The program for today: visit to the fortress of Kuelap, an emblematic site of Northern Peru.
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In the morning, we have an appointment at 8:30 am. By the time everyone arrives, we leave around 9 am. We depart with Turismo Explorer, an agency that offers several daily visits with guides in Spanish and English. The tour to Kuelap, with round trip from Chachapoyas – Kuelap + entrance + Guide + lunch, costs 85 soles (about 23 euros). Today, the minibus is full; we will be ten people to do the tour + a French backpacker collected along the way, who apparently had not realized the difficulty to get to the area walking.
Our guide for today is called Jeffrey. Unusual for the region, he also speaks French and therefore proposes to translate everything. We reassure him, we understand enough Spanish. So no need for any repetition.
The trip to Kuelap is currently between 2 hours and 2 hours 30. The first hour, we descend from Chachapoyas to go to Nuevo Tingo. From this village, the road to the mountainside becomes very narrow and awesome! For the “warriors” who want to go by themselves, it is possible to make a 8, 9 km hike (approximately 4 to 5 hours), uphill all the way to Kuelap.
To make the fortress more accessible, a cable car (the first in Peru) is currently under construction. (Note: The cable car is functioning since March 2017.) This will allow travellers to reach the top of the mountain from Nuevo Tingo in just 20 minutes.
Half an hour before we arrive, we stop to order lunch we will eat at the return. This happens several times throughout the stay, because the place is not very tourist. There is not necessarily any nearby restaurant. So you should plan to always carry something in your backpack to eat, like cereal bars or sweets and of course water (lots of water!). Sometimes it happens that you don’t eat until 3 pm or 4 pm. With the heat, the altitude and the walking, sudden tiredness can happen quickly. I know what I am talking about, because that is what happened to me that day!
We arrive at Kuelap around 11 am and starte walking up the stairs to the entrance of the fortress, about 20 minutes walk from the parking. You have the option of renting a horse that will take you to the walls of the citadel. But from there you will have to do the walking tour inside the citadel. On the way, we were passed by an old man from Peru, who confesses his secret to avoid the effects of height: a small bottle of alcohol! I do not know what to say about his method, but I can say that it works ! He made the visit in the pole position from start to finish, filming absolutely everything with his tablet.
Upon arrival, we understand the meaning of the word “Chachapoya” which can be translated as “warriors of the clouds”. The city rises to 3 000 meters and offers a strategic view of the whole valley. We have the impression of touching the clouds. A wall that in some places reaches 20 meters in height, in fact, all around. And once inside the surprise is total, because the fortress is very wide and includes no less than 400 buildings. We didn’t think it was so extensive. The visit takes about 2 hours 30 minutes. Our guide was great and full of stories to tell us.
Around 2.30 pm we take the bus that will return us. After a pause of about 1 hour, it is time for everyone else to return to Chachapoyas, but not us! We go down to Tingo Viejo, a village at the foot of the mountain, where Oscar waits for us. This is where we will spend the next 2 nights, at Estancia Chillo!
This article is an English translation of the article of Voyage Peru: Recit de voyage: Kuelap.
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