Friday 24 May 2024

Discovering Kuelap

Dear (pre-Incan) diary, 

I haven't written in ages, but I have had such an exciting time, yet a cloud hangs over my family. My Grandad died two days ago. As you know, Asiri was my favourite grandparent with his wife Yma Sumac a close second. It is a time of grieving for our whole family yet Asiri would have been glad to be laid to rest next to the walls of Kuelap. As it happens, he was killed by an illness and my heart is heavy for I no longer hear his laugh or his voice around the house.

We were journeying to Kuelap to get him a blessing, and I tell you dear diary, I've never seen anything like it. There were so many people wondering the streets and the walls around it were so high and strong. I asked my dad Antay if Kuelap was a fort when he shook his head and told me to bow and, then, we entered. I don't know if you know what bow means but for the Chachapoyas (our people) we lower ourselves to one knee and bow our heads. The head priest used many healing herbs and said he had done all was possible for grandad Asiri. 

He then turned to my dad and asked "Would you like for your son to be a priest?". "Yes", my father answered, "but he has not yet reached the required 15 years, he's only 10." He was right, I am only 10 years old but I really wanted to be a priest, I really wanted to live in Kuelap. "He will have a space ready for him in five years", the priest replied. I could hardly believe my ears! Thank Unkurunku, the jaguar god, that the priest is so kind, and may Kuntur, the condor god, give him grace and a long life.

After exiting the priest's house, Antay explained that Kuelap is more of a religious centre than a fort and the walls around it are to make it flat for ceremonies and dwellings.

I have to get to bed as tomorrow is a big day.


P.s The Chachapoya were around from 500 to 1470 A.D. Kuelap is the most important archaeological site in northern Peru - sometimes called the Machu Pichu of the North. Although it looks like a fort and sits on top of a massive, steep hill, archaeologists now believe that it was a centre for pilgrimage, gatherings and celebrating the dead. There's one huge structure which looks like a keep but actually has the bones of many people hidden inside.

About 3,000 people lived there in circular houses on stone platforms. Many of the houses of Kuelap were reserved for the elite, top-level families. Not only Kuelap but the surrounding La Barretta mountain are sacred as lots of bones of the dead are placed inside the mountain. We also saw some amazing mausoleums and sarcophagi built into the cliffs nearby. 

Access is much easier now than it used to be (a 4 hour hike) with a cable-car taking visitors up the mountain. We stayed nearby and were the first up in the morning and had the whole site for ourselves for an hour or two!

1 comment:

  1. thank you for a touching and imaginative post. It must have been moving to spend time, just you for a couple of hours, in a place dedicated to the ancient dead. Much love to you all, Sal