also stayed the night at La Casona. Nellie, Julio, and Nirmé prepared breakfast for 35 as if it were five! Nothing fazes them and they are always loving and giving, no matter the chaos.
We had boxed and wrapped up our remaining school donations to bring to the Cocachimba schools and our pile of bags and boxes was impressive as we prepared to leave. The night before we said our good-byes to our guides; leaving Javier and Sinecio is always hard. Saying good-bye to Nellie and Julio and everyone at La Casona this morning was hard too. We left with lots of hugs and promises of seeing each other next year.
The drive to Kuelap took about 90 minutes. The Utcubamba valley is beautiful with a rushing river and high canyon walls. We saw evidence of landslides, always a risk in this area during the rainy season. Today however, weather was perfect; sunny with a blue sky.
Esther said she has been ordering it for us every day! On our way to the tram in the town of Tingo, our driver Walter suggested we stop and order lunch at one of the restaurants for after we come down from the Kuelap ruins. Good idea Walter!
The tram is about two years old. There is a beautiful ticket building with information about how it was built. Very organized. We waited for our time to be called and then boarded a bus for a five-minute ride to the actual tram itself. Each car holds eight passengers and it takes you straight up to the base of the Kuelap ruins.
It is incredibly steep but very fun and way better than how you used to get there which involved a three-hour drive on a winding, scary dirt road.
At the top of the tram are a few tourist booths and a little café where we got a quick snack (of course) before we walked the 2 km to the actual entrance of the ruins.
Everyone knows Machu Picchu – but Kuelap is so much more impressive. The walls are 20 meters high and at least a meter thick.
There are only three narrow entrances into the citadel.
They are doing lots of re-construction and preserving of the site.
When our group first went there twelve years ago, they were the only ones there and they could walk everywhere. Now you follow a wooden path throughout the ruins and there were so many people.
But it is still a magical place with trees covered with moss and bromeliads throughout the ruins of the round Chachapoya homes and the rectangular Inca homes.
Kuelap was built by a variety of peoples from around the region as part of a semi-circle of defense against the groups on the other side of the Utcubamba river. We don’t know much about the people because, unlike other groups throughout Peru, the Chachapoya and Inca did not decorate their pottery with faces or stories of their lives.
In addition, Kuelap has only been excavated on the very surface. While it was disappointing to have to stay on the path, it is good they are protecting the ruins for the future.
Chris got gorgeous drone footage that we are all excited to see (but since he forgot his phone in Walters car with the drone footage on it, we will have to wait for it until our return to Lima).
After a quick lunch, we drove another hour to Cocachimba where Rocio welcomed us into Gocta Natura Reserva, her paradise, with open arms. Each of our casitas look out over the jungle with a view of the Gocta Falls.
We arrived around 5 pm and gathered on the beautiful balcony of the main house for wine, drinks, and snacks. The sun was setting, the falls were gorgeous, wine, Gin Tonic and Vodka was flowing, and the group was very happy.
Rocio has built a beautiful eco-lodge, designed by her architect daughter, and the attention to detail is remarkable.
It is filled with fresh flowers and gorgeous architectural details.
After our rugged, challenging trip to Los Chilchos, we truly felt we had arrived to a little slice of heaven.
We crawled into our beds very happy.